Last week, I mentioned that my Fourth of July would be dyketastic. The plan was that me, my DGF (dear girlfriend), my DXH (dear ex-husband), his DGF, and R & J (a very nice butch-femme lesbian couple) would go backpacking. My acquiescence to the plan was a Big Deal, as I have zero desire to camp. Yes, this makes me a bad lesbian. My objections to camping are fivefold:
My DXH loves camping, and tried (without success) to persuade me to camp while we were married. My DGF also loves camping. Now that they are friends and we all hang out happily, it was only a matter of time before they conspired to drag me into the wilderness.
Now, let's be clear: I like nature. Indeed, I spend quite a bit of time in it. But I also like bookstores and coffee shops, and I don't feel compelled to sleep in either of those places. They are places for visiting, not temporarily relocating, and I feel that forests occupy the same category.
Anyhow, the DXH and DGF persuaded me to try a one-night backpacking trip. I was secretly hoping to like it enough to do it in the future, because it would make me seem dashingly rugged while providing me with new excuses to go to REI. Also, I wanted to use my pocket knife.
Loading heaps of our belongings into giant backpacks for a one-night stay felt a little absurd, but as we scaled the two-mile uphill trail to the campsite, I found myself enjoying it. We arrived and set up camp. (Admittedly, I had a short "OMG WTF my life is so strange" moment upon pitching a tent ten feet from my ex-husband's, but then I realized how awesome it is that he and I are such good friends, that the disparate parts of my life are so integrated, and BLAH BLAH BLAH.) My DXH's DGF consulted a map and suggested we hike to the nearest body of water. The farthest I'd previously hiked was six miles, and this would add up to nine or ten, but--butch that I am--I stayed silent and tried to exude "I'm cool with whatever, 'cause I'm so tough" vibes.
A mile into the hike, the back of my neck began to itch. After another half mile, my thighs itched. Then my arms and face. Two miles in, my throat started to feel funny, and another half mile later, I asked my DGF to examine the back of my neck--which, it turned out, had sprouted giant hives. Meanwhile, R (the butch in the aforementioned butch-femme duo) was having other allergic reactions: sneezing, congestion, and a swollen face. (My DXH commented that two out of three butch lesbians were apparently allergic to local flora.) I had never had a reaction like that, and--truth be told--I was a little worried. But going back at that point seemed silly, since we were nearly there. I grew increasingly miserable. Little hives sprouted on my arms and I itched all over. I quietly braced myself for anaphylaxis. (R had an EpiPen, so I was semi-confident that death was not imminent.)
Eventually, we passed a campsite and accepted Benadryl from some kind strangers. R and I still felt lousy, but at least our symptoms stopped getting worse. When we reached the water's edge, I sat and reflected upon several important things, namely: (1) how in God's name would I hike four more miles? and: (2) would I finally get to use my pocket knife?
Meanwhile, my DGF had approached the water. She stepped in with one foot, then--in response to its chill, turned around quickly and started to run back to shore. Only... she didn't get far. She was suddenly limping, then her calf gave out. Luckily, one of my DXH's DGF's talents is medical expertise, and she quickly determined that it was a muscle tear.
My girlfriend was no longer ambulatory, and we were four miles from our campsite. This, I thought, did not bode well.
It soon became clear that my DGF wouldn't be hiking back to the campsite. The map showed a parking lot a mile and a half away. We figured we'd try to hitch a ride to my car, drop my DGF there, hike back up to the campsite, then I'd pack our stuff and hike back down and drive home. (Admittedly, this prospect had perks: I'd get to be super butch AND not have to deal with the actual "camping" part of camping.)
The six of us made our way toward the parking lot. R and J ran up ahead to begin assessing the generosity of strangers. But they soon returned with an armed federal ranger. The ranger asked my DGF lots of questions and made notes on a pad of paper. He also shared the freeze-dried ice cream that R had cleverly brought along. My DGF flirted shamelessly with the ranger (in her defense, he was in uniform), who seemed startled and flattered at the attention he was garnering from our little group (half of which, I'll remind you, was butch lesbians).
Our ranger called another ranger, who arrived in a white ATV. My DGF and I got in, but the others weren't allowed to come (some nonsense about "seatbelts"). We said our goodbyes, then my DGF and I peppered Ranger #2 with questions as he drove us back to our campsite: Why did he have two giant guns in a locked cage next to the passenger seat? (A: "Because you never know who you'll be dealing with.") Was the pay reasonable? (A: "We get paid in sunsets.") Had he ever seen a mountain lion? (A: No, and he sounded sad about it.) What was the most dangerous situation he'd ever been in? (A: Raiding illegal marijuana fields.) Did people ever try to live in the woods permanently? (A: Yes.) Who does that? (A: "Crazy people.")
At the campsite, Ranger #2 told my DGF to stay in the car, and told me to pack up fast while he "checked out" nearby campsites.
As I have mentioned, I am not much of a camper. I hadn't broken down a tent in at least 12 years. Picture a stereotypical prissy gay man trying to break down a tent. Then double his confusion and give him a pocket knife, a small hammer, and some zip-off cargo pants. That was me. I managed to get the task done with only one serious injury (a large cut/blood blister on my left thumb). When the ranger returned, we loaded in the bags and he drove us back to my car.
On the drive home, my DGF and I stopped at an excellent Italian restaurant. We were dirty, sweaty, and my DGF couldn't walk, but we had a great meal and spent a lot of it laughing. It occurred to both of us that my DGF's injury may have saved me from midnight anaphylaxis, and also that it was a little pathetic that two butch lesbians couldn't make it through a one-night camping trip.
So there you have it, friends: I tried camping. "Dyketastic?" Maybe not. But I've concluded that camping isn't half bad--as long as it doesn't involve sleeping on the ground, and it ends with some great Italian food, a drive home, and a nice, hot shower.