Sunday, July 8, 2012

Back to the Maine Coast-Camping Edition

I went on a camping trip last weekend, for the first time since I was 13 years old.  As a huge fan of the outdoors and an even bigger fan of not spending a lot of money, camping seemed a logical choice for a weekend getaway.  Both work and home had been very hectic, and the weather forecast was looking great.  Some “me time” two hours away at the coast, free from any distractions, seemed to be just what the doctor ordered.  I had big plans to get caught up on some pleasure reading and sketch out some ideas for some writing projects I have cooking.

The view from my campsite, as seen through the lens of my crappy camera.

Now those who know me are aware that I am kind of fussy about lots of things, so some were surprised that I would actually go on a camping trip, especially “roughing it” in a tent at a site that has no electricity or running water.  What can I say?  With all due respect to Donkey from Shrek, I’m an onion.  I’ve had an unused  tent in amongst my stuff for many years, so I figured I’d use it.  Plus, a Winnebago is not in my budget, and to be honest, I don’t think I’d enjoy that kind of camping as much anyway.  It’s too much like a hotel room on wheels, and plus, who can enjoy driving in a monstrosity like that?  Getting there is half the fun for me when I travel, and my Hyundai SUV is very comfortable and enjoyable to navigate on a long trip.

Camping in a tent has been in the back of my mind since the depths of midwinter.  While the polar bears were trying to break down my door back in January, I got to thinking how great it would be to pitch a tent at a quiet campsite near the ocean, open up a lawn chair, open a good book, and soak up the warm sunshine.  My fussy nature actually worked in favor of tent camping, since I literally planned for months to overcome the things that might rub me the wrong way.

Lack of coffee, for instance.

No coffee in the morning could have been a dealbreaker.  Even the thought of having to drive to a nearby store each morning to get some was unacceptable.  My worst case scenario was to have to boil water over a campfire and use it to make *shudder* instant!  Then one day I found two nifty gadgets in a store.  One was a single burner that you attached directly to a small propane cylinder.  This meant there would be no having to build a campfire before getting my coffee, which probably would have resulted in a blue cloud of obscenities hanging over the campsite for much of the day.  I also came across a percolating coffee pot, much like the kind my parents used to use when I was a kid, prior to the advent of electric coffee makers.  I hadn’t seen one in ages, so I knew that it had to be providential.  I snapped it right up.

The coffee making apparatus worked like a charm except for two things.  First, never having made coffee by this method before, I wasn’t sure how long to let it perk.  I guess I overdid it the first morning, because the brew I concocted was like jet fuel, only less mellow.  The other problem was the fact that the water had to boil in this process, and it took what seemed like a very, very long time to cool off before I could sip it without melting the fillings in my teeth.  In truth, the wait was probably only about ten minutes, but when it’s already taken you about twenty to make it in the first place, that’s the longest ten minutes of the day to an uncaffeinated guy.

Then there is the “sleeping in a tent” issue.

I am a very light sleeper.  If there is the slightest noise nearby when I am sleeping, I hear it.  At home, I need a white noise machine going to block out sounds, or else I’d never get a moment’s rest.  Combine the light sleeping with my inherent fussiness, and that means I take a long time to get comfortable, and toss and turn a lot in my own bed.  I could only imagine what it was going to be like trying to snooze in a sleeping bag on the hard ground, with no electricity to power my white noise gadget.

An air mattress with a battery-operated pump helped take care of the comfort issue, at least partly.  The end result was nothing like my mattress at home, but at least I was reasonably certain that I would be able to stand erect when I got up in the morning after having slept on it all night.  This did turn out to be the case, although there were a few twinges in my back for the first part of the day.  I thought it would poor judgment on my part to ask the park ranger to walk up and down on my back for a few minutes to work out the kinks, so I didn’t.

As for the ambient sound problem, I figured that if I played hard enough during the day, I’d sleep well enough that it would not be an issue.  My plan worked only partly the first night.  I had no problem whatsoever falling asleep, but when a loon on the other side of the inlet let fly with its eerie call at about three in the morning, I was wide awake.  Just as I was able to drift back into some semblance of sleep, the sun came up and a local family of crows awakened and began to bicker, long and loud.  I pondered alternative meanings for the phrase “a murder of crows”, but then reminded myself that I was the one who wanted to “get back to nature” and that I was on their turf after all, and not mine.  Still, I wished they would shut the hell up until about 8:00.

The second night was much the same, although the loon held her tongue.  The crows didn’t, however.  In the midst of their bird-brained arguments, there came the sounds of human voices shouting and laughing over the water.  It was low tide early that day, and the local clam diggers were doing their thing, while bantering back and forth in salty language that was nearly impossible to tune out.  (Based on what I heard, I am pretty sure one clammer’s girlfriend must be double-jointed.)   Again, I reminded myself that I was a guest in their territory, and chose to suck it up and deal with it.  I could always catch a nap later if I needed one.  That’s the beauty of vacation.

And then there were the aliens.

The first night I was there, just after it got totally dark, I was sitting by the campfire and doing absolutely nothing, which was one of my goals for this trip.  The only sounds were the light slosh of the ocean and a family several sites away laughing as they played some kind of board game.  Suddenly, there came a low, distant rumbling sound.  It would last a few seconds, then stop, and then another would come.  I was too far from a road for it to be a large truck, and it sounded nothing like an aircraft.  I walked around the campsite a little, wondering if the sound was coming from something nearby, but found nothing.  Having streamed a whole lot of X-Files episodes to my TV lately, it crossed my mind for a brief moment that it might be aliens.  After all, a remote location along the Maine coast would be a nice, inconspicuous spot to stop and pick up some specimens to probe, wouldn’t it?  The idea was a little interesting and a little worrisome, but it only lasted for a minute, because I then remembered that it was the weekend before the 4th of July, and had read that one of the towns up the coast was having a fireworks display that evening.  While it was way too far for me to see them, sound carries far over water, especially extremely loud ones like explosions.  What I heard was obviously fireworks, and not E.T. and his pals.

I was simultaneously relieved and a little disappointed.  Some space alien guests at the campsite would have provided some excellent fodder for one of my writing projects.  Truth be told though, I really don’t buy into the idea of intelligent extraterrestrial life existing, at least not close enough to ever make contact with us.  That’s a post for a different day though.

I could go on more about my camping trip, but the last thing I want to do is turn this blog post into a written version of having to watch someone’s endless vacation slides.  Suffice it to say that I had a great time reading, hiking, writing, and just generally noodling around.  I came home nicely refreshed, and plan to camp again at that same quiet spot by the ocean at least a few more times before the blizzards start rolling into Maine around late September.

UPDATE: The Woodswoman Extraordinaire blog does a terrific job of describing the park where I went, and there are some gorgeous photos there that put my craptastic camera's shots to shame.  The post is from 2010, but it's still all accurate. 


  1. I am jealous. It's been a couple of years since I've been camping, and right now it's too damn hot to even think of sleeping outdoors. And I am definitely a camper of the "roughing it" ilk. Tent? What a bunch of needless bother on a cloudless night!

    1. There are mosquitoes the size of biplanes there at this time of year! No WAY am I sleeping directly under the stars. They'd find my shriveled corpse in the morning, and then I'd be on the news, and it would just be bad.

  2. Awesome post! I'm glad you were able to find a way to make coffee. I recently went camping in a cabin, and couldn't imagine sleeping in a tent outside. Glad you had fun!