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Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping: 7 – 12

Shadow in Sepia, Yellowstone National Park

Shadow in Sepia, Yellowstone National Park

The Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping…

 

Part 2! If you didn’t already, check out Part 1 for the first 6 “rules” and some good photos…I fell in love with my sepia filter a little. Shoot me.

Without further ado…


It's a Rule: You Can't Prove Your Boots Are Waterproof Unless You Stand in a Lake

It's a Rule: You Can't Prove Your Boots Are Waterproof Unless You Stand in a Lake

 

7. Personal style often becomes very questionable while hiking.

This is both a good and a bad thing depending on your perspective, and everyone has there quirks, from the kitted-out gear-heads to the scrubby naturalists whose equipment (and facial hair) dates back to the 70s. Some are for form following function, while others see it the other way around. I, for example, am partial to tucking my pants into the tops of my boots French legionnaire style, making it look like I’m paratrooping in behind enemy lines at a North Face outlet store. Functional? Yes. Comical? Probably.

Style only becomes a problem when one is literally weighed down by the sheer gravity of their fashion choices. This means you, purple bandanna wearer! You can’t hike with that iridescent bird turd magnet strapped to your forehead. You just can’t.

Hikers from a certain Central Asian country (*cough* South Korea) are known to take it a step further. It seems they’re not even able to leave the house for a day hike without poles, boots, hydration packs, visors, and a wide range of technical fabrics. Due to their culinary culture, South Koreans also need to pack about 50 tupperware containers of kimchi, seaweed, daikon root, fish parts, and the like, per person. Strangely, all of this extraneous hiking gear is also a problem for people from Colorado, except for the fish parts.

Both South Korea and Colorado are great areas for hiking (although the high comedy of seeing Koreans ready to scale Everest taking the subway to their hiking destination is really non pareil), and as long as hikers from those regions stick with a few simple rules–keep fannypacks to a minimum; always over pack warm clothes for the hands, feet and head; rain proof clothing is expensive and worth it–their usually overabundant sense of style should not interfere others’ enjoyment of an otherwise pure, untainted nature experience.

 

Mount Rainier probably looks scary because you're so high!

Mount Rainier probably looks scary because you're so high!

 

8. You really do get high in the mountains, and it’s not just the altitude…or the edible mushrooms.

That thing people talk about – that feeling – really happens. Call it the physical exertion, the sleep deprivation, or even the attempt to survive for weeks fed solely on energy gels and trail mix, but you actually do feel high on a good hike.

I recall one rainy day spent hiking in a spiffy pair of Gore-Tex® boots (see picture above), my dry feet wrapped in fabrics still technically illegal in some countries. I had bought these boots one indulgent day in Korea with a fellow teacher, and I spent my hike reminiscing, each step a reminder of the wild, circuitous route a life can take, and the connections we inevitably make along the way. They’re just boots, but in that moment, they were my connection to him.

Uh oh. I feel a quasi-philosophical tangent coming:

Through the ages, from the ancient shaman mystics through to the pimply high school outcast, people have used drugs to reawaken the part of their consciousness that feels connected to a part of humanity greater than themselves. It’s the Door(s) of Perception, the Huckabee ? blanket, the Vibration of Life – it’s a sense that there are other humans around us, all of the time, who are willing to help us get through life safely and happily. They give us directions when we are lost and water when we are thirsty. And the way we stoke these connections, literally thousands over a lifetime, can build upon itself, so that lost in thought on a mountain trail, a flow of agape literally tears through the breastbone, exiting the heart with such force that…

Whoa. What happened there? I blacked out for a sec.

 

Trees and Mist, Mount Rainier National Park

Trees and Mist, Mount Rainier National Park

 

9. Good trail mix takes time.

It always tastes better after the flavors have had time to work themselves together. So, apparently the best thing to do is…(nota bene: the following sentence will sound a lot funnier if you adopt the voice of Bricktop from Snatch)…acquire your nuts no less than 6 months in advance, and promptly mix with raisins and seeds, salubriously avoiding such saccharine pitfalls as chocolate and yogurt, until the results taste like butter. The same is true with chili, so be wary of any man who keeps a chili farm. Whatever that is.

Just for the record, be wary of chili in general. Don’t attempt to survive for any period of time strictly on it alone. This is one of the finest pieces of advice that I can pass on, and could save your life one day, much like bear spray or emergency oxygen.

See, if you make it like I do, you like to try to add little tasty things as you go along (fried tofu, pepper, etc.), but eventually realize you need to go back to your bases (tomatoes, beans, etc.) for balance, ending up with a 3 family portion when you’re done. Well be careful with that much chili, my friend. A metaphor:

Imagine the generations of Sioux Indians as they recalled the Battle of Little Bighorn in hushed, lachrymose tones, their lips quivering, their eyes lowered. Their people had been decimated; their hope all but gone. This is how I recall the Great Chili Massacre of 2009. I don’t really want to talk about it, but let’s just say that we went to bed lively, strapping youth, and woke up scarred, our tent flaps singed, our once young lungs transformed to those of black-blooded miners.

The tent smelled like poo.

So, don’t eat chili for four straight days and go camping. Eat trail mix instead : )

 

Steam Rising, Yellowstone National Park

Steam Rising, Yellowstone National Park


10. Early to bed, early to Paul Riser…or something.

I have always loathed people that describe themselves as “early risers,” but they are good people to go camping with. These are the jerks who say that they “just can’t sleep after 9AM” in the same aggrieved voice they would use to tell you that they acquired some curse in childhood forcing them to go through life without the proper use of their extremities, or something. Screw you, jerks! The world already works on your clock, and now you want me to feel sympathy for you because once in a while you wake up and you’re tired?

Welcome to my life, jerks. I go to bed late and have to wake up to your alarm. And I hate you.

Obviously, it is totally acceptable to dismiss most Early Risers (or Morning Boners, as I’d prefer to call them) out of hand as go-getters, social-climbers, and men trying to fight off the onset of premature baldness through endless games of AM racquetball. However, in a camping setting, they can prove very useful.

Many animals, including the sun, seem to do their best work in the morning. Birds, especially, like to make interesting noises when it’s early. There’s a certain quality to looking out over a lake as the steam of a new day rises. As the trees stretch, white blades of light cutting into all nature, you will think to yourself, “It’s 5:48 AM, and I have an entire day of majestic beauty ahead of me. I think I’ll go start digging a hole so I can bury my morning shit.”

 

 

Purple Clouds, Mount Rainier National Park

Purple Clouds, Mount Rainier National Park

 

11. Ahh. And deuce you will.

Nothing is more distressing to the  human gastrointestinal tract than having to fold over itself during a 12 hour car ride. Follow this with a night sleeping on dirt, your innards marinating inside a 120º sleeping bag, and six to eight hours of body-shockingly strenuous physical activity the next day, at altitude. By the time this is done, your compacted food waste will be more anxious to escape than Elián González.

And then, all of the sudden, it will be seven days later with no sign of Yertle the Turtle, and you’ll begin to worry.

Now you may find this sophomoric (but seriously, if you’re still reading at this point, consider it the mark of your lifetime ban from Polite Society), but I remember going to basketball camp around the age of 12 or 13. After a few days of putting our new found pubic hairs on each other’s toothbrushes, we got bored, and moved on to talking about bowel movements.

We realized that amidst all the suicides and wind sprints, none of us had gone to the bathroom for three days. This was insanely interesting to the 12 year old male psyche, and we instantly decided that we should bet on who could hold out the longest. Six days in of a week long camp, and a surprising number in our cabin were still going “strong”. But as the hot dogs and soda piled up, we began dropping like flies, every few hours to the latrine, one by one.

Sunday: the camp’s last day. Only me and one other kid left. Our eyes were locked in steely gaze, a real Old West style shoot out, only we weren’t firing off guns (or much of anything for that matter). By lunch, I could see the sweat poring down his face, and I knew it was only a matter of time. The first wave of minivans arrived, ready to ferry their children back home after a successful week of foul shots and dribbling drills. We sat perched outside the Port-o-Johns. Subarus, little sisters, golden retrievers. As dusk set in, we were basically immobalized, hardly able to breathe for fear of disrupting our delicate sphincter stasis. The week was almost complete, and we would have ended in a tie.

But he couldn’t take it. He waddled into the pot, his insides surely heaving, and unleashed all manner of hell on that poor, plastic receptacle. As my dad’s station wagon pulled up in the distance, I could see my parents walking over to greet me, my mom smiling and waving. My underwear unstained, tears of joy streamed down my face. And then I spontaneously combusted.

Did I mention I didn’t make the camp’s All-Star team?

 

Stream, Snow, and Sticks, Mount Rainier National Park

Stream, Snow, and Sticks, Mount Rainier National Park

 

12. Despite their romantic history as heroes of the American West, buffalo constantly look as though they are under extreme medication. So, don’t mess with them.

In fact, I wonder if this is true. Are buffalo medicated? Perhaps its a secret plot by Park Rangers to control population or something. I mean, we keep pandas alive, despite the fact they refuse to reproduce by themselves and are basically the most evolutionarily useless animal. It’s like they evolved into the cute girl at the bar who can’t hold a job, but knows that if she bats her eyes and uses the sad face she can get free drinks and manicures. So, I mean, it’s possible with the buffalo, right?

What’s the rule you’re supposed to take from this? Um, I guess the rule is, go camping, and don’t take my advice! It’s useless!

More free photos:

 

Dark Mountain, Mount Rainier National Park

Dark Mountain, Mount Rainier National Park

Sepia Stream, Mount Rainier National Park

Sepia Stream, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #1, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #1, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #2, Mount Rainier National Park

Brown Trees #2, Mount Rainier National Park

The Scary Civic, Mount Rainier National Park

The Scary Civic, Mount Rainier National Park

Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping: 1 – 6

yellowstone-1

Those scary trees are definitely engaged in some Good Time Camping!


The Top 12 Rules to Good Time Camping…


…from someone who’s hardly ever been outdoors.

Some people will tell you that the great outdoors are a natural wonder, meant to be enjoyed by all of Vishnu’s creatures. They’re right, of course, but their assumption that you can just walk outside and have a good time is wildly off. In order to have a good time camping, it’s very important to observe some simple rules:


Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Bison, Yellowstone National Park

 

1. Only go hiking with people you like. This can roughly be translated into someone you’re friends with, or someone you’re f—— (er, engaging in sexual activity with). Let’s dissect the easy one first:

If two guys go camping, you’ll end up talking about incredibly important topics, like whether Jordan could have beaten Russell in their respective primes, or whether Aaron Eckhart, Laird Hamilton, and Evan Stone are all secretly estranged brothers (and by the way, if this were true, who would be considered the most successful…hmmm?).

You will begin to make Top 5 lists: Top 5 Desert Island Bands, Top 5 Books, Top 5 Girls You Wish You Still Had a Chance with from High School, Top 5 Former Friends of Yours Who Might Be Dead or Deported.

Camping with guys is great for dude time. You will come away feeling that as you age into adulthood, it’s amazing how friendship can be maintained just by having “one really great weekend.” As the kids say: no homo.

 

Little Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Little Falls, Yellowstone National Park

 

2. Going hiking with a girl is infinitely more complex. You’ll talk about a wider range of topics, usually including which of her friends she doesn’t like, and how she thinks this hiking experience is bringing you closer together. She will, without saying it, try to subtly prove to you that her hiking abilities are superior to those of your ex-girlfriend, the cute girl you just passed on the trail, and her former sorority sisters.

Unlike camping with a guy, you will probably argue over the correct amount of facial products to bring into the backcountry, and may eventually settle on this specific calculus: you, the male, will carry all the sleeping bags, tent, and cooking components. She will lug the various astringents, moisturizers, and cleansers absolutely necessary to maintain one’s skin while camping. Deal?

Because of the layered effect of time and male/female emotional relations, the great traditions of early couple-hood (the dispensing of pet names, the mutual respect of advanced qualities, the desire to please and looks one’s best) are both fun and potentially dangerous in a hiking environment.

With condensed personal space, the tension of inside jokes can easily build over the course of a three day hike. This can go one of two ways: humor or cutting personal attacks.

Humor is the preferable route. I once stayed at South Dakota’s Horsethief Lake, and by morning, I had comically renamed it “Blanket Thief Lake” to fairly good effect. See, girls loves jokes that aren’t really that funny, but instead make you seem nice, witty, and senstive. Think every movie Vince Vaughn has made since Swingers.

Cutting personal attacks (the perceived personal shortcomings inventory, the dissection of familial differences, the full frontal pet peeve assaults), while scientifically more interesting, can detract from the efficiency of the hike, potentially leading to dehydration, missed check points, and forced night hiking.

In the end, hiking with a girl, you will at least come away feeling that you are, quote, “much stronger than most other guys.” Also, with a member of the opposite sex, you will also be able to scare the animals at night. This is provided, of course, that the wolves don’t assume the coital ululations emanating from your tent are actually the death throes of some tasty, injured prey. If this happens, to quote Snatch, “you’re proper fucked.”


In Search of Ansel, Yellowstone National Park

In Search of Ansel, Yellowstone National Park

 

3. If you hike alone, you will end up seeming like the creepy guy who hikes alone. And there’s a 50% chance you actually are.

Solo hikers are either very fit, and unable to deign to normal human “needs” like rest and water, or suffer from a rare and undiagnosed form of Aspbergers. Either way, hiking alone has to be unsafe. In fact, I’m pretty sure that until a few years ago, hiking alone was virtually impossible. With the advent of iPods (20gb or greater), it has now acceptable in some circumstances.

Recently breaking up with a significant other, being rejected from more than three consecutive job interviews, or squelching on a sublet are all fairly legitimate reasons to hike alone. Others may point to the sense of calm and self-reliance that hiking alone provides. I guess. If you say so.

Be aware that solo hiking will give you a lot of time to compare yourself to people and go over your own personal neuroses. If you feel compelled to write about this experience, be aware that unless you’re Robert Pirsig, your craziness is probably not as interesting to others as you think it is (see: Winehouse, Amy).

However, don’t let me dissuade you. A lot of hobbies are best enjoyed alone, and not all of them will result in hairy palms. Solo joggers can speed up when they want to speed up. Solo photographers are beholden only to the whims of the sun and their willingness to wait for the perfect shot. Solo hikers can look at the jutting, rocky ascent of a positively unsafe route, and think, “I’ve gotten myself into this position, and only I can choose to overcome it, or bend to it.” In my experience, solo hikers rarely bend. Ever.

So, they got that going for them, which is nice.

 

Horizontal Trees #1, Yellowstone National Park

Horizontal Trees #1, Yellowstone National Park

 

4. Hiking at night is not worth it. You may think that you are achieving something by bringing a flashlight and getting a little more mileage done, but you are not. Hiking at night will scare you, and you’ll end up feeling stupid when you duck and cover from the sound of your carabinered water bottle slapping the fat of your thigh.

Intuitively, most people know that not all animals are nocturnal predators. In practice, you can convince yourself that chipmunks sprout poison sabertooths once the sun goes down. Night time is for rest and recovery, fire building, hot chocolate or light alcohol consumption, and preparation for List Making or Baby Making, depending on your chosen hiking partner (see numbers 1. and 2.).

 

Horizontal Trees #2, Yellowstone National Park

Horizontal Trees #2, Yellowstone National Park

 

5. Your tax dollars and admission fees have created some wildly lavish visitor lodges. Make use of them.

I remember walking into the new lodge on the Paradise side of Mount Rainier, my jaw slowly sliding toward my chest. The park ranger, made small under cathedral ceilings of aromatic timber and cantilevered wrought iron, asked me if I needed anything. “I’m looking for a 1 bedroom, but I’ll settle for a studio at the right price…” I reflexively replied, my voice trailing off, captivated by a 90 inch plasma screen showing wild flowers on an endless loop.

The Rainier lodge felt like a swanky singles bar shoehorned into a sexy ski hotel. Order a hot cocoa to go, and make it an Irish!

 

Tree Graveyard, Yellowstone National Park

Tree Graveyard, Yellowstone National Park

 

6. If you sleep with a blanket covering your face, it will taste like you’re chewing on farts when you wake up.

 

Simple as that.

 

Farts Smell, Food Hung in a Tree Doesn't

Farts Smell, Food Hung in a Tree Doesn't

 

That concludes Part 1 of my Top 12 Ways to Have a Good Time Camping. Check back next week for Part 2. And if anyone has some real advice, leave it below, or email me.

Here’s some bonus vertical pics to enjoy! Wahoooo!

 

Mountain Lake Vista, Yellowstone National Park

Mountain Lake Vista, Yellowstone National Park


Trees and the Moon, Yellowstone National Park

Trees and the Moon, Yellowstone National Park


Tree and Bison, Yellowstone National Park

Tree and Bison, Yellowstone National Park