No Plans for the Weekend? Go Camping!
Admittedly, we are not the camping type. It's more like "glamping" for us (glamour camping à la Troop Beverly Hills!). But, a few weeks ago Jon Rich, our Men's Lifestyle Editor, sent us an excited text about his upcoming jaunt into the woods. Our interest was piqued. Would Jon take his Terre d'Hermès with him? We had to know more:
“Wait! Give me that broken, leaking bag of garbage before you tip over!” Out of context, you might think that I was yelling at one of my inebriated, stumbling frat brothers, while cleaning up after a big party. (I was, in fact, on a mountain, saving my friend from careening off a precipice.) Back to the garbage exchange. While the feeling was certainly fraternal, this was no frat party in the traditional sense. Instead of rooms filled with party-goers, kegs and more kegs, this was just dudes, alone in the woods. Yes, I’m talking about camping - the ultimate test of true brotherhood. In fact, while fraternities like to keep their pledging rituals secret, it is well-known that a lot of them implement some sort of overnight camping excursion as part of the hazing process. Why? Well, not only because everyone, including frat boys, likes a good s’more, (which is delicious - be assured that a recipe will be provided in the next installment); camping is one of the few remaining ways we have to truly escape our everyday lives. As a resident of Manhattan, with a fairly demanding desk job, I can tell you first-hand that camping really makes you aware of how good you have it. Stripped of life’s essentials, including electricity, plumbing and a real roof, I was forced to re-adapt to my environment. At first, it was uncomfortable and even scary, (especially when you learn how many precautions you have to take in order to prevent a bear attack while you sleep). But, as with any process of adaption, eventually it becomes familiar, fun and memorable.
Although I have camped many times in my life, it was mostly in my early days of summer camp and a teen trip to the Pacific Northwest. Nine years ago a group of friends camped at Saranac Lake in Lake Placid, New York, which is a crazy cluster of tiny islands on a lake. You can actually reserve a few of them, per weekend, as your own private island campground. The only way to get to the islands is by boat, so most people drive to the parking area, where you can rent a canoe and paddle away! Each island has space that’s been cleared for camping, along with a fire pit, and, if you’re lucky, a port-a-potty in case you don’t want to be “one with the woods.”
Anyway, back to business. So just the other week, my camper/fisherman friend, David, rounded up some of our work buddies, who also happen to be avid campers/fishermen, and booked a campsite at the Round Valley Reservoir in Clinton, New Jersey. Yes, believe it or not, there are places to camp in New Jersey besides outside of MetLife Stadium for Justin Bieber concerts. Candidly, I was initially on the fence about going on this adventure because, well, I’m not in love with camping. Oh, did I mention that it was supposed to be really cold that weekend? Or, that the forecast said it would pour on Sunday morning? Yeah, that just didn’t seem all that appealing. But, somehow, I just knew deep down that I’d regret missing a potentially memorable adventure, so I climbed aboard.
After a relatively short drive from NYC, my friends and I rolled up to the campgrounds entrance. Although I was still apprehensive about how much I would actually enjoy this activity, when we arrived at the parking lot, I felt ready and excited. That is, until my friend declared that there would be a 3+ mile hike to the camp grounds. And, it was, as he put it, relatively difficult, especially when carrying heavy backpacks and other essentials, like 25 lbs of beer. I really wish my friend had been exaggerating his characterization of the hike, but no, he wasn’t. It was treacherous, mostly uphill, and it was getting dark. At one point, one of my friends and I got separated from the group and couldn’t find them when full darkness set in. Also, the other guys had all of the food. Not cool. Eventually, after numerous Big Foot calls, (Ooooooheeeeeee!), we found the other guys and set up camp.
To my pleasant surprise, putting up a tent was way easier than I thought. We then built an impressive fire and cooked quintessential camp food: beans, potatoes, more beans and of course, steak. It all tasted better cooked over an open fire in the woods. Trust me. We washed everything down with beer and bourbon. For the next few hours, we kept the fire going, sat around, listened to music and made each other laugh. Even though we brought our phones, (and we all had full service - thanks Verizon!), we kept them stored in our tents away from the fun. We’re all lawyers, which means we’re constantly glued to and dependent on technology. At first, having no smart phone in my hand set me into tech withdrawal mixed with FOMO (no social media access!), but soon, our collective anxiety cooled off.
The next day we ended up deciding to leave because of the torrential downpour that was headed our way. Although we were all a little disappointed, we were smart enough to know that every camping-related activity, including packing up and going on a three-mile hike back to the parking lot, would be infinitely more difficult in the pouring rain. Cue the fast campground exit. No Big Foot calls were necessary to stay close to the group on our exit from camp paradise.
I wanted to share that short (read: lengthy) anecdote from my recent experience because for me, it was way outside my comfort zone. I ended up bonding with my homies and found a new found appreciation for the everyday comforts I have. I encourage every man, woman, child and pet (even pet bears) to go camping at some point. It’s cheap, easy and refreshing, even if you go just once a year. So, with a little bit of help from my main mountain man friend, David, in my next segment, I will provide a brief overview of what camp swag you’ll need and more suggestions on where to go. Until then, happy trails!
Jon Rich is In the Midfield's Men's Lifestyle Editor. He is also a practicing attorney in NYC.
Picture Credit: Spell Designs - DIY Boho Festival Camp