The days are long, the air is soft and the urge to quit my job and lay in the grass is strong. June makes me careless – in a good way. “Things will work themselves out,” and “It will be fine,” become my words to live by. That is, until I forget to pack extra underpants for a camping trip. This is an instance where I must suffer the consequences of poor planning.
Despite all of its goodness, June is hard on office workers. We leave perfect mornings at the door and get to pick up the last remnants of daylight on our way back out. Luckily, I get to see the sun stream through the artificial valleys created by the glass and steel towers surrounding me. I cope with this tiny injustice by taking refuge in the constant flow of summer vacation photos streaming into Facebook and Instagram.
My best friend, Erin, has adventurous siblings who like to take road trips to some of my favorite places. During a particularly rough stretch of job duties, I seek refuge in their photos from a recent trip to Badlands National Park – one of the best places in the world. Every cell in my body screams “ROADTRIP!” but its eight-hour drive requires at least a three-day weekend when I’ve got a lot regular weekends at my disposal. So, on a whim, I book a campsite at Blue Mound State Park instead. It’s located 30 miles east of the South Dakota border, but a world away from my downtown Minneapolis office.
Luke has plans to visit his parents the weekend of my camping trip, so this is my opportunity to learn the skills I normally lean on Luke to provide, like lighting the fire and operating the camp stove. I also want to prove to myself that I would not be the first to go in the event of an apocalypse. I’d like to be one of those ‘hard to kills,’ who manages to survive in the woods for 20 years thanks to extreme resourcefulness and self-reliance.
But first, I have to learn how to set-up the tent.
Luke shoots me a bemused smile when I inform him of my plans. He’s acutely aware of my need to sleep with a nightlight whenever I’m away from home, but he gladly shows me how to do the things I should have learned how to do a long time ago.
After a crash course in setting up and taking down the tent, I’m off to pick up two friends, Amanda and Will, who are joining me for the weekend. They ask several times about the park’s “water situation.” The same E.coli warning has been in effect since we camped there last year, so I don’t bother looking into it. Rather, I naively pack my shower caddy and an extra pair of flip flops so I don’t have to get my Teva’s wet.
Upon check-in, the park service informs us that the water is completely shut off to the campground. No showers, no faucets and certainly no need for the Clarisonic face brush I packed instead of wet wipes and micellar water.
We get to our tent site in the last loop of the campground and discover that someone else is squatting in our space. It’s one of two sites occupied in the entire loop, so we simply take a larger, more ideally situated site nearby. As it turns out, this move saves us from having to camp directly next to a gentleman named Patrick who is a nice-enough person, but makes me decide to sleep with a Swiss Army knife and Will a hatchet.
Also, our site lacks any trees, which is brutal in the high-noon sun, but amazing at night. We have a clear view of the Milk Way overhead and a thousand raving fireflies in the prairie grass below. I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful in my entire life.
The best laid plans will take you only so far. Small weapons, fireflies and Cetaphil will save the day.