First off, let me state for the record that I love camping.
Often though, the reality doesn’t match up to the picture you’ve painted in your head. I’d been looking forward to this weekend’s getaway ever since I booked the reservation on December 20. When your backyard is knee deep in snowdrifts and the temperature is hovering around 9º, an outdoor getaway sounds pretty appealing: a crackling campfire, a lush nature hike, a pristine lake, grilled meat. It’s the perfect one-two-three-four punch (five if we’re counting sipping maple-flavored whiskey whilst sitting upon a rock with our feet dangling in the cool, refreshing water).
The world sure is a different place than it was when I booked that reservation, which made me long for it even more. How I yearned to get away and relax after so much time spent cooped up at home…
Well, whatever. Fresh(er) air is always appealing! So Tara and I took off after work on Friday for a weekend at Horse Thief Lake, a nice, secluded* getaway just a few miles from Mount Rushmore.
*Secluded may be an overstatement given the campground’s proximity to busy Highway 244. See: “just a few miles from Mount Rushmore.”
In any case, it’s a lovely little place in the heart of the Black Hills, and when we checked in, the campground host told us, “You guys have the primo spot!” I knew this going in: I’d taken great pains to find the best spot in the campground, one that was surrounded by ponderosa pine trees for privacy and a mere stone’s throw from the lake. Site #24, if you’re ever so inclined. I’m not ashamed to admit I lorded over the fact that “I snagged us the best spot in the campground, babe!” quite a bit at first.
So we got settled in at our primo spot, pitched our tent, cracked open some cold beverages, and commenced to having a perfectly relaxing, enjoyable weekend.
A bunch of things conspired against us, almost from the start. By Saturday morning we were dealing with:
- A leaking air mattress
- Raging winds threatening to blow everything not tied down (which was, umm, everything but the tent) into the lake
- Swarms of mosquitoes that I only learned later have no problem biting through clothing
- Annoyingly persistent allergies exacerbated by the wind
- A PMSing wife
Sensing my wife’s frustration (made clear when she shoved her breakfast into the garbage without taking so much as a single bite five seconds after dishing it up because half the campsite went flying into the bushes after an especially powerful gust), I suggested we pack up and head home. Fortunately, that little hormone burst subsided and she said we should go for a drive instead. I was game, so we headed into the hills outside Hill City (I wonder how that town got its name) and explored a dirt road that paralleled a lovely little creek surrounded by rolling green countryside and lined with wild purple irises. We even stumbled upon a crumbling prospector’s cabin and boarded-up mine. It was a great way to kill a few hours and recharge
our her spirits.
When we got back to camp, the wind had subsided slightly. It was warm-bordering-on-hot, so we were able to deal with it. Tara grabbed a nap in the hammock while I read a book on my Kindle with my camp chair set up on the shore of the lake. It was pretty idyllic, actually. Tara started a fire, we threw on a steak and some corn on the cob, and all appeared to have settled down. We had salvaged our weekend!
But then Tara went and said, “You know, we could go home tonight.”
Now, she’d already asked if we could break down camp first thing Sunday morning and do breakfast at home instead. After the havoc wreaked by that morning’s wind, I’d agreed to this plan. And honestly, the prospect of a hot shower and not having to deal with an air mattress that was less air and mattress than advertised proved too tempting to resist. When Tara said we could stop for ice cream on the way home, that sealed the deal. So while dinner was cooking we disassembled the tent and loaded up the truck. And after our meal, we drove home, making the promised ice cream run first. It was 10:15 by the time we arrived, but the air conditioner was pumping lovely refrigerated air through the house and pots and pans weren’t flying across the kitchen, so I can’t say I have any regrets.
Did we puss out? Maybe.
Do I care? Nope.
We have at least one (and maybe two) more camping trips planned this summer, so we’ll have an opportunity to redeem ourselves.
After buying a new air mattress, of course.