Sunday, August 19, 2018

Camping: The Ground Got Harder

(In case you missed it, we announced our next really fun Strangerville Live show. Check out this link for info and tickets; as always, tickets are first come/first serve and there is some limited seating.)

Two years ago I decided that I needed to occasionally force myself to do what the kids are calling "commune with nature." To do so, I told myself that I was going to make it a priority to go camping one time a year.

The reason for this, and I swear to you I'm not joking, is to get myself to be more grateful for shelter.

It's not because I think camping will be fun. It's not to prove anything to myself. It's because I love the inside so much and I wanted to find a way to love it even more so I decided that if I slept outside once a year, the pure contrast would make my couch and temperature-controlled home so much sweeter.

Look. I've basically said this before. Camping is an insult to our ancestors who invented electricity and the internet and Netflix so that we would never have to go outside under any circumstances whatsoever. Going camping is basically nothing more than squandering an inheritance. Except it's miserable instead of fun to do.

But despite my respect for all the McCanns and Whittlebottoms who have come before me, including the ones who were polygamists, I have committed myself to this once-a-year camping vow.

Anna and Emily have participated each year. We always go to the same place, high in the Utah Uintas, at 11,000 feet. We hike nearly an hour into seclusion. We chop wood and build a fire pit. We pitch a tent and filter water from a nearby stream. And we tell ourselves we are going to camp for two nights.

Every year.

The first year we did this, as the sun was setting just before what was supposed to be our second night of the camping trip, we suddenly panicked, shoved all of our things into our bags, and sprinted back to the car in the dark.

Last year we gave up in the middle of the second day, meaning that we didn't even make it as long as we had the year before.

So last weekend, as we lazily threw our camping gear we had not touched since our previous excursion in 2017 into my car, we didn't even try to lie to ourselves about how long we would stay.

This camping trip had some special complications.

Anna and Emily love Duncan to an unreasonable level. And Duncan loves Anna, specifically, so much that he literally starts screaming in the car if we ever get even near the part of town she lives in.

I'm not kidding you about that. I had never heard a dog scream until I saw Duncan realize that we were close to Anna's house.

Because of all of this, Anna and Emily told me to bring Duncan camping or don't even bother coming home.

I was hesitant for about a thousand reasons. One, I love Duncan and don't want him to ever have to do something terrible. Two, I was worried he would get eaten by a bear. Three through one thousand, I had just given him a bath and that task really sucks and I didn't want him to smell like campfire.

But I did as I was told, and on Friday afternoon, Anna, Emily, Eli, and a screaming Duncan, were making their way up the mountain.

The hike to seclusion was fine enough. We chatted and took in the clean air and scene as we walked. Duncan happily carried his favorite blue toy, running back and forth across the trail, in total bliss.

Anna took this shot of me, Emily, and Duncan near one of the lakes. 

We got to our spot, gathered wood, pitched the tent, etc. Duncan played with his toy and ran in circles like he had just entered heaven.

And then night fell.

I remembered from prior years that the temperature at that elevation can drop into the 30s or 40s at night, and I was worried about what Duncan would do. Duncan has some severe claustrophobia issues and so I knew there was no way he would get into my sleeping-bag with me or allow me to even put a blanket on him.

I did bring his favorite outfit YES HE HAS A FAVORITE OUTFIT AND I REFUSE TO BE SHAMED FOR THIS. So that probably helped a lot.

As soon as we turned off the light for the night, all of the rain of all of hell began pouring onto our tent, and it continued for the entire night. The winds blew. The thunder was so loud that people are now deaf. IN MONGOLIA.

And it was so. freaking. cold.

Duncan just sat in his onesie, staring at me, for almost the entire night, with a look on his face that said "why don't you love me anymore?"

And the ground.

Have you guys tried sleeping on the ground recently?

It got harder. Ground has gotten harder lately. It used to be softer. In the 90s ground was actually not all that hard. But it changed. And it is terrible to sleep on it now.

Eventually morning came and the rains stopped.

We didn't even communicate our plans. We all just got up, silently and quickly packed our things, and got to the car by 7:30.

Duncan growled at me periodically for the rest of the day.

He has been asleep for nearly 40 straight hours now.

I am so grateful for inside today.

And now, please enjoy a truly amazing poop story from Strangerville:

This time in Strangerville, Meg tries to explain Twitter to Eli. Again. And a couple from Alabama faces an impossible choice on a highway while their 8-year-old looks on from the back seat.
When You’re Feeling Heavy in Your Chevy, by Anonymous 1 & 2 (music by

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I have a magnet hanging on my fridge which reads “I love not camping” with a small cartoon drawing of a woman waking up in a big, comfy bed. This helps me appreciate the indoors everyday without having to take the actual camping trip. Do I need to send you one Eli?

  2. 1. I want to drive to work right now just to listen to this bc I'm already excited by the description. 2. I agree with you on all fronts about the camping business. If I wanted to be homeless I wouldn't have a job. However this coming weekend for reasons I can't explain I will be camping and running. Like all night. Like two nights. And running in the middle of it on steep trails in the middle of the night. And I haven't trained. And my ankle hurts. And it's camping! #ragnar #ihatecamping #wherewereyouwhenisignedupforthis

    1. Oh honey. Ragnar was the biggest mistake of my entire life. And I had a mullet in 2009!

    2. Now hold up a gosh dern minute there. I loved my 200-mile team relay race that I died/did in 2016. There is something about everyone going through the same miserable weather/sleeping conditions that is makes the survivors bosom friends for the rest of their lives even if you haven't talked to them in a year. Plus, if you have a separate person/group that just sets up/takes down the tents each night, the race really isn't that bad.

      That being said...I'm sure your teammates are thankful that you didn't back out of the race.

    3. I have not done a Ragnar since 2010 and thought it would be a good idea... Also, Meg, perpetuating the belief that Harry Styles is the best looking member of One D? I can't with you. There were four other better looking members of that band. His hair masked his features and I think they different from hair blindness.

  3. My parents’ dog does this excited yip/crying sound when we go anywhere he recognizes and loves. He used to do it for the entire 30 minute drive to my grandparents’ house before my parents moved to Minnesota and that drive is no longer feasible.

    He loves to go camping, but that’s in my parents’ RV with his own bed and crate. He did not love it when my brother and I took him tent camping several years ago.

  4. I am going to pretend to commiserate with you while simultaneously one-upping your story. Is there a word for that? Am I supposed to put a warning before I do it? SO... yeah, camping is the worst and the ground is so hard and this summer I went to girls camp to be a leader for the 12 year old girls and I forgot to pack my pillow and had no mat or air mattress and I think the ground was actively angry at me. After a solid week of zero sleep whatsoever, I was called to be the YW president in my ward. That happened. Also, I love camping. The ground hates me, but it can't stop me from loving IT.

  5. Your polygamist ancestors are probably very proud that you camp with two women every year! Camping is the worst though. I think Jacy Boe’s magnet idea would suffice for me!

    That poop story. Oh my word. It’s hilarious anyway, but her accent makes it ten times worse (better?)!

  6. Duncan sitting down in his little outfit! My ovaries!!

  7. The couple who told the poop story is so cute. I love it when people can live through something that embarrassing/mortifying and find a way to laugh at it together. I just love them! I agree with the other comment about her southern accent making the story so much funnier too!

  8. We camped this year (we bring the 4-wheelers and other fun stuff) and woke up to cows. Yes, cows in our cattle guarded, fenced, I-am-paying-the-National-Forest-Service campground whilst sleeping in a tent with two small children and our little dog. Then, we had hail... But it was our vacation, darn it, and we were sticking it out! Until the other campers came with their big, fancy, music, playing homes on wheels. Maybe you should get one of those. Duncan would love you for it. JUST DON’T PLAY ANY MUSIC, darn it.

  9. Remember the trip coming home from ST George and stopping to eat at red lobster/Shrimp Alfredo and then the horror scene that followed On the way home to SLC? Ask Dad about it. It may or may not have involved me? :-/

  10. My idea of camping is running barefoot through the Ritz Carlton. I'm just saying....

  11. Many years ago I took my five young children camping on Antelope Island, which is in your part of the world. We have camped so much that my now grown up children refuse to ever leave the house (except for one who only goes camping to get away from the rest of us). Anyhoo, as we were going onto Antelope Island we were told "The gnats are bad" and this has become a catch-phrase for our family whenever one of us is about to do something that they should perhaps reconsider. Then when we got to ANTELOPE island, we discovered that there weren't any Antelope, just buffalo (or bison, but really no one knows the difference. IF there even is a difference). Just to be mean, one of my sons ate a bison burger while we were there. We set up our tents and all was well until the middle of the night when we heard a whole lot of loud snuffling noises and a whole bunch of unholy sounds and if I hadn't been the mom I probably would have just been terrified into not moving but I was the mom so I stuck my head out of the tent to see that a couple of buffalo had walked right into (not in the door of, but into the outer part) my neighbour's tent!! The couple in that tent came rushing out and they threw everything they had with them into the back of their pickup truck--they didn't take the tent apart but just tossed it in all assembled--and they drove off like they were being pursued by the devil herself. The buffalo then wandered off. We all went back to sleep.

    As an interesting side story to all this, my daughter married an American guy (we're Canadians) in the Air Force and she moved to the US is now stationed in Utah and lives in Washington Terrace which is quite near to Antelope Island. I was just there visiting them last week and saw the Antelope Island sign and we laughed a lot.

    Also, suffering builds character so camping is good for that sort of thing.

    Also, I have that magnet and it is wonderful :)

    1. My worst ever experience camping . . . scratch that . . . SECOND worst ever experience camping was on Antelope Island. The wind was so bad that we had to spend the night holding the roof of the tent up with our hands and legs so we wouldn't suffer to death. Skylar's nephew visited us last year and Sky wanted to take him out to Antelope Island. I declined the invitation to join them before he even finished the sentence.

  12. Just as the explanation in the podcast WARNED us about the poop content, my gassy Labrador sitting at my feet filled the area with such a delightful fragrance. I didn't have to leave anything to the imagination in the story. Y'all should be so lucky!

    And a side note -- can you retire the piano accompaniment you used in this story and so many others? It reminds me of Charlie Brown shows and I'm tired of it and would like to hear something different. Sorry if it's your BFF who provided it, but it's time to move onto something different. Thank you!