Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours,
Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children,
as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned
from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively
an interaction of man on man.~ Henry David Thoreau
Livy describes Fabius Maximus’ strategy of fighting Hannibal as a war of attrition, no pitched battles, just a wearing down through a series of hassles and an ebbing of morale. That picture is not far from the process it took to get myself and my family out the door, over the mountains, and to our nearly perfect campsite this past week end. In the end, however, and to our joy, the morale came back as we immersed ourselves in a wonderful weekend of camping in nature and with good friends.
Before I was fully decamped from my urban life I was dropped off at a Wilco concert along with the other husband in the party. The sun set over the opening band and then Wilco performed a wonderful, amazing, and long set. They are truly one of the best bands anywhere at this moment.
While I lounged on the grass my wife went to the campsite with the kids and the remainder of our party to graciously unpack the car, set up the tents, et al. She is a good and beautiful woman. I arrived sometime near 11PM. Although I felt slightly guilty at not having to set up camp, I was ready for bed, exhausted from a long week and the hellish activity of getting camping in the first place. The next morning I woke to a sunny morning with views of woods and water and an increasingly bluing sky.
In short, our camp bordered a lake, the weather was beautiful, the camp was a good camp, the kids had loads of fun. The parents worked, chatted, chased the littlest one around, and cleaned wounds – of which there were a lot.
Of course the biggest concern was keeping the fire going, especially in the cold mornings and the cooling evenings. Fortunately we had a lot of wood to burn.
The food, well… it was good, yummy, feel-good camp food. I am now eating lots of salad.
One night we drove to a restaurant in the middle of a beautiful nowhere/somewhere. The place is call the Cowboy Dinner Tree Steakhouse. Follow the link to get the menu. You’ll see it says “26 – 30 oz. Top Sirloin Steak or 1 Whole Chicken” which is exactly right.
The steakhouse is four miles south of Silver Lake, Oregon, which is itself miles from nowhere in the most beautiful country. The landscape is classic high desert sage and juniper with rolling hills and occasional geological formations.
From there we drove on dusty roads to Fort Rock, a massive and unique geological circle of rock jutting up from an ancient sea bed. We hiked inside and the kids ran around like crazy.
As the sun began to set we headed back to the camp. The next morning we sliced up the leftover steak (yeah there was a lot) and fried it in bacon grease (my arteries are tightening as I type this) and had it with our eggs and hash browns. Oh yum!
I can’t help but notice how good it is to camp, especially for the kids. It’s not merely about having fun or getting away from the everyday. There is a profound need within us to engage directly with wilderness, even in a rather controlled environment as a campground. Children grow better with nature, I am convinced.
Finally, I have to say it is both good and sad to be back in town. I am relieved to be able to sleep in a bed, to take a shower, to have Internet, etc. I am also that much more aware of how much we cling to the false security of cities and society. My goal is to find the balance, to cease the war of attrition and to be content.