Roughing it in the 21st century

Even though we haven’t really done much camping in the woods under the stars for quite a few years

Even though we haven’t really done much camping in the woods under the stars for quite a few years, it is when these lazy, hazy, hot and crazy days of summer roll around that I occasionally long for the call of wild and the great outdoors.

To get closer to nature my wife and I try to walk as much as possible — not uphill — and we will never turn down an invitation to join our family and friends at their favourite camp spots for lots of day outings.

I really enjoy wandering around some of these fancy provincial campgrounds and resorts, checking out all the new and glitzy modern units that they get out and “rough it” in these days. It is really quite amazing how many amenities our ever-growing camping fraternity now have, so just for fun this week I thought that I might compare our wilderness camping adventures of those days gone by to those of today’s happy holiday crowd. Most of us along the way have always looked forward to camping or holidays as a little more primitive but always enjoyable home away from home, but with all the changes that have occurred, it is quite obvious that we can now take Thoroughly Modern Millie on road with us.

• On a recent family outing yours truly got the royal tour of our son and daughter-in-law’s new trailer, which is really nice, and comes complete with stove, dishwasher, icemaker, shower and flush toilet, TV with surround sound, A/C, and of course comfy beds, table, plush seats and other assorted push-button appliances. I was also amazed these magnificent RV units now have push-outs, pop-ups, and some even with a built-in system that will make backing into your stall and levelling up your unit a piece of cake, after which all you have to do is plug it all in to power and relax. Our first tiny crank-me-up tent trailer was levelled up by a few old boards that we always brought along, as well as a log behind the wheels so that it didn’t roll away.

• For those of us who have long since bid farewell to the Big 5-0, we will fondly recall our first adventure in camping out was at a week-long cub/scout or church camp or in a big old two-room family tent at a nearby lake on a weekend. If it rained or stormed we all stayed inside and tried to keep dry but if it got too bad we just tossed everything in the car and went home. Do you remember that once we got settled out there in the woods we all had to pitch in to help set up our camp including laying out the sleeping bags and pillows, with some building a fire pit surrounded by rocks and others heading out to gather lots of wood to split and start the fire for supper. Now, you either bring your own wood, or pay for those little dry bundles that burn up way too fast. At night the only light came from the fire, a flashlight, or one of those neat kerosene lanterns. Bathrooms were usually old wooden outhouses (one or two-holers), and the only music came from the car radio or those great late night jam-sessions around the fire.

• Camp cooking must be just a little easier now with all those fancy barbecues and appliances and I can’t help but notice they really love to do pot luck and take-out. In the early days most camp meals were cooked on the grill or the open fire, which was usually started by good old dad with one match or flick of a Bic before everyone else got up. We had a whole wooden box full of pots and pans for cooking, as well as that most important old black coffee pot. Many of you will recall the coming of that first pump-me-up Coleman Stove but everyone still insisted on cutting sticks and cooking wieners or marshmallows over the open fire, as well as begging mom to make those hot, sticky, and delicious treats that were wrapped in tin foil or cooked in the waffle iron.

We usually ate off of tin or paper plates, and for dishes, mom would heat a pot of water (which someone had to fetch from the pump or creek), the same way we washed ourselves up. Dirty clothes were also scrubbed by hand then hung on the clothesline that was strung from tree to tree and also used to tie down the tarp in case it rained, which it always did.

• Whatever the case, we really enjoy going visiting on camp visits with the family, playing those new fan-dangled games, the sizzle of the burgers and hotdogs on the barbecue, and a chance to relax on those fancy lawn chairs that come equipped with drink holders and three lay-back and relax or snooze positions.

Whether you camp modern or the old fashioned way, have a fantastic fun and safe summer, and don’t forget to reserve your favourite spot well in advance at reservcealbertaparks.ca or phone 1-877-537-2757 for information. Then just go ahead and have a great week, all of you!

— Hammertime

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