Bears were the least of my problems

Donna, the camper across the way, was curious. She came over and invited us to join her clan for dinner when, at dinnertime, she saw that I was still trying to start my campfire. In fact, I had just started burning my little twigs, but all the wood was damp from earlier rains and I had not brought lighter fluid, as Donna had. She saw my effort and said "That will never start! You don't have enough wood on it." She then proceeded to take the pieces of bark I had segregated and dump them on my twigs, completely killing off my little fire. Thanks Donna.

I demurred with all the grace I could muster. I was not going to be deterred from cooking my hotdogs, baked beans, corn on the cob and baked potatoes. (I forgot to bring the marshmallows.)

After she left, we finally started the fire and managed a great bed of coals to cook the dogs and corn. While opening the beans, the can opener blade snapped into pieces. So it, and the half-opened can of beans, went into the trash. The potatoes seemed too much trouble at this point, and they ended up becoming hot German potato salad for dinner the next night.

Clearing skies had been in the forecast, so we decided not to bring a tent, but to sleep out in the open, under the stars. Wouldn’t you know it! Rain clouds came in after dark, obliterating the stars in the night sky. Time to improvise! We managed a lean-to with tarps. One tarp was for ground cover; the second tarp, supported by two golf umbrellas acting as tent poles, made the lean-to. The third tarp (lucky we had a third) went over the bags.

I am not an intrepid camper. I prefer warm, dry, clear starry nights. This was my first life experience sleeping in the rain. Amazingly, it turned out to be fun. I don't like tents and the lean-to concept was perfect--the best way to be outdoors and stay dry in the rain. It was pretty cold on Saturday. I had on my JCU tee shirt, a hoodie, a very heavy CWRU sweatshirt, a jacket and my hands in my pockets most of the evening. But it was toasty in the sleeping bag, with just my hoodie to keep my head warm.

I prefer "primitive" camping-no electric, no water, no hook-ups of any kind. The primitive sites at this campground were close to electrically equipped campsites. Lights-out is usually around 10 p.m. It was a pretty quiet area to begin with and it took me only about 1/2 second to fall asleep once my head hit the ground.

But, at some point after lights-out, I woke to hear Donna and at least one member of her group (they had three adjoining campsites) talking loudly. It turned out that Donna and her friend were drinking some pretty potent beverages. Where were the park rangers, I wondered.

Morning comes early at campgrounds, and the next day dawned clear and bright. The showers were already busy, and it’s usually the women’s showers that get all the children. Moms, why do you leave a six-year-old alone in a shower stall with the lock on their side? One exasperated mother began counting angrily to three, but gave up at two, knowing full well that her little darling was unfazed by any threat she could make to get him to unlock the door.

It is so much more peaceful to camp in the woods where there is no one else nearby, but that is a luxury not found anywhere near the Heights. Ah, back home in the Heights, for a quiet, peaceful night. Home is nice!

Tell me about your summer adventure—it might make a great story for the Heights Observer.

Anita Kazarian is a marketing professional and a longtime resident of University Heights. She can be reached at

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Volume 3, Issue 10, Posted 11:31 PM, 09.26.2010