We all have that friend—the one we admire for his or her ability to do something for which we are completely missing a gene. It may be the friend who effortlessly throws lavish dinner parties. Or the one who remembers every special occasion and every birthday. For me, it’s my friends who are campers.
Despite having gone camping many times during my childhood in Washington and Wisconsin (I thought it was so cool that you could brush your teeth at the picnic table and just spit in the bushes!), I remain a complete camping novice. I trace my arrested development to the last family camping trip I remember, when nearly all of our equipment was stolen in the middle of the night. My parents always said the campsites in Wisconsin were “too rowdy” and that night, the rowdiness did us in.
Shortly after Jose and I moved here, that old campfire was reignited by our super-outdoorsy friends, Mike and Lisa, who were new to town but seemed to know all the great campgrounds. Mind you, since my camping days, I had taken a decidedly city-living route. For Jose and me, Seattle’s natural beauty is more of a novelty bonus than the sole purpose for living here. So when the idea of a camping trip came up, my first question was: Are there flush toilets?
But, truly, it was the discussion of dinner plans that sold me. I grew up with the hot-dog-on-a-stick-and-baked-beans variety of camp food, but our friends were talking steaks. And baked potatoes. And wine. This was my kind of camping.
So into the woods we went, Mike and Lisa with their lightweight, all-weather tent; Jose and I with a family-sized “circus tent,” as they called it (and this was before we had kids), and a giant inflatable mattress. We even bought some camping equipment: a stove, a lantern, a cooler—even those metal, blue-and-white-speckled camping plates and coffee mugs.
Mike and Lisa have long since moved away, and, sadly, we watched our lent-out camping equipment go on more trips than we did. That is, until a few years ago, when we met our friends Debby and Don, who also possess the camping gene. We’ve gone on a couple of trips and are now plotting this summer’s adventure.
Like people who only smoke when they’re around friends who smoke, we are social campers who rely on the kindness of friends who know what the heck they’re doing. I want to be a full-fledged camper, I really do, and I feel as if I should be, living in this part of the country and all. But there is the packing of the food, the loading up of the equipment, the hauling of the equipment, the setting up of the tent, including the stakes, the tarps and the over-the-tent flappy thing. I am exhausted just thinking about it—and so very grateful for friends who lead the way.
If you aspire to be “an outsider” but fall in the clueless category like me, this is the issue for you. Whether you want to camp in your car, in a tent or in a teepee, on the beach or in a well-appointed outdoor bedroom with 500-thread-count sheets, we’ve got the place for you. I can’t wait till this year’s trip—just don’t ask me to pack up the tent.
Until next month,
P.S. This issue is also the 10th edition of our Top Doctors feature since 2000. This year we honor four doctors who have been on the list for all 10 years. Check out these Hall of Famers and this year’s honorees.
Originally published in July 2010