Friday, April 12, 2013

A Camping Trip to Remember.....

tents, tent, college, freshman, orientation, camping

In preparation for my first semester at college, the college required all incoming Freshman to attend Freshman Orientation.  I met 2 of my girlfriends there and we found seats together.  One of the first things the college counselors did was give us a paper to fill out.

The paper consisted of 25 different ways to experience the rigors of college life.  We were to rank each one of the items in order of preference.  The choices ranged from being pushed in a wheelchair for a day, to a weekend of camping. The idea of being pushed around in a wheelchair didn't sound too bad, so I listed it as my first choice.  I continued to make my way through the list and ended up marking the weekend camping trip as my least favorite choice.  Camping is never my first choice unless it involves a hotel room and room service.

The counselors walked us through orientation. At the end of the day, they handed back the paper where we'd listed all of our preferences in numerical order.  As the counselor was handing the list back to us, we were informed they had taken our order of preference and flipped it.  Horrified, I looked at my paper and true to their word, I was going camping.  One of my girlfriends, who loves camping, got the wheelchair choice.  My other friend also got the camping experience.  We asked if we could trade and the counselors refused.  Oh dear heavens, my friend and I were going camping.  There wasn't going to be a hotel or room service.  We were going out to the middle of nowhere Texas with a tent, sleeping bag, canned food, jugs of water and no bathroom other than a shrub or tree.  All three of us were silent as the horror set in.

We met early on the designated morning and car-caravaned to the extremely remote and very hilly location.  Not only did we have to hike to get to our campsite, but we had to take turns carrying the gallon jugs of water, tents, supplies, and all of our own gear.

We finally arrived at our campsite which was located up on a bit of a hill, next to a creek.  There were big trees that created a nice little border around us and a kind of trail that ran down the middle of the campsite. 

We were paired up and handed a 2-person tent with stakes, assigned an area to set it up, and told that each 2 person group had to set up their own tent - there was to be no helping other groups.  I looked at my friend and we got to work.  I had 3 brothers who were in Boy Scouts, so I'd done this countless times in our backyard growing up.  My friend - not so much.

We worked together to lay out the tent properly.  I grabbed the first stake and began to hammer it into the ground.  On the 3rd swing of the hammer, the stake bent in half.  I called out to the counselor and he told us to figure it out.  After trying to hammer out the bend in the stake unsuccessfully for several minutes, one of the young men setting up a tent next to ours discreetly took the stake and was able to wrestle it back into shape.  While the counselor's back was turned, he tried to hammer it into the ground for us.  The stake bent in half again.  The counselor in his brilliance had located our tent on a patch of rock. 

I called out to the counselor and explained our problem.  He grumbled something about girls and tents and straightened out the stake and tried to hammer it into the ground.  The stake bent in half again...... and then broke.  Being that we were at his mercy in the middle of nowhere-ville, we held our tongues while he moved us to the uppermost location in our camp.  Our new location also happened to put us right in the middle of the odd looking trail.  Within minutes of moving our tent, my girlfriend and I had it set up and it survived the counselor's wiggle test.  We were so proud of ourselves!

We were all advised then to zip up all zippers on the tents because we were in tarantula, scorpion, and all sorts of big hairy spider territory and it was the only way to keep them out of our tents and sleeping bags.  We complied with lightning speed and double checked to make sure all zippers were completely closed.

That night after eating our dehyrated dinner with our funny little camping silverware, we climbed into our tent completely exhausted.  With our flashlights, we checked every nook and cranny for spiders and, sufficiently satisfied that we were bug free, crawled into our sleeping bags. 

The camp settled down after a requisite round of "Good night John-Boy.  Good night Mary-Ellen's".  My friend was already asleep and I had just drifted off when I felt a tickle on my leg.  I scratched and went back to dreamland.  A couple of minutes later when I was deep in dreamland, I felt the lightest of tickles on my arm and then.............. I felt a gigantic creature crawling up my arm.  It was nearly to my shoulder when I realized this was no dream!

My eyes flew wide open and I saw a big hairy spider the size of my head staring me eyeball to eyeball.  A blood-curdling scream escaped my lips as my other hand moved to swipe the spider off of me.  Before I had even gotten the ginormous arachnid off me, my sweet, caring, long-time friend of a number of years, jumped straight up out of her sleeping bag.  I thought she was going to lend me aid but instead she ran smack-dab into the tent's center pole support, knocking it over.

She unzipped the multiple zippered opening in world record speed while screaming "SPIDER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!".  The tent had not even finished collapsing as she exited.  In her great haste to exit the tent and thus desert her friend who was in great peril (me!), she ripped every single one of the tent's stakes out of the ground.  I was now not only in a collapsed tent, but was wrapped up like a burrito in the this darn thing.... and with Miss Muffet's gigantic spider!

The counselor and other campers ran out of their tents at the sound of her blood curdling screams to immediately slay whatever beast was trying to eat us.  I finally was able to poke my head out of the collapsed remnants of our tent after having to roll around and belly crawl to find the opening. 

The first thing I saw was our fearless counselor and the other campers standing around consoling her and trying to get her to calm down.  I called out "HELLO?!!! Can somebody please help me get out of here?!".  The group then realized I hadn't been carted away and eaten by a mountain lion or other wild beast or monster, and helped untangle me from the wreck of our tent.

The men checked the tent inch by inch but the spider was not there.  They checked me over to make sure it wasn't in my hair, and thank you sweet Lord, it wasn't.  They checked my friend and she was free and clear.  The spider had obviously met his match in my friend and had high-tailed it out of there.  I could understand why.

The young men in our group kindly reset the center support pole in our tent and hammered the stakes back in the ground for us.  After we had crawled back into our tent, they ever so carefully zipped all of our zippers closed ensuring we didn't have any more night-time visitors.
We finally drifted off to sleep again and in the wee small hours of the morning, my friend and I were both awakened at the same time by an odd sound.  clop, clop, clop, clop ........ snort ...... huff, huff .........................  Oh, what the heck is it now?!!  And then our tent started to shake. We could see by the way the walls of our tent were moving that animals were brushing up against the sides as they were moving  past!  

Within seconds our tent was in the middle of a herd of cattle that was nearly stampeding to the local watering hole!  That dadgum counselor had set our tent right in the middle of a cattle trail and we were in danger of being trampled if the tent collapsed!  The counselor yelled from his tent "Do NOT leave your tent! There is a bull and he does NOT like people!  He will try to kill you!". 

Oh, this trip was just getting better by the minute!  First a spider the size of a Volkswagon and now a herd of cattle with a bull that's mean enough to be used for the Professional Bull Rider's circuit?! I was afraid to ask what next.  All I wanted was a hotel room and a nice hot bath.

After a little bit, the herd finally passed and happily splashed around in the water.  The cattle got their fill of water and made their way back up to their pasture in small groups.  As the danger passed, we drifted off to sleep again.

The next day was full of climbing hills several hundred feet high, doing team-building activities, looking at live scorpions and rattlesnake skin that had been shed (shiver), and we learned to pee in the wilderness without wetting our shoes or exposing our backside to the entire group. 

We finished that camping trip, passed Freshman Orientation with flying colors, and drove home. That was my last time camping. My friend, on the other hand, goes camping regularly. I think that's because she discovered how to get out of a tent faster than a speeding bullet.

by: Christie Bielss

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