Summertime is a time to camp

Summertime is a time to camp

Never mind the Sweeds running through.

I haven't been in Kansas at this time of year, even for a visit, since 1995. It's a confusing time, when the weather warmly reminds you of other places and then punches you with the fury of angry gods because you parked over the line on Tuesday. Most every day as I leave my place, I hear Mother Nature whisper "this would be a great day to go to the beach."

"That sounds nice," I respond. "But this would be an awful day to go to the beach, because other people will go to the beach."

"Nope," cackles Mother Nature. "No one else will go because you're in Kansas and there is no beach."

At this point I get angry because nature tricked me, and I don't even like beaches that much. Mother Nature is a terrible jerk here. Kansas' Mother Nature is the Ramsay Bolton of Mother Natures.

During my summers growing up here, my parents had one of those old tents which are basically four screen walls and a roof. My friends would come over at some point every summer and we'd all "camp" outside, running an extension cord to a small TV and VCR so we could watch Three Amigos, Princess Bride, The Jerk and such. Usually on my birthday, we'd have pizza and lay in our sleeping bags as we roughed it in the yard. That is my kind of camping, and would be much easier today because you don't need the extension cord or major appliances to watch movies.

A few years ago, I spent a summer in and around Sweden. The summers there are, as you can imagine, quite different. People still wear shorts in July, but like people who say that Kansas has beaches, they are just fooling themselves. During this particular summer, in 2006, I was missing home. I was remembering, for some reason, summer camping trips. While the bulk of my camping experience has been a lot like what is described above, I hazily remembered a few camping trips with a girlfriend when I was in college and that I must've enjoyed them.

So when the tenor I was working with starting waxing nostalgic one night in the dressing room about camping in the mountains of Georgia, I was inspired. We should go camping! I remember him saying, "Are we not men? Do not men go to the wild?"

I looked up Swedish law about camping, and I learned about Sweden's Right Of Access law. Anyone is allowed access to any uncultivated land. Basically, you can camp anywhere that isn't tended property and you can cross through most any property provided there is a path.

We decided we would get a tent and take the train out of Stockholm until we were sufficiently in the wilderness. We'd get off and hike until we found a nice spot to camp and have a night away from it all.

One of the dancers in our troupe, Christina, got wind of our plan. She decided she would join for reasons that I now realize revolved around watching us flounder in the woods in order to make fun of us later.

We grabbed some blankets and yoga mats — it was the middle of summer, who needed sleeping bags? We stopped at a grocery to buy some food and matches, and then caught a train that we knew would take us out of town.

We rode. And we rode. It took some time, but after several stops the city fell away and we decided we were sufficiently enwildernessed. We grabbed our shopping bags and our "Athens Olympics 2004" backpacks and began our trek. We found a path and followed it for about, we figured, a mile into some woods. By this time, the sun was going down. I offered to find firewood, Jamie and Christina set up the tent. The soil was very mossy, and the wood I found was mainly twigs and wet sticks, but somehow we managed to get the fire started. We roasted marshmallows and tofu dogs (never let a dancer buy your camping food) and discussed weighty things while sipping whiskey around the flames.

"We are men. Men make fire. Fire is good. Drink it in. Also, can we shift over that way because I'm getting all the smoke over here?"

We tried to tell ghost stories, but no one could remember the entirety of any ghost story that we hadn't all heard. Before long, the novelty had worn off and we were ready to retire. It was getting a bit chilly.

We all woke at some point in the middle of the night because while we'd each brought a thin blanket, the nighttime temperature dipped into the 40s. It doesn't sound that cold in retrospect, but it was a terribly cold and mostly sleepless night.

We were awakened shortly after sunrise by a rustling outside our tent. We were concerned that it might be a bear because we hadn't been as diligent as we ought to have been about sealing our trash. The noise went away, but before long there was more noise, which also passed after a moment.

Groggy from lack of sleep, the hard ground, and a poorly planned and executed evening of Swedish camping, we opened the tent to investigate only to be narrowly missed by something running past.

It was a jogger.

In the full light of day, it became readily apparent that our mile-long hike into the woods had taken us into the wooded middle of a suburban housing development. The wild animals we'd heard passing were annoyed Swedish joggers. We were set up just to the side of, basically right in the middle of, the trail the residents used for their morning run.

To put it in local perspective, we had made camp in the wilds of Willowbend. It was an uncultivated area, so we were still within the bounds of the law, but we got out of there as quickly as we could muster.

Now, when I get the urge to camp, we'll sleep on the living room floor, watch movies all night, and make s'mores over a(n unscented, trust me) candle. At least the pizza guy knows where to find us there.