I escaped this past weekend.
I set up camp in a cathedral of towering cottonwoods on the shores of Lake Wilson.
This was my fortress of solitude, if not for the noisy bass fisherman across the way. But, I was alone with my thoughts.
“What is the meaning of life? Why am I not supposed to remove that silly tag from a mattress?”
Now, this is my idea of camping: My small tent, a small propane stove, a cooler with hotdogs, baked beans and cold IPA; and bicycles.
There is one pot to cook the beans and heat up water for coffee in the morning. One plate. One fork.
There is water from a thermal jug to rinse the pots and flatware, and to heat up for coffee in the morning. One old plastic mug from my son’s Boy Scout days for said coffee and to drink water from said jug.
“Funny, this instant Folger’s tastes a little like maple bacon.”
The same tank top and shorts get worn for three days. The same cycling garb get worn for three days. There are two showers in three days.
I say showers, but they really little more a quick dowsing of frigid water and the conservative application of soap in strategic areas. Dedeodorant?
“Hey, what is that smell?”
Then there is the lodging. My tiny bivy tent accommodates one, barely.
Inside I have a sleeping bag, pad and small pillow. A lantern adds ambiance.
Getting in and out is a trick, especially when stiff from biking trails all day and you have to, you know, find a tree in the middle of the night. Unbeknownst to me when I pitched the tent, I found I was trying to sleep on a massive tree root.
By comparison, my wife has a different idea of camping – Holiday Inn Express, Motel 6 if roughing it.
I respect that.
No, I didn’t have a plethora of pillows, none of those funny bed covers that only cover part of the bed, no micro fridge and no little coffee maker. But, I did have sunsets, campfires and the vast openness of nature.
This weekend had been in the works for months, but has been continually postponed as life and household projects got in the way. I had almost given up and thought about setting up a bag chair on the deck and firing up the Traeger, but it wasn’t quite the same thing as that bag chair being under a tree by a roaring blaze.
Instead, I hear the cicadas buzzing, crickets chirping and whatever that creature I heard scamper through my camp site was. There was the owl in the tree above as it swooped from tree to tree, the bats flickering by, the lizard I saw sunning itself on a rock along the bike trial and the deer that dashed across my path as I rode.
There were sweeping vistas from the bluffs above the lake. Did you know the wind makes different sounds when whispering through cottonwood trees than it does through pines?
Such an expedition puts one in touch with their pioneer roots, heck, their primaeval roots. You are forced to scrape out a homestead in an untamed wilderness (OK, there are flushing toilets nearby) and live on what you pack in or can scrounge.
But, this simple campsite is home none the less. You are proud of what you’ve accomplished.
The best part, wait for it, no cell service.
Speaking of cell phones, I did catch myself snapping photos of my home away from home. I saw fellow campers doing the same thing.
It must be important to us humans to document our place in the world. We think that with social media this is so new, but it has been a thing since our ancestors dwelt in caves.
Sadly, Facebook and Instagram are so fleeting, especially compared to Kodachrome, petroglyphs.
But, you notice things when the digital distractions and noise of the world are removed. Camping is like wearing those sound-cancelling headphones for the human soul.
I left refreshed and renewed, until had to return to reality, mow the yard, fix a fence and go back to work.
By the way, by computer screen saver is a shot of my campsite, complete with roaring campfire that I took with my phone and texted to my wife.
Dale Hogg is the managing editor of the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.