My Scrambled Nest

An Almost-Empty Nest Journey of "Letting Go" With Laughter and Love, By Cathy Free

My 18-year-old daughter has returned alive from her second annual wilderness camping trip with her boyfriend after once again promising to text me her whereabouts (yeah, right) and ignoring my advice to STAY ON THE TRAIL. (Her excuse: “What trail? Where we go, there aren’t any.”)

I’m relieved to have her back safe, especially since we have only a few more precious weeks until she’s officially a college freshman. There are still concerts to attend together and pedicure appointments to make, and we’re working our way down a list of stupid movies we need to see. (“Annabelle Come Home,” anyone?)

Anyway, my adventurous kiddo’s three day mountain getaway got me thinking about my own camping trip with my high school boyfriend, when I was 17. Although I love the outdoors, I’ve never really enjoyed sleeping in it. My idea of “roughing it” is a cold shower and a black-and-white TV, although as a young reporter, I definitely would have taken my chances in the woods after checking into a desert dive one night and discovering three things:

1. I was the only guest.

2. The manager held an uncanny resemblance to the hillbilly banjo player in “Deliverance.”

3. The only items you could buy at the motel were military survival knives, displayed like the treasures of Tutankhamun inside the check-in counter’s glass case.

But back to my teenage camping trip. My boyfriend assured me that he would take care of everything, from food to shelter, and all I needed to do was throw my toothbrush, a couple of changes of clothes, a jacket and a pair of hiking boots into a duffle bag.

“But what about my hair supplies?” I asked. As the proud owner of a “Farrah” flip, it was a legitimate question.

“Hair supplies! Where we’re going, you won’t need any hair supplies. Just bring an elastic.”

Clearly, he didn’t get it. So with a deep sigh, I did as he suggested and brought along a few rubber bands and a big floppy hat. We drove for several hours into Utah’s Uinta Mountains, arriving at my boyfriend’s favorite “secret” spot just before dusk.

After he unloaded our duffle bags from the back of his pickup truck, he popped open a soda and found a large rock to sit on.

“Ummm, shouldn’t we put up the tent?” I asked.

“Tent? What tent? We don’t need a tent!” (Never mind that he’d said he would take care of “shelter.”)

“Who the $#@% goes camping without a tent?!” I told him. “We’re not freakin’ outlaws. I want a tent!”

“Nah, you don’t need a tent. I’ll keep you warm,” he said. “Besides, it’s more fun to sleep under the stars.”

“Well, OK, then, what about an air mattress? I’d like an air mattress.”

“Nope. I didn’t bring an air mattress.”

“No way! What about spiders? What about snakes? And what about a pillow? I suppose I should use a rock?”

“Well, sure, I guess that would work,” he said.

And on it went. He didn’t bring a cooler, he didn’t bring a camp stove. He didn’t even bring a knife, “Deliverance” type or otherwise. So we dipped beef jerky and Ritz crackers into a jar of peanut butter, climbed into our bags, looked at the stars for a while (OK, that part was cool), then went to sleep. Well, at least, he did. I was awake all night, certain that a pack of wolverines would come in search of our peanut butter. Immediately the next morning, I made my boyfriend drive me back to civilization to get an Egg McMuffin at McDonald’s, then I disappeared into the restroom for 15 minutes to fluff out my flattened Farrah hair.

What a difference from my daughter’s experience. Her boyfriend set up a genuine tent, packed hot dogs, fruit and S’more ingredients into a cooler and even brought along a tablecloth, genuine silverware and an AIR MATTRESS. My daughter baked two dozen sugar cookies and decorated them with blue frosting and candy sprinkles, then fetched a few board games to play around the campfire.

“Hold on to him,” I told her after her boyfriend brought her home smelling of bonfire smoke. “A man who believes in tents and air mattresses is a keeper.” ♥️

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2 thoughts on “Into the Woods

  1. Dennis Michael Andrus says:

    Great story Cathy! It takes me back a few years to some familiar adventures.

    1. Cathy Free says:

      Thank you kindly, Dennis! Xo

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