Notes on Camp(ing)

Jordan Barber, nostalgic for a time when he wasn’t checking Facebook compulsively, surrounds himself with the great outdoors. It turns out nature isn’t half bad.

The other week, I went camping for the first time in about a hundred years. I have a penchant for exaggeration, but it’s seriously been a long time.

My family used to horde together for an annual camping trip back when everyone wasn’t so old and tired. I think the farthest we went was Montana, but even then, our idea of camping wasn’t terribly authentic. I’d put it more in line with “forest bulldozing with cars” than surrounding oneself with nature. Our uncle had an RV, the penultimate fuck you to the outdoors. The only difference I could foresee was that we drank out of tin cups rather than glass ones.

Courtesy of the The Library of Congress

We had some good times, though. And so, in an attempt to revitalize my surface-level appreciation of nature and my misplaced nostalgia for family togetherness, I gave camping another try. This time, however, I was about seven years older and sans family. It was just a couple friends and me, and we were going real camping this time–no sissy-ass RV parking lot camping. We got backpacks and everything.

I’m being a little obtuse here, but we actually did want to experience genuine camping. For me, the purpose was the shed all technological and cultural habits for a brief period of time in order to appreciate my natural surroundings. My other friend brought his iPhone, so I’m not sure what he was aiming for.

That said, I brought a large backpack with a set of clothes, several pairs of socks, a sleeping bag, and canned food. I love minimalism, and this new experience of living out of a backpack delighted me. The hardest decision in terms of preparation was choosing the perfect book. My initial choice was Walden, but I was pressed for time and had to grab something off my bookshelf instead. Raymond Carver it was.

Courtesy of the The Library of Congress

After our four-hour drive to newfound wilderness (in a Honda Civic Hybrid nonetheless), we arrived at Cape Alava, Washington. Well almost—we had about three to four mile hike from our car to the campsite by the coast. Strangely enough, the trail was more of a boardwalk, leveled with stairs and risers. It occurred to me how strange (and somehow counterproductive) it was to walk on a trail of lumber through a forest. It was like walking on corpses in a city.

The campsite had a perfect view of the water and rock outcroppings in the foggy distance. We spotted a few deer loitering by the beach. The strangest thing we spotted during the weekend was a decomposing whale on the beach rocks. It resembled a Horta alien from the original Star Trek when they had a special effects budget of $20. I took a bunch of pictures of it because it was so ghastly. It also occurred to me that it would probably make a popular Digg post.

All in all, the weekend was tranquil, quiet and fun. I didn’t have any technological withdrawals and, in fact, found myself more productive and willing to be adventurous. All that green stuff was pretty cool too. I hope everyone can take some time this summer to remember that (some) interesting things exist outside the internet.

(Oh, I also hope everyone noticed my brilliant title and caught the reference to Susan Sontag’s similarly named essay.)

Jordan Barber is proud that the internet allows him to criticize, admonish, and irritate people from his own living room. And though this immense power only comes to the few, he promises to wield his hammer of judgment with a standoffish, thoughtful outlook.