(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.Story:When You’re Feeling Heavy in Your Chevy, by Anonymous 1 & 2 (music by bensound.com)

~It Just Gets Stranger