By Rob Ficiur
One hundred plus years ago many of the first settlers in Alberta lived in soddies. Rather than building their homes of wood, they used blocks of dirt to form the walls and roof. The settlers probably would not have labelled their new dwelling a camping experience. It was permanent until they could build something better.
Modern camping can be similar, or even more primitive, than the soddies of our ancestors. However, most modern camping do not resemble roughing it in the least. Growing up our family had a tent trailer; where we had enough room to sleep and a bit more. Modern day camping trailers are spacious enough to live in as a permanent residence. Whether your camping experience is in a tent or in a trailer with a satellite television, camping is sport people of all ages enjoy for various reasons:
1. Cold Weather Camping – I remembering camping several times in the cold Victoria Day weekend. When it got cold outside the tent trailer got cold. We had heater, but as a I child I just remember being cold. I have even gone on winter camps where people camp in tents when there is snow around. The idea of winter camps was to give young people (and older leaders) the chance to learn winter outdoor survival skills. My solution was simpler, don’t camp during the winter when it is cold.
2. The road challenge – I remember my father backing the car up so we could get a good run at the giant mountain sized road with our car. That was our only road to our favorite camping spot. Today that same camp site is easily accessible by paved road and a well maintained gravel road. Modern day campers won’t find any sport in that road (which is just how I would like it). However the adventurous camping spirit, usually means most (men) will find a primitive road or path to drive on.
3. Campfire – Whatever form of camping you chose to do a campfire is a must. Early in our history, humans needed the campfire to cook our food. Modern campers want to cook their hot dogs over an open fire. Like everyone else, I find a burned at one end raw at the other end hot dog a gourmet meal. If we had something half burned at home we would throw it out – but the taste of campfire somehow makes it all right. More advanced campers have learned to cook different gourmet meals on a campfire.
Camp fires have a magnetic effect on people. We can spend hours sitting around the fire watching it burn. Sitting around a campfire can be a relaxing experience, unless you get the smoke directly in your face. What does it say about a camper when the campfire smoke blows in their face – then the camper moves – then the smoke changes direction – then they move – then the smoke changes direction to go after them?
One evening while camping my wife and I had planned a quiet campfire. The weather was perfect – we had all our supplies – so we were set. Like many other places, this campsite required you to buy their wood to use in campfires. In our world of recreation where we spend $5 for a bottle of water at an airport, or $4.75 for that one-dollar water at a hockey rink, paying too much for firewood is part of the modern camping experience. Our calm quiet relaxing campfire turned out to be a stressful, irritating fight with nature. It turns out if you have water soaked wood it is hard to get any campfire to go. It burned around the edge of the wood but never caught on. The previous night our neighbor told us he had had the worst firewood in history of wood, so we must have got that same wood. Campfires with water soaked wood are not campfires at all.
4. Friendly neighbors – Campers make friendly neighbors. The night when I could not get my campfire to start, I went across the campground and borrowed a hatchet from our former neighbor. We had lived next to this neighbor for one evening. He had told me they had had the worst firewood in history so I knew he would have sympathy for my plight. He would have happily lent me his hatchet or his axe. We had moved clear across the campground (that is another story about reservations at campgrounds). Camping neighbors lend you things, even when you are just strangers who parked beside you for a night.
Through our camping days we visited and talked with several people as if we were long lost friends – knowing full well we would never see them again. In a hotel setting when people try to talk to you in the hallway you feel the need to call security – why is that person talking to me?
Camping is a way for modern people to escape to nature, even for a few days. What? The wi-fi does not work at my campsite! Those redwood trees are blocking the signal. That is why camping is called roughing it.