…and a beautiful night it was. i hope you saw the moon – it’s full, and looked kind of orange.

there are many many things i want to write right now, but i just don’t have time. soon i will post photos from the exciting and fun commercial shoot, not to mention photos from the play. but right now, here’s the thing i wrote about camping:

storm survivor

storm survivor

Grace’s First Rule of camping:

Take along a former Boy Scout.

I suppose, if you have to, you could take a current Boy Scout with you, which would be OK. But I highly recommend an already grown one, because that way you can both drink wine at night around the campfire. Or in the tent in the middle of a raging thunderstorm.

I went camping at Lake Sangchris last week, and now all I want to do is camp. I love camping. Is there a way I could make a living, somehow, at camping? Doubtful. Unless I decide to write a book about camping, and then the camping would be research for the book. Perhaps I could get a large book advance in order to fund future camping trips. I must look into this immediately.

Lake Sangchris is only about eleven and a half minutes from Springfield, which was a good distance for a first-time camping foray. If I’d have gotten really scared in the middle of the night, it would have been a short drive home.

Oh yeah, I was really scared in the middle of the night. The first night of camping was the night of the horrific storm that caused all of Springfield and the surrounding communities to be plunged into darkness, plus I understand there were 500 mile- an-hour winds.

I was in a tent.

We got to the campground Monday afternoon. Weekday camping is a great idea, because most people camp on the weekends. To me, the whole point of camping is about getting away from other human beings. We first pulled into the large Type “A” campground, which was chock full of campsites right next to each other, with nothing to separate them except a driveway for pulling the RV into the space. There were about a half dozen campers in the place, but it all seemed too…structured.

We headed over to the primitive campground. The Type A place had about 80 campsites, but the primitive campground, only five. Each one was its own little secluded space, surrounded by tall trees. There were two tents set up here, and we chose a site as far away from the others as possible.

The Former Boy Scout (let’s just call him B.) and I unloaded his van, which was piled with all kinds of stuff. B. was fully prepared, with a big new (six foot tall) tent complete with doggy den for Mollie the dog, a two person kayak, plus all the camping equipment a person could ever want.

The primitive campsites have a picnic table and a grill. There’s a water pump out on the road, and a porta potty down the way. You can also go use the shower facilities at the great big campsite.

We piled all the stuff on the picnic table and set about “making camp.” I was impressed with the ease of putting up the tent. We arranged sleeping bags and set up folding chairs and B. started building a fire.

Here’s where the Boy Scout thing comes in really handy – B. is an amazing fire-builder. The whole time we were camping, he was obsessed with keeping that fire lit. Even after the frightening storm, he managed to get that fire going. I don’t know how this was possible, since all the wood was soaked, but he did it. Former Boy Scout. Don’t leave home without one.

After we set up camp, we hiked through the woods. We started to see little sign posts with information about the flora and the fauna, but the signs were set up for people hiking in the opposite direction. We walked through some low plants, and when we reached the far edge, our legs suddenly stung like crazy. A sign announced that these were stinging nettles. Ouch ouch ouch. Don’t walk through stinging nettles, that’s something I learned while camping.

We got back to camp and opened a bottle of wine as storm clouds started to roll in. We retreated to the tent as raindrops started to fall, and watched the downpour, snug as bugs in rugs.

The rain let up and we grilled our dinner, and the rain started again. It would have been nice to spend the first camping night outside under the stars, but it was perfectly cozy in the tent. We ate, we drank, and a good time was had by all.

A truck rushed by and stopped at the campsite down the way, and then it roared out again. It came back after a while, and sounds of chain sawing filled the air. What were they doing? Was somebody being murdered? We didn’t hear any shrieks, so probably not. The truck roared away again.

Later, we lying in our sleeping bags and B. was sound asleep and there was lots and lots of lightning and thunder, and more lightning and more thunder…and I decided that lightning was definitely going to hit a tree, which would fall and kill us.

On and on the storm raged, and I worried. A lot. B. and Mollie continued to snore softly. Finally I poked B. I hate to wake up somebody sleeping so peacefully, but this was an emergency. “Are we going to die?” I asked him. “No,” he said, and went right back to sleep.

So I had to stay awake, in charge of making sure we weren’t killed in our sleep. Not to mention the possibility of the chain-sawers returning and murdering us.

The next morning, all was sunny and lovely, and when I woke after about two hours of sleep, B. was cheerfully chopping wood. Like I said, I don’t know how he managed to get it to burn, but soon he had a big blaze going.

He’d brought along a camp stove, and made oatmeal pancakes, which were delicious. Everything is more tasty when you’re camping. I felt no need to worry about eating too much, because of all the energy I burned watching B. chop wood and make breakfast and stoke the fire. Not to mention the calories burned while staying awake panicking.

There were quite a few limbs down in the campsite next to us, and the truck from the night before roared in again. These were Department of Natural Resources guys – last night they’d been cutting up a tree that fell, and they were back to clean up the other campsite. They chopped and chopped like crazy, leaving plenty of big logs when they left. We collected a bunch of them for our fire.

mollie keeps watch

mollie keeping watch

In the afternoon we kayaked, with Mollie sitting in the middle, and we all did really well. Nobody tipped it over, which was quite an accomplishment for me. I can tip anything over – last summer I tipped over a wave runner that was just sitting in the water. But the kayak was quite untippable.

Tuesday night there was no more rain, and we sat around the campfire, and it was wonderful. The great thing about camping is how it made me feel – so peaceful and calm, for a change. There are generally about 400 thousand annoying thoughts buzzing around in my head at any given moment, but being out in all that nature made them all go away. Being “in the moment” is something I always struggle to achieve, but while camping, I was right there, enjoying it.

We kayaked again on Wednesday, and the weather continue to be sublime. In the afternoon we packed up and headed back to civilization. We drove through Rochester, which looked like a war zone, with big tree limbs down everywhere. I’d gotten several frantic messages on my cell phone from my family, all worried about us out in the storm, and now I understood why. We definitely didn’t have the mighty winds, but we did get plenty of thunder and lightning and rain.

Last night I sat backstage at the Theater in the Park at New Salem, waiting to go on stage. I smelled the fires from the campers down the way, and the fireflies flickered, and that peaceful camping feeling washed over me again.

My new goal in life is to camp again soon, before the camping feeling leaves me. If you’ve never camped and you like to be outside, you should try it.

But don’t forget to bring along a former Boy Scout.

Ok then,

Grace in love with nature.