Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Camped and Confused

“Camping: nature’s way of promoting the motel industry.”

- Dave Barry

This post is actually an entry for a “Camping Trip Gone Wrong” Story Contest YA Flash Death Match , which ends 09/19. If can think of a camping horror story for YA readers, enter. The stories will post on the blog from 09/22-09/26, and you can vote for your favorite entry.

Here’s my entry (based on a true story, but adapted for YA. The name of the boyfriend has been changed to protect the camp-happy):

I like the outdoors. Really. I’ll hike if it’s not too long or treacherous. Or hot or rocky. I’ve even mountain biked on some twisty trails. But I’ve never understood why on earth anyone wanted to waste time camping.

My boyfriend, Sid had never camped either. Well, he went to sleep-away camp as a kid, but that’s not the same… apparently. He decided we should go camping, so he borrowed a tent and two sleeping bags. It shows how much I liked Sid that I actually agreed to go.

“Let’s really rough it,” he said.

“Not having a hot shower or flushing toilet is roughing it. You’ll be sorry when you see my hair without a flat iron to tame it.”

That’s not what I meant. No cell phones. No iPods.”

“Fine. I can live for a day without them,” I lied.

Sid chose Assateague Island in Maryland because it had wild ponies. I thought, sure, why not?

By the time we reached the island and chose a spot with other campers on the beach, it was dinnertime. After struggling with/setting up our tent, we began eating our picnic dinner. The other campers’ setups should’ve been our first clue of what was to come. Most of them were protected by large screen canopies. For a few minutes, Sid and I ate and talked. Then the sun sank a little lower in the sky, and the mosquitoes attacked. I had brought a natural bug repellent, but I might as well have smeared barbecue sauce all over my body.

He and I threw what was left of our food in a bag without bothering to close it securely, and then we dove into our tent, zipping it shut as quickly as we could. The next few minutes were spent whacking the mosquitoes that had invaded our tent.

It was early. We had nothing to do. I was itchy. And I was in a BAD MOOD. Not very romantic. We had our first huge fight. I don’t even remember over what – well probably over Sid dragging me camping, which was the dumbest idea. Ever. I blamed him for not bringing bug spray. He ridiculed me for making a big deal over (as he put it) a few mosquitoes. I ended the argument with, “I bet you wish you had a cell phone or iPod now.” With nothing else to do, I huffed as I smacked my pillow into a “comfortable” position to go to sleep.

Have you ever tried to sleep on sand? Not a nap while baking in the sun, but overnight? It’s hard and lumpy. It took hours to fall asleep because I was hungry, itchy, stuck on sand, with sand stuck on me, and my large number of mosquito bites had given me a fever. Awesome.

At some point, I drifted off to sleep. That’s when I heard them. First their clop, clopping on the ground. Then their teeth ripping our bags of unsecured food. And then their pupupupup sounds like when you blow air through closed lips. The ponies had surrounded our tent. I don’t know how big they were, but from my vulnerable position, I was pretty sure they could trample us if they wanted to. Did they want to? “How wild are these wild ponies, anyway?” I whispered.

I scooted closer to Sid. He put his arm around me and I nestled in his chest. I guess we were making up. I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night, even when the ponies finally devoured our food and left the campsite.

The next morning, we assessed the carnage - our bags of food had been ripped to shreds. Sid packed up the tent. Before we left, we walked down to the beach. In the first light of morning running at the shoreline were several ponies, free and wild.

“They’re beautiful,” I gasped.

“Not scary now,” he added.

I noticed their large size, but didn’t say anything. These were not the cute little ponies I’d ridden on at the fair as a kid. No wonder I had feared for my life when they surrounded our tent.

After that horrendous experience, on the way home, Sid and I agreed not to camp with one another EVER AGAIN.

*** FYI ***

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  1. I'm not a camper either. I love nature, just would rather sleep in a cabin (with running water, thank you very much) than under the stars.

    My daughter is NOT a nature girl. She screeches at the site of a housefly, so you can imagine how much fun she is on a trail! She swears she will never go camping. I keep telling her it depends on who asks her to go!

  2. I. Hate. Camping. But this story is sooo cute! My daugther would love to see wild ponies!


  3. The mosquito-bite fever was a nice touch of realism that added dimension, as was the "romance"-falling-flat.

  4. Horses... Ponies... Creatures of weird sudden impulses and hiding bubbling madness behind their crazed eyes and flicking ears.
    Give me a staid cow anyday. ; j

    That was a fun bit of story telling... It reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes where the whole family goes camping... But your story has a better ending!: D

  5. I'm not sure that was a horror story; more like "campy" horror. Get it? Camp-y horror? Oh, I slay me.

  6. This describes the feeling of camping so well! I used to trick myself into thinking I was an outdoorsy girl but I am definitely more of a sip coffee in a cozy chair kind of girl. Very well written and I can only imagine this girlfriend's frustration!

  7. Great story. I hate camping too.
    loved the line
    -I had brought a natural bug repellent, but I might as well have smeared barbecue sauce all over my body.-
    says everything about camping.

  8. @ Vicki, my husband and kids have gone camping a few times without me. I enjoy staying home, with Internet access, a comfy bed, hot water, and a flushing toilet.

    @ Justine, I went back with the kids last year (for a couple of hours - not to camp). Are we FB friends? I have pictures of my children petting them. Not so wild, I guess.

    @ Will, thanks! I appreciate it.

    @ Alesa, your description of the ponies trumps mine.

    I don't remember that Calvin and Hobbes. I'll have to find it.

    @ Judy, you're on a roll. Don't let me stop you!

    @ Saumya, I'm like you. I like my hiking in small doses and my coffee in large doses.

    @ Brigid, that line sums it up, doesn't it?

  9. 1987, august 10-20.

    I found them scanned and collected here: http://steeljawscribe.com/2008/10/05/sunday-with-calvin-14

  10. Great camping scene. It reminds me of when my sister and I went camping and something with a snout sniffed at our tent in the night (scary).

  11. What a great story! I'd love to have ponies surround my tent!

    However, I hate camping. I need my bed. And hot water!

  12. hi miss theresa! wow you got me itching and scratching with that neat story. you sure made it not fun to go camping. i never saw a wild pony so i might like that but not if im in a sleeping bag.
    ...hugs from lenny

  13. @ Alesa, now they're coming back to me. Thanks for the link!

    @ LR, a snout? That IS scary.

    @ Talli, trust me that from a prone position, they're a lot more intimidating.

    @ Lenny Lee, They're really cool ponies, Lenny. I took my kids to see them last year. They're not too wild since so many people visit. We lucked out when they were walking on the side of the road. We pulled over and my kids pet the ponies.

    But we only visited for a couple of hours. We didn't camp!

    Hugs to you too.

  14. If I wrote this sentence, I'd write: "I’ll hike if it’s not too long or treacherous. Or hot or rocky." ... or outside... or too cold... or just lukewarm... or near trees... or a field... or pavement. But anywhere else...

    I'm not a camper either. You have to pay to smell bad, burn all your food, and pee in a place that stinks. At a hotel they clean for you, now that's a holiday!

    I'm glad it's ponies. Where I used to camp in Canada, if you left food out, the bears come... and not only eat your food but you.

    Funny story.


  15. None of my camping experiences have turned out well. The last time we went camping as a family, the kids were little. It was such a bad experience, when we packed up, we stuffed the tent under the ladder on the back of the van in hopes someone would steal it. Alas, no one did.

  16. Great story! We loved camping when we were younger. LOL, now roughing it means no Direct TV at our cabin...

    On our first anniversary (I was 21) we went camping and raccoons stole all of our food! We had been camping before, but had never taken a cooler full of food. We left it outside. The first time they came we got (umm I sent my hubby out) and put something heavy on top of the cooler. They chewed a hole in it and took the food. We watched them run away from the camp site with the baggies of food. It's a fun memory. :)

  17. Bless. Your. Heart! *shuddershuddershudder* I'm not a camper, either. Like you, I can hike, bike, walk, explore...as long as I get to go back home and I'm wearing some serious repellent.

    I'm so sorry about the mosquitoes. I didn't know anyone else reacted so badly to them. I swell like I have golf balls under my skin and get sick if I have enough of them....

    At least you got to see the beautiful ponies!

    Thanks for your comments on my post. I go Friday for an exam-yikes! It's been about three years since my last prescription. And they're going to dilate them, ugh!

  18. @ Clarissa, you're worse than me!

    I would be terrified to camp near bears. Wild ponies is as wild as I get.

    @ Helen, ha! Nobody stole the tent because very few people like to camp.

    @ Sharon, I'm like your family. When I was a kid, camping was as hard as it go. No TV.

    Raccoons are determined little buggers, aren't they?

    @ The Words Crafter, yes, insect repellant is necessary. I hate using it, which is why I normally avoid places where it's needed.

    My poor daughter was bitten on her forehead last summer. She had a golfball between her eyes too. I do get a fever if I am bitten by more than five or six.

    Dilated eyes are no fun.

  19. So funny! Mosquitoes can be so much more than an annoyance! Our black fly season is a nightmare in the bush - I won't go camping during that time!

  20. Wow neat! This is a really great site! I am wondering if anyone else has come across something
    similar in the past? Keep up the great work!

  21. Funny! It sounds like the one time I took my sister backpacking. NEVER AGAIN. Just as you say.

    As you know, I'm a big camper so this made me laugh. I've been surrounded by elk and moose but never horses. :o)

    Thanks for the heads up about the WriteOnCon party. I'd almost forgotten about it!

  22. That was fun! Attack of the mosquitoes followed by wild ponies! :o

    I enjoy camping but I can't stand how dirty and messy my hair gets...

  23. camping is fun but I like it best at my family's hut. That way we get the best of both worlds!


  24. @ Jemi, black flies aren't fun either. I don't blame you for not going camping during that time.

    @ Anonymous, thank you.

    @ Jackee, after reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, I'm scared of moose. Petrified!

    I think the Write On Con continues into today too.

    @ Amanda, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. As you can tell, I don't enjoy any part of camping.

    @ Nicole, that does sound like the best of both worlds. As a kid, we stayed in cabins. Much nicer to me!

  25. Well it sounds like you had some adventure. I did camp a few times but it was at festivals etc. No wild ponies or mosquitoes, just rowdy festival goers! I suppose that could be considered a horror story.....

    Really enjoyed this Theresa.

  26. The beauty of your camping experience is you got to make a great story out of it. There's nothing like life experiences to inform our work.

  27. @ Ann, I'm sure rowdy festival-goers can be scary. At the very least, they're probably good story material.

    @ Joanne, my worst moments always make my best stories. It's sad, really.

  28. "I noticed [the horses']large size" LOL!! Oh Theresa Milstein!! This is so funny - wonderful!! I really enjoyed it and am still giggling!!

    Take care

  29. @ Old Kitty, I'm happy to give you a laugh. I can laugh about it now too.

  30. THe last time I camped, I finished by sleeping in the back seat of a compact car.

    My ancestors did not tame the prairie for me to sleep outside! :-)


  31. @ Pearl, I'd rather sleep in a car than on the ground.

    I like you take on our ancestors. Agreed!

  32. How scary to be inside of a tent, not sure if you were going to be trampled. Is that part true?

    Once my husband and I were going to go camping with another couple. It would have been my first time, and I was trying to be a good sport, but I wasn't super into the idea. I was so happy when I heard the other couple having this conversation: "Where's the tent?" "I thought you brought it."
    We ended up staying in a nearby resort.

  33. Yes, that part is true! Most of it is true. The part about not bringing technology wasn't even available when we camped. And my boyfriend and I didn't make up until morning. We did see the horses running at the shore, but we didn't have that conversation. But everything else really happened.

    Lucky you to stay in a nearby resort.

  34. Wow! The horses sound amazing, but the trip didn't. Too bad it wasn't a more enjoyable experience. I haven't camped in a tent in such a long time. My parents spent more on their camper than on their home. That's the way to camp! lol Good luck on the challenge.

  35. @ J.L. Jackson, I visited the place during the day and the horses were much more enjoyable! It's actually a beautiful place.

    A camper might not be a bad way to camp.

  36. WOW! I would love to see wild ponies! That is an awesome adventure - but please make sure you try camping again. There's nothing like it! (go later in the season - less bugs)

  37. @TerryLynnJohnson, I don't think it's for me, but I guess never say never.