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Cornelius News

Camping in the dark

With apologies to “The Great Outdoors”

MODERN DAD | By Jon Show

Sept. 9. The first time I went camping I was 25 years old. It was during a rafting trip with friends and I bought a two-person tent and an inflatable sleeping bag and maybe slept a total of two hours because of the terrifying noises in the dark.

I camped for the second time a year later with the same group of friends on a rafting trip in northern Georgia, where we were awoken and searched by police in the middle of the night for reasons I never fully understood.

Given the experiences of my first two camping trips I decided maybe the camping life wasn’t for me.

Once our kids were deemed old enough to go camping, and roughly 15 years had passed since my previous camping trip, we decided to take them camping to a place called Honey Bear Campground in Boone.

It was unseasonably cold that October weekend and the Blond Bomber walked around the campsite in nothing but a diaper. I bought Future Man his first knife and he dropped it down a hole in the woods.

Pick a level site

The tent pad was on a 15 degree slope and had large roots under it. At night the temperatures dipped into the 30s so I gave the children my sleeping bag for extra heat and nearly froze to death.

A year passed and we decided to go camping again, but stuck closer to home and went to Lake Norman State Park.

Again, unseasonable temperatures dipped down the 30s at night. One of the kids peed in their sleeping bag and nearly froze to death.

Another year passed and we returned to Lake Norman State Park. When we arrived our campsite was soaked due to drainage issues that, according to the park ranger, would be renovated the next week.

Sleep in the car

The children behaved terribly and at one point I went to the car to be by myself and watch TV on my phone.

A father and his two adult sons occupied the campsite nearest to us. They stayed up nearly the entire night talking about their feelings and singing very bad songs while one of them played guitar.

A dog barked all night in the distance.

I awoke at dawn, gave myself smoke inhalation trying to light a fire in a wet firepit, and on the way home again decided that maybe the camping life wasn’t for me.

That, combined with sports and the onset of COVID, scrambled any chances of camping for two years and we kind of got out of the habit of going, until the Blonde Bomber asked me to take her camping last December.

Determined to avoid the pitfalls of our previous camping trips, I rented a “glamping” site on a farm near Blowing Rock that came with a giant tent, bed, couch, wood stove, table/chairs, shower and compostable toilet.

The trip was much better than previous attempts but the first night the temperatures dropped to the low 30s and the Blonde Bomber almost froze to death because we ran out of wood for the stove.

The day we departed I dropped her into the farm’s pen to pet the pigs she’d been feeding for two days and one bit her on her fuzzy boot.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself why in the world I continued to go camping, and all I can tell you is that I have a problem.

The opposite of awesome?

In my brain I convince myself that something is going to be awesome, but it ends up being the opposite of awesome.

Enough time goes by and I forget why it wasn’t awesome, and then the whole it’s going to be awesome thing overshadows the fading memory and I’m back to square one of thinking something is going to be awesome.

So cut to last month and the Blonde Bomber and her friend, the Fruit Ninja (she eats a lot of fruit), asked me if we could go camping before the start of the school year so … we went camping.

This time we planned to go to Stone Mountain State Park because it’s close and has a sliding rock and waterfalls and rivers to swim in.

The forecast had been spotty all week but when we awoke the morning of the trip it looked to be clear so I booked a campsite and away we went.

The clouds looked threatening all day but no rain fell until 10 pm, when a light sprinkle turned into a torrential downpour that lasted for eight straight hours, totaling 2.75 inches of rain.

The funny thing, though, was that the rain didn’t really overshadow anything about the trip.

Dogs and other good things

The girls loved the sliding rock and the waterfalls. They loved our tent pad and the hammock. They loved the campfire and the grilled chicken sandwiches and the s’mores and the hot chocolate and snacks and giant Gatorades and Capri Suns.

They loved the walk we went on after dinner where we met all kinds of dogs and checked out all the fancy campers.

They loved the movie I set up on the back of the truck. We watched Goonies and ate Sour Patch Kids.

The rain began at the end of the movie and it was bedtime anyway so we finished watching it in the tent, which kept us dry as a whistle all night. The rain ended around dawn and we awoke to bright sunny skies.

A week later I asked the Blonde Bomber what she remembered most about the trip and she rattled off a dozen different things. Know what she didn’t mention at all?

The rain.

Maybe camping life is for me after all?

Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with his wife, who he calls “The Mother of Dragons.” Their 13-year-old son is “Future Man” and their 10-year-old daughter is “The Blonde Bomber.” Their dog is actually named Lightning.