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Letters from America
The Camping Experience! Well Eventually ...
By Greg Evans
Special Correspondent
Lake Norman: Located under 20 miles from Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, Lake Norman is the largest man-made lake in both Carolinas. The beautiful lake is the ideal destination for watersports, fishing, and just chilling out. It is perfect place for year-round adventures.
I sat in a parked car and looked out across the water of beautiful Lake Norman. It was quiet. The sun shining and the water only gentle ripples. There wasn't much of a breeze. And the only boats on the water were far off in the distance. I looked at the shoreline and a thin strip of beach leading to a dock.

There were houses but no people. Driving up to this spot, I had seen a sign for a campsite. This giant house wasn’t it. Would the residents of this house even need to downsize to a tent, living in such a pristine location? Would they even want to? I have never been camping. Not in a tent anyway. I don’t know if that is weird or not, but I find most people are shocked. I guess I come across as a rugged outdoors kind of guy. The quintessential mountain man; hardly. The reason why I haven’t taken on mother nature is that I have never had the desire. The thought of sleeping on the cold, possibly wet ground, in the middle of mosquito and bear-infested woods, having to use the restroom two trees over, was just never appealing to me.

But at the same time, it wasn’t for a lack of wishing that it was appealing to me. I like the idea of roughing it out in the woods, hacking down small trees for logs, collecting kindling, and building a bonfire to roast the wieners and slabs of steak. Sitting there in the darkness of the forest, telling stories and reminiscing on how life used to be before technology. I picture us sitting around the fire, using tree stumps as chairs, rubbing sticks together to keep the fire lit. But there are mega stores that exist strictly for camping gear. I started researching the camping experience and what accessories were required. And I have learned over the years, by talking to avid campers, that there are different extremes, different levels to the camping experience.

First and foremost, you need a tent, and stakes to keep it from blowing away. How about waterproof sleeping bags and a “camping pillow?” Headlamps, flashlights, camp chairs, a camp table, lanterns, a clothesline, tarps, and a cooler. That is a lot of stuff. I have stayed in hotels with less. Suddenly it seems complicated and moderately overwhelming. I never thought camping required such attention to detail. I have always associated hardship and scarcity with camping. The esoteric simplicity and becoming one with the woods, connecting with your spiritual self, experiencing some kind of nirvana, that had all been lost on me during those invitations by well-meaning friends. Ignorance, I believe, comes not only from a lack of understanding but an unwillingness to make the effort to understand.

So, in that sense, I was completely guilty of obtuseness. My utter refusal to camp has always been a mental barrier, nothing more. A phobia? Perhaps, but it is more a phobia I think of discomfort than actually being eaten by a marauding pack of coyotes or an angry and starving mother bear.

I have elucidated that if I go camping, I am bringing a sixteen-gauge shotgun, which, by the way, is legal to open carry in the state of North Carolina. Experienced campers usually just laugh at me when I speak such balderdash. “First of all,” they say, “It is too heavy and cumbersome to lug into the woods, and secondly, you are an idiot.” Point taken. But after much coaxing and belittlement, I am seriously considering giving it a try for one night, unarmed. I think I can survive a single night out in the woods with no running water, restroom, or a comfortable bed, coffee pot, a newspaper delivered promptly at dawn, soft sheets and a freshly fluffed pillow, windows with screens and a door with an actual lock on it, buffet breakfast, heat and/or air-conditioning, electricity, a shower, the protection of a powerful firearm, and ice. I don’t use ice all that often, but when I want it, I want it! I guess we will have to wait and see. “And what about all the food we bring? It will surely attract wild animals like gigantic bears?” I ask. The experienced camper will only scoff and respond with, “You hang the food in trees nearby so animals can’t get it.”

But in my head, that makes no sense because if the meat they want is up in the trees out of reach, they will go after the available meat, that is soundly asleep in fabric tents, secured by plastic zippers. Norman Vincent Peale once stated, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.” I love that. I interpret the word “world” in that quote as being my wanton phobia of being eaten alive like the Grizzly Man, a limb washing up on one of the small private beaches and being discovered by a family dog. But of course, that isn’t going to happen at Lake Norman because it is too populated, and more importantly, it is not Alaska.

When the weather becomes more temperate, with the temperature hovering around 75 or higher, I will willingly step out of my comfort zone and spend a night in the woods, though preferably on a beach looking out at the beautiful view of Lake Norman and within proximity of a well-lit house.



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Greg Evans, associate director of communications of King University in Bristol TN, in the US, serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times. The seasoned journalist has been writing for such papers as the Mooresville Tribune, Lake Norman Citizen, the Bristol Herald Courier, and the Sentinel-Progress (Easley, SC). He can be reached at gaevans1@king.edu

 

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