Camping Etiquette

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I love camping. Don’t you? The light through the trees, the clear water babbling through moss covered rocks, and hot dogs charred ever so slightly over a fire. What’s not to like?
Well, a few things.
But let’s try to define why we have the need for the great outdoors.
I think it goes deeper than any desire to “get away from it all.” I believe it is an ingrained comfort to be in the woods, or desert, or shore. Some long-absent, need-satisfying craving for green vegetation under our bare feet and for eye-pleasing distances. Something to fill a hole in us. Not a void… a dank, dirty, hole.
Some of us don’t even miss the wild because we are so far removed by life. But once we are in it, beneath the living canopy over-laid by clouds and blue sky, and smelling the earth for what seems like forever… aaaahhhhhh!
When I go for walks in the wild, I breathe a little deeper. I also exist mindfully. I see things. I touch hoary rocks and ancient trees, and I imagine them to vibrate with the essence of existence.
A less poetic person, unused to what they are experiencing and so passing by the sensuality unnoticed… misses most of the encounter.
This is the earth as we experienced it in our deepest racial memories. Those forgotten spaces between our Cro-Magnon chromosomes. The places that ache for a simpler life gathering wild edibles and surviving our ignorance. And that thing we gladly gave away for the illusion of security and a remote control that eternally searches for something worthy of our interest.
So, we run to the woods, or more likely fill the monster truck up with high test fuel, boxed snack foods, and beer.
We find the most beautiful place we can find, and then we spend our entire weekend scattering trash, cutting live trees, and gunning the truck in untrammeled places to see the scars.
Well, I don’t… but do you?
Considering what I see in every single campsite I walk past in the balmy evenings with my girlfriend, more people abuse the beauty they seek than don’t.
Why is that? Why do people spend actual time looking for a pretty spot, and then destroy it? Is it one of those inconsistencies of human nature? Or is it just stupidity? Don’t people notice?
So herein lies the crust of the biscuit. Some simple rules for camping, designed to help us all leave the best behind to be enjoyed later by… you.
1. Just because someone else does it, you don’t have to. Human beings have a terribly insistent urge to copy others. It is almost like we get competitive, but I really think for most of us… we give up. We see the abuse, we understand it, and we get frustrated and angry and join in. What the HELL!!! HE did it, so why not ME? We give up. Not me, but “people,” right?

2. Pack out what you pack in. This was a mantra we used in our backpacking days. It works well for monster truck driving, multi-antennaed, air conditioned examples of excess. Failing hauling your trash out, use the dumpsters for cripe sake. And all those little tiny things that respectably clean people would never strew around their own home? They accumulate in campgrounds, too. Think about it.

3. Don’t cut live wood. I prefer to bring my own, either scavenged from construction projects or taken legally from designated wood gathering sites. If you can’t bring wood, and you’re in a campground with surrounding trees, DON’T CUT the LIVE TREES. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the US is experiencing a plague of dying forests. Walk a few feet from the campsite, and pick up some dead wood. Quit being stupid, and if it’s because you’re lazy… you probably need the exercise.

4. Keep your fire inside a designated area. Actually, this isn’t much of a problem. What IS a problem is making a huge bonfire inside a ring of rocks six feet in diameter, all while winds are predicted and the fire danger signs are screaming, “EXTREME”!!! Did you know a ring of rocks is a fairly recent development? Most knowledgeable campers of years past used three rocks of equal height so they could place a cook pot on them and kept the fire low enough to use it for cooking. Another problem with fires is people cleaning them out. Ashes will kill a tree, so don’t dump them at the base of something living. Also, if there is one pile of ashes already and you are too lazy to discard your ashes in the dumpster, don’t make a second, or third, or fourth, or fifth, or…. pile. Capisce (pronounced ka-PEESH)?

5. Park your vehicles in designated areas. Not on the stump of the tree you just cut down or the picnic table that we all paid for with our taxes. The gravel is there for you to use, not the grass. And get a set of leveling jacks. They are easier to use than a shovel when leveling a trailer.

6. Wet garbage goes in the dumpster. Don’t leave tainted meat wrapped in paper or plastic lying around. Worse, don’t throw it into the woods. A particular gripe is bones. Bones can kill a dog not used to them. Especially cooked bones.

7. Treat the campsite like you wish the people before you would treat it. We police the area during our stay. It is amazing what we find. New fishing equipment, money, broken glass, plastic, (did I mention) sharp bones, and it all goes somewhere better than where we found it. It’s called exercise.
These are the basics. The minimum. The things that only the most mentally deficient of us would deny.
If you will leave things nice, so will I. Kind of like a “pass it forward” thing, right? It will make you feel good.

Now I don’t want to see any of you abusing the beauty you came to enjoy, right? I’ll be watching, and I have my ways…


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