Monday, July 5, 2010


I've never been camping in my life.
Despite growing up seven inches from the lush, rocky mouth of Provo Canyon, I have never gone up it with the intentions of sleeping up there.
My father likes to say that my mother's idea of camping is staying at a hotel without an in-house restaurant, which accounts for the lack of canyon throughout my childhood. More canyon, I say.
Somehow I also eluded dozens of camping instances throughout high school while accidentally (if methodically) dating my way through a sizeable portion of the Unified Studies lineup.

This weekend I went camping. So I guess my header sentence was kind of a lie.
I was kind of pissed I'd be giving up my interesting-thing-I've-never-experienced, because everyone has one like that--they've never been to Disneyland, or they've never eaten sushi, or they've never run a mile, or they've never wanted an Easy Bake oven (but that last group is lying).

I was pleased as punch as I removed my sleeping bag from its spot in the window seat this weekend, only previously removed once for Lake Powell and for Girls' Camp a half dozen times. In the side of the mummy bag's own little carrier sleeve, I proceeded to stuff toothpaste, my sunglasses, a pair of hiking socks, a baby tub of Vaseline (NEVER WITHOUT!) and some fruit snacks. CAMPING, I thought. I'm going CAMPING. With PEOPLE. At a CAMPSITE. I will sleep somewhere that is a mountain, I thought.
Having been picked up in a car that shares my name, I grinned with camping happiness.  I wove my hand out the window and enjoyed even the party I was obliged to attend as a stop along the way, even though I knew none of the people there and continue to dread hip strangers with vintage carpeting and ironic party hats. I hummed contentedly as the vehicle I rode in took a lengthy ride up a road that they must have modeled Indiana Jones' simulated jeep-jerking after, because it was identical. We all hummed Michael Jackson's Bad, because that was one of three CDs in the car.

Camping goes late at night and is cold. Even in July, it is cold. I like how dark it is out there, because the group I was with opted to go pretty far up the canyon. I like how everyone is playing their guitars, which I prepared to hate. I like the darkness and how once you get out of the car and begin walking you can't see ANYTHING for minutes, and then your eyes accustom and everything is blue and you can suddenly see it. I have always enjoyed getting campfire smell in my hair and my jacket, and I tried to get as much on me as I could this time. People ate handfuls of dry cereal. I learned how to pee in the woods, laughing so hard that I could barely keep from falling bare-bottomed onto the dirt.

I really liked to be in a small rectangular tent with ten other people, yelling unnecessarily and hysterically for a good twenty minutes while rolling and jumping around like a big synchronized swimming team of nylon caterpillars trying to form a respectable sleeping formation. I don't think I've giggled that hard in months.

As the team of little cocoon people finally settled down, let me tell you, the SECOND we thought about getting comfortable (about 4 AM), Big-Mitted, who was directly to my right and never meant anything but well, leapt up in his sleeping bag (having removed his pants, preserving his modesty by forming a kind of lava-lava bag skirt) to fiddle somehow with one of the three glowsticks that had been suspended from the ceiling of the tent to provide us with light. As I laid on my left side, facing the other way, with my nose buried into the shoulder of someone on my left, Big-Mitted's flailing metacarpus knocked down the stick of glow, which broke midair and splattered directly into my open right eye.

It's four AM. I'm in a canyon. My feet are freezing, I have my contacts in, I'm still on politeness level with every member of the tent but one, I'm guessing I have bad breath related to fish tacos and sticky toffee pudding, and I am just tired enough that I'm having trouble forming sentences. I've been laughing maniacally for just under an hour, so my energy is depleted, and I am out of energy packs.
Then toxic neon death hits my eye/face. A good quarter-cup of it. (hot dog-sized glowstick).

Of course, some hit my hair, forehead, and cheekbone, which distracted my savers from medical attentioning me initially, because I looked and acted like some angry plant right out of Avatar: the musical.

Luckily, my quick sobbing and theatricality were understandable, because getting glow in your eye is like unto--well, it's like unto getting glow in your eye. It HURTS.
Shoulder-Nose took a water bottle to the eye, flushing it four or five times, and Big-Mitted bashfully wiped most of the rest off of my face and hair with a hoodie doused in my mascara and snot. Everyone else waited to see if I'd go blind or mutate, but luckily, I didn't.
I sniffled in my continued fluorescence. I took sulky pride in my pretty new lit-up state, and the way it smattered onto the sleeping bags on either side of me.

The stinging went away, I pulled out the offending contact, (which probably saved my cornea) rolled it between my fingers, and flicked it away, and a really nice young lady lent me a spare yellow sweatshirt to trade for my now-soaked sweater and tank top. I sank back into my star-patterned sleeping bag, taking a moment to enjoy its new glowing pattern. I received a reassuring finger squeeze and closed my eyes, falling asleep on my left side.

Around six AM, I felt a gentle hand on the side of my face and kept from appearing awake when it softly moved a thumb over the area of my temple still covered in glow, then over the line of my jaw and chin. I glowed and fell back asleep.

I woke up before everyone else to stare at the mesh ceiling/morning sky and listen to all the sleeping noises around me.

I loved camping, and I am not blind, and I opened a fresh right contact when I got home. All is well. 


Liesl said...

Hopefully it won't be your last camping trip. And I can't believe you have never been camping until now.

But dude, going camping without Vaseline is like going without your recessive arm. Not as good as your dominant arm, but you know, still necessary.

cherie said...

my interesting-thing-I've-never-experienced would be that i`ve never seen "Avatar". And somebody asks me how I liked the movie and I say that I`ve never seen it, they look at me as if I had totally gone nuts.

I sorta like camping. Mind the midges.

Glad you had a good time! ^^


Haley said...

this post is so so so cute. the "I glowed" part in the early morning? that is too sweet.

i'm glad you don't hate camping just because your vision was challenged.

also: i reached for my baby tub of vaseline when i saw the words in your post. Never Without, Julie. Never Without, I'm with you there.

Brittany said...

i'm not really a camper either...maybe one day i'll be brave and try harder like you.

and i hope you're loving My Antonia. it's so beautiful.

Alycia (Crowley Party) said...

you went this long without camping? haha wow. Enjoyed this post :)

Paige Marie Tueller said...

I love this julie!