Camping Newbie

I think I want to try camping.

Setting up this tent!

As a kid I never had the opportunity to go camping though I loved being out in nature. I used to hang out in Druid Hill Park, which had a freely accessible zoo at that time. As I grew older and bolder I spent time in Gwynn Falls/Leakin Park which had a bunch of trails. I saw my first wild snake there, a large copperhead.  Escaped being sprayed by a skunk there as well. 

I did camp out several times in Namibia. My friend, Lysias Uusiku, loved throwing a tent up, striking a fire and roasting fish whenever we traveled. I did learn a few things from Lysias, but I don’t feel confident enough to proclaim myself a camper (happy or otherwise).

So, I intend to remedy that and do whatever I need to, buy whatever I need to and go wherever I need to to gain that confidence so that if the occasion arises and I need or want to camp, I can and feel good doing it.

To those of you who have experience with tents and cookstoves and are thinking that there’s nothing to it, you need to understand that though I did a lot of traipsing around the woods as a kid, I never spent the night out there. I’m sure I can figure out how to set up a tent, but I also need to know where, or more importantly, where I shouldn’t set up that tent. The same goes for making a fire, outfitting myself with sleeping gear, even shoes and clothing aimed at outdoor living are new to me. I need to examine all of that. 

There’s a great place near where I live called Travel Country Outfitters, its an outdoors shop that sells everything from kayaks to crampons. I went there to see what they had to say to a camping newbie. I’ve been a patron of Travel Country Outfitters for some time now and felt confident that they wouldn’t start grabbing the most expensive but ineffectual gear they had and throwing it in my cart telling me that I needed it all to make the most of my initial experience. Instead I was told that I should continue researching gear, techniques, and experiences of others to refine my needs then I could come back as a more learned customer, someone they could more easily work with.

I had done some research before seeking advise from the Travel Country staff. I knew, for instance, that I’d need some basic gear: tent, sleeping bag, backpack, but I hadn’t discerned which of the vast number of choices I should go with. After spending more time reading reviews I settled on a few items: A North Face Storm Break 2 Tent, an EcooPro LW250 Sleeping Bag, a Forceatt Ultralight Sleeping Pad, and a Cocoon Camp Pillow.

Travel Country had suggested that I wouldn’t want or need a backpack immediately and it could wait until I was comfortable using the other stuff I bought. So, last weekend I spent the night out in my yard with my new gear, and it was a surprisingly good experience. Surprisingly because I am prone to get bug bites. Mosquitoes seek me out in crowds, fleas nosh on my ankles and run, spiders think they’ve noted the biggest catch of their short lives. When I decided that camping is something I wanted to do I had to come to terms with the fact that I may lose a substantial amount of blood to bugs with each outing. It’s just something I’ll have to live with.

But I didn’t get one bug bite while I slept in complete comfort in my bag, on my pad, inside my tent. The only slightly annoying thing was the pillow, which would not stay put under my head. Its back is plastic and the pad is plastic so there was a lot of slipping around. I may have to rethink the pillow.

Still, it was such a good experience thatI intend to take this experiment further and camp in a real campground.  I’m currently researching local spots that allow tents, there are plenty here in Central Florida, so I should’t have a problem. I might even get a camp stove and victuals. I’m told that if I can boil water I can eat a decent meal. Could be fun!

Anyway, for those of you who are like me and can barely tell a carabiner from a CamelBack, I intend to publish how-tos on everything I encounter and learn, starting with setting up the tent I bought. Even if you’re comfortable around campsites the videos and reviews I’ll be posting may be of use to you as well. 

Here’s the first video: Setting Up The North Face Storm Break 2 Tent

All the more reason to…

Stay tuned.


A Halcyon Day

Today, March 4, 2021, for me at least, is a Halcyon Day.

When I was a lot younger, in grade school in Baltimore, there were days, usually in March, when the air is clean and dry and crystal clear, the breeze is cool, but just so cool as to not cause a shiver, the sun is warm, not hot, and the sky is so blue it literally hurts to look at it. I was usually doing something during those days, in school, running errands, or working, even so I would stop and breath in the air, feel the warmth of the sun on my face, feel the cool breeze on my back, and stare longingly at the sapphire sky and wish that I could just have that moment a bit longer. 

I called those days Halcyon Days. They were few and too far between, but when they showed up they were easy to recognize. People seemed a bit kinder, birdsong seemed a bit sweeter, and life always seemed so full of possibilities.

Playa Linda Beach

Today started off normally. I woke at 4am and made coffee, then went back to bed. I got up officially at 6am and went through my normal morning routine. I was meeting a friend at Canaveral National Seashore, specifically, Playa Linda Beach. The beach and seashore is a protected area and is maintained in its natural state with only one road to the beach, the only buildings are restrooms, and there’s limited parking. There are boardwalks to get from the parking lots to the beach, but those and the restrooms are the only man only manmade structures from the fence that borders Kennedy Space Center to the sign the designates the end of Playa Linda Beach (a distance of about 4 miles) and the beginning of Back Country, a 10 mile stretch of beach and intercostal wetlands that does not even have roads and access is limited to a maximum of 50 visitors a day.

It was on the beach when I recognized one of those halcyon moments. We were walking with the wind at our backs, the sun in our faces, crystalline air tinged with sea salt filled our lungs. Formations of gulls and brown pelicans cruised the dunes, riding the updraft caused by the ocean pumped wind blowing up along the dunes. Plovers played tag with the waves, royal terns congregated with beaks into the wind as if, by their numbers, they could defy its strength. 

Flock of gulls

The sand was clean and warm, the Atlantic was deep blue with white caps and the susurration of the waves drowned out any negative thoughts.

Plovers dancing with the waves.

A perfect moment in a day of perfect moments. A Halcyon Day. 

On Amazon Prime there is a movie called Map of Tiny Perfect Things. In it a young man finds that he can live a day over and over again. As he goes through that day knowing it will repeat itself at midnight he decides to make little tweaks in the lives of the people around him. He stops a man from walking in front of a car, prevents a glass from breaking, keeps a girl from getting knocked into a swimming pool, and so on. He knows exactly when each occurrence will happen because he’s seen them all and nothing changes.

He also creates a map of perfect moments during the endlessly renewed day, moments he gets to see and experience again and again and enjoy each time. A man, after completing an act of kindness, sits on a seat just as a bus with an advertisement that has a set of angels wings stops behind the man, producing an image of him as an angel. The moment is brief and you’d have to be in the right place at the right time to see it, but the young man has all the time in the world to see it and other tiny, but brief moments of perfection.

Today, is like that for me. Moments of perfections that likely occur everyday, but today I saw them, felt them, experienced them, and that, in itself is perfect.

Stay tuned.