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Fat Girl Camping

September 10, 2007

Camping Queen

I love camping. Let me just repeat that so it really sinks in. I love camping.

I’m a car camper (or a truck camper up until this year). That means that my equipment is too bulky for backpacking, but fits wonderfully into my vehicle. I caught the camping bug early in life from my parents. They preferred RV camping to the tent camping I took up in my early 20s. As a child my parents had one of those silver Airstream trailers towed with the ever-popular fake-wood-side-paneled station wagon. By the time I was four, I had already visited about 45 states. When I got a little older, my parents bought a well-used 25-foot motor home. It broke down a lot, but thankfully my father was (and still is) good with tools.

When I reached the age where I was independent, but broke, I discovered tent camping. It was cheap–way cheaper than staying in a motel. I still got to visit those same places I grew to love when RVing, and it was really fun to do with friends.

When I moved to Alaska many moons ago, I did it with a friend, a cat, and a pickup packed with belongings and camping equipment. We spent three weeks traversing the North American continent and we only slept one night in a motel (as our ‘Welcome to Canada’ treat). Baltimore to Anchorage was quite a journey and each night we pitched a tent and slept on the ground. Oh, and I did this all weighing over 300 lbs.

I saw all 50 states (and several countries) by the time I was 23. So now I’m exploring places that are close to home, but I’ve never set eyes upon and I’m planning more distant excursions to the places that my heart longs to see.

Labor Day weekend was for exploring a place that is close to home—Patapsco State Park. Patapsco is broken up in to many different areas. I’ve hiked the McKeldin Area solo before when shooting a project on natural abstractions for a photography project (did I say how much I love photographing natural abstractions?). I always thought that area was better for mountain biking than hiking, but pretty nonetheless. I managed to be there during some sort of army exercise ‘cause I kept being set upon by guys in camo—it was a little unnerving.

I’d never been to the Hollofield Area of the park before, which is where the campground is located. We were late making reservations for the holiday weekend, but there were plenty of spaces. That didn’t stop those taking the reservations from giving us a hard time, which seemed to be their modus operandi for the weekend. I’ve had both good and bad experiences with park rangers in the past and the experiences of this Labor Day weekend fall into the ‘bad’ category. My camping buddies asked at the gate if they could buy a trail map as they were trying to find a way to walk to neighboring historic Ellicott City. The rangers acted as if it was the silliest request in the world and after much haggling my buddies decided to just wing it because dealing with the rangers over purchasing a $2 map turned out to be too much trouble. Thankfully, most of the ‘bad’ only affected our group peripherally and our campground hosts were friendly so everything balanced out.

The campsite we had was nice, but it was far from the bathrooms (which were up a very large hill). The potties were clean, but the toilet tissue was not replenished regularly. One of the first lessons of tent camping is to always bring a roll of TP—‘cause leaves just aren’t a good substitute, especially if you’re camping in winter. So, thankfully, we had extra TP, which other campers tried to smooth-talk us into relinquishing for their use. Really, you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed someone trying to smooth-talk you out of a roll of toilet paper.

My friends did hike to Ellicott City and it only took them an hour. I declined the hike because I honestly felt it was going to be a 4-hour forced march and my whole purpose of the weekend was to unwind (‘cause I’d been wound up from work and other things for about 6 months). A four-hour hike did not sound like an unwind-y activity. If I’d have known it was only going to be an hour, I would have gone with them. Instead, I replenished our cooler ice and sat out by our picnic table for a leisurely read, which I quite enjoyed.

The friends phoned when they arrived in Ellicott City and I drove to meet them for wine tasting at a new wine bar, Annabell’s Fine Wine and Gourmet Food, and then to eat the best fajitas in town at La Palapa Grill and Cantina.

I finally unwound that weekend. There are many wonderful things about camping–like being outside in a lovely wooded spot with good friends, good conversation, fabulous camp food, and fire.

Note: Thanks to R who took that fabulous photo. I’m always the one with the camera so there are usually few photos of me and I like this one because, well, I look happy.  And I like the way my butt looks…

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