Studies indicate that a person’s subconscious suppresses unpleasant childhood memories, which probably is why I block out the torturous week I spent at Camp Wahi.
Let’s just cut to the chase. I was the world’s worst Girl Scout. I didn’t like wearing uniforms. I didn’t like meetings. I didn’t like making dioramas out of tree moss. And I hated camping. I did, however, love cookies. Eating them. Not selling them. Unfortunately, there’s no patch for devouring a box of Samoas under a minute.
I blame my disdain for communing with nature on that one week at summer camp. The initial excitement of leaving the cramped quarters of home diminished the moment I stepped off the bus and joined 200 other screaming Scouts. Eventually, we bottlenecked into the doorway of the Great Dining Hall. Just a side note here: It was called “great” for its size, not its food.
Most of my peers have cherished memories of camp. I probably would share this sentiment had I not gone the week Mother Nature decided to unleash her fury. And being the worst Girl Scout ever, I was not prepared.
I’m accustomed to Mississippi’s sweltering summers, a season that typically weeds out those who enjoy basic necessities, like breathing and being hydrated. But I also grew up with air conditioning, an innovation that never occurred to Wahi’s powers that be. Instead, our cabin had a ceiling fan, which was a good thing. But the fan had missing parts, like blades and bolts, which is not so good.
If anyone wants to study climate change in fast motion, look up the summer of 1970 at Camp Wahi. For two days, the temperatures climbed to a low broil. Nothing moved. The leaves. The staff. The Scouts. Motionless. The lake, a highlight for most campers, looked like someone took a sheet of Visqueen and gently placed it across the water’s surface. Those who ventured in for a dip quickly exited because the water felt like used bathwater.
Torrential downpours followed the heatwave, flooding trails and forcing campers to hunker down in cabins. The rains ushered in cooler nights. My sleeping bag, worn and tattered from my siblings’ previous outdoor excursions, offered little protection from the damp evening air.
Heat. Rain. Sleepless nights. Mosquitos. Ticks. Lake scum. My father laughed when he saw me walk toward the car at camp’s end, my hair a nest of tangles, and my eyes bloodshot from fighting the elements. Before dozing off in the backseat, I vowed never to camp again. Except for a couple of lapses in judgment through the years, I’ve kept that promise.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, which will never hire me for public relations, camping is a multi-billion dollar business. The OIA recently reported that more than 40 million Americans camped last year using tents, cabins, cars or RVs (and, I’m sure, thicker sleeping bags). One of the fastest-growing segments of this camping growth is among millennials.
I get it. Camping is an inexpensive way to appreciate nature’s beauty. But do you know another way to enjoy the outdoors? Hotels, which is also a multi-billion dollar industry, and one I wholeheartedly encourage and support. I love hiking and admiring nature’s beauty, just like the next guy. But at the end of the day, I want a pillow and a bed. I want a hot shower and mindless television. I want a continental breakfast with a hot waffle iron and pre-measured cups of batter.
Sometimes I feel guilty we weren’t a camping family, that our kids never experienced tent life or telling stories around a campfire. But then I remember my week at Wahi, and I feel like Mom of the Year.
Isn’t there a patch for that?