Practice Camping

Last week T proposed that we go camping. Just one night. Practice camping, he said, just to try it out. I said okay, with 2 conditions: First, there must be coffee (This should be obvious, but he doesn’t really drink it religiously like I do, so I felt the need to be clear.). Second, I do not want to be cold. I can deal with a lumpy, hard bed, smoke-smelling clothes, even bugs (that’s saying something), but I hate hate hate being cold at night.

We made a deal. I was in charge of food. He figured out the rest and promised I would not be cold. Early Saturday morning, we headed off for practice camping weekend.

We went to the Rawah Wilderness, in the Araphao National Forest. Sort of here:

We picked campsite #20 in the Tunnel campground, conveniently located right next to the bathroom (no flushing) and a beautiful stream. The site next to us stayed empty and provided a nice buffer between us and our nearest neighbors–several RVs, circled like wagons, full of people playing horse-shoes (and making regular trips to the bathroom which they accessed by short-cutting through our campsite on more than one occasion).

We hiked Saturday afternoon on the West Branch Trail.

We’d hoped to make it to the top where there are beautiful mountain lakes, but we didn’t reach them because the trail was running meltwater like a stream and the snow finally got too deep:

The trail turned into a stream and then into a small glacier. We turned around.

The hike was still really fun, and really challenging. I didn’t have waterproof shoes and got pretty frustrated trying to avoid all the water. Fischer-dawg loved all the water and was in every stream and rolled in every snow patch.

Fischer eating something he shouldn't in a beautiful aspen grove.

Happy to have given up!

Fischer says, "Enough with the picture taking, I want to swim!"

The old man finally wears out at an overlook where we took a break to watch the roaring, foaming, crashing river below.

We came back ready for a hearty dinner and some relaxing under the stars. I had pre-made “Philly cheese steak” (sauteed peppers, onions, and mushrooms with sliced grilled steak) so all I had to do was warm it up over the open fire and top with cheese. I also had pre-microwaved sweet potatoes, and those quickly warmed up over the fire too. Finally, I made some nasty noodles from a bag that had been sitting in the cupboard for ages (I don’t know what I was thinking, honestly, I don’t.).  Smores for desert. Duh. All this was paired with a lovely Italian red blend…and some deet, ’cause the skeeters were vicious.

The makings of a great fireside dinner.

Potatoes heated up while steak and veggies sizzled and cheese melted--all over an open fire!

Mostly, sort of, somewhat gormet.

The next deet poster girl. Seriously. Don't leave home without it. Even the dog used it on this trip.

After dinner, and before desert, we took a drive up the Laramie River Valley. The light was stunning, the wildlife was out in force–we saw moose, elk, mule deer, a bald eagle, and bison (okay, the bison were in a feedlot so that probably doesn’t count but the next morning we saw some out on the range).  It was a spectacular drive.T’s idea, all the way, and I was so happy he thought of it. Fischer could have cared less. He slept the whole way, exhausted from the hike.

Beautiful valley and mountains in the evening light.

This applied to cows, bison, and a moose!


Sunday morning was Fischer’s most favorite part of the whole practice camping experience because that’s when we all got to spoon in the tent. Fischer doesn’t sleep with the humans at home, so this was a big treat. He spent half the night sharing my pillow and kicking me in the back whenever he had a dog-chases-something-dream. In the morning, he came in between us, lavishing us with kisses, begging for belly rubs, and making lots of happy noises. Seeing him happy makes me happy so it was a happy start to the day. Follow that with a breakfast of bacon and eggs (and coffee!) cooked over an open fire (with nothing more than a spoon–more on that in a sec), and you have yourself a pretty perfect morning of practice camping.

Cooking breakfast with my trusty spoon. Good thing I had spoons stashed in the car or we'd have been whittling sticks.

Bacon, eggs, and toast over an open fire. With only a spoon.

Since it was practice camping, after all, it’s probably important to talk a little bit about what I learned. A few notes to self:

  • Remember the utensils. Flipping eggs with a spoon and giant bbq fork is not practical.
  • More wine.
  • Wet wipes are the best. thing. ever.
  • Great as they are, wet wipes are not ideal for washing dishes. Consider bringing stuff to wash dishes.
  • Real hiking shoes next time, m’kay?

Turns out, we really needed this trip. Job and family stresses were building up and getting away like this, being totally removed from life, not talking about work or anything un-fun, laughing and sharing an adventure made such a difference. We both came home feeling renewed and refreshed (especially after a shower), happier and more enamored with each other, chilled out and armed with a better perspective on life. Apparently it’s true–practice makes perfect. Even for camping.


2 thoughts on “Practice Camping

  1. Yay! I’m so glad you had a good time. Camping is really fun, not that I’ve even attempted it since the birth of M. Another nice thing to bring would be those doggy wipe cloths (doggy wet wipes) made to deal with skunk spray. You DO NOT want to be stuck in the woods with a dog smelling like skunk…really.

  2. Aww, man, now I want to go camping. So glad you guys had a great time and got to chill (but not in the I’m- too- cold sense!).

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