Long Weekend Classic: Camping in the Great Outdoors / by Deborah Clague

When I was a little girl, my father bought a trailer. It wasn't a large one (at least not compared to the second home on wheels that people drive around with today) but rather a 13ft Bonair trailer with a gloriously tacky early 80s interior. Actually, after a quick Google search I found it exactly being sold in Nova Scotia

During my recent return home to Winnipeg, I was saddened to learn that my father sold his as well. It hadn't been used in years - actually more than a decade - and I can understand not wanting a family of raccoons to seek squatters rights in it, but a tinge of sadness came over me nonetheless as that trailer defined my summers from the age of five to seventeen. It felt like another chapter of my life had closed. 

The great outdoors by way of sleeping on uncomfortable foam cushions and having an only occassionally functioning toilet is something that everyone needs to suffer through experience. It gives a new appreciation towards nature and the realization that we are all just animals at the end of the day confined to the caves that we can afford and the social groups that will accept us. My most enjoyable moments traveling with the trailer involve staying at Tunnel Mountain Campground in Banff, Alberta, a pristine place with amazing views. I recall my father once sitting at the picnic table adjacent to our stall feeding a gopher that had grown accustomed to begging for scraps. When its lunch of bread crusts was gone, they left...and by not more than 30 seconds later a coyote that had been eyeing everything grabbed the gopher and had IT for lunch. Ah, the circle of life. You don't see that while staying at a Hilton. 

The Rockies and Pacific Northwest definitely define travel for the first chapter of my life, driving for days through the shadows of giants while listening to AM radio helped develop my undying love for Fleetwood Mac and cowichan sweaters. But the Black Hills/Yellowstone region also provided many memories. I recall witnessing both a group of wild horses running free in the distance off some highway in South (or was it North?) Dakota and a herd of buffalo doing the same in Yellowstone National Park, like a National Geographic spread come to life. It's moments like that wherein you realize life is beautiful, the world is wonderful and poems and songs need to be written to celebrate it. 

Then there are moments wherein you realize the yang. A 13ft trailer is not going to have a shower and using the shared facilities first thing in the morning at a KOA is equivalent to the ninth gate of hell. Long line-ups. Wet floors teeming with mildew and other germs. Intermittant streams of lukewarm, moreso bordering on cold, waterflow. I don't miss this. And I surely don't miss the few occassions when a campground couldn't be found and we'd have to stay overnight at a roadside rest. At least we weren't all murdered by a drifter. 

I don't know if I will ever experience camping again, as in this chapter of my life I'm more interested in high thread count sheetsets and exploring other continents (in that order) but it was a great experience while it lasted. One that I will cherish and think of fondly whenever I get sick of my iPod and put on the scratchy realness of AM radio, hopefully playing "Rhiannon"