The first time I saw rain in Arizona was Friday night. I was nowhere near civilization, preparing to pitch a tent—nodding, because every time I camp, it rains. I thought I had an okay chance of avoiding it IN THE DESERT. But nay, it rained in Arizona on Friday night.
I like camping, although I’m not very good at it, and I don’t do it very often. The last time I camped was at a music festival. At music festivals, there are hippie kids who sell soggy (and delicious) grilled cheese sandwiches from the back of trailers. There are Porta-Potties and baby wipes in abundance. If you run out of water, you can buy it on Shakedown Alley. The mass cornucopia of illegal drugs doesn’t hurt either.
The camping we did this past weekend at Bear Canyon Lake was a bit different. At Bear Canyon Lake, you’re in the middle of nowhere. At our campground, we saw nothing but trees and sky. We heard nothing but a neighbor, shooting guns of various sizes at God knows what. We did NOT hear banjo music, and we did not come upon any bears. Still, we were in BFE, for sure.
Another difference on this camping trip? The food. I guess it was because of the group. Jake—and all of his buddies—love to cook. Strange, I know, but on their breaks at work, they compare gourmet cooking recipes. They give each other tips and ingredient adaptations. If they start a book club, I’ll begin to worry. But for now, all the talk of cooking usually ends up to my benefit, since Jake is an amazing cook. Even over coals! He made these red wine beef kabobs the first night; he made kabobs with peppers, onions, steak, and cayenne the second night. Seriously.
The highlight of the trip for me—beyond my baffling dreamless sleep BOTH nights beneath the stars—was Bear Canyon Lake itself. Bear Canyon Lake looks like it belongs up in Wyoming, at the base of the Grand Tetons. The water is deep blue—not the fake turquoise you see here in Phoenix. The deep blue is surrounded by pine trees the color of Forest Green Crayons. The water? Freakin’ cold. We didn’t seem to care. The majority of our group just kind of dove on in, swimming way out, where the sea monsters wait for snacks.
(I explained later that this is what goes through my head, even now, every time I swim in dark water. I used to have a total phobia, but it’s gotten better since I lived by the ocean in Charleston. Still, whenever I dive in, I think, “This is it. Something is going to reach up and pull you under. You’re going to be chewed in half, like Robert Shaw in Jaws. Yep, it’s coming. Anytime now …” Insane, I know. And is it more insane to think these things and stay on shore or think these things and dive in anyway?)
It was a weekend of outdoor adventures, using Mother’s Natures restroom, watching dogs hump, and yes, Johnny Walker Black. More importantly, it was a weekend away—from computers, from traffic, from stupid “High Pollution Advisories.” My beer cozies still smell like campfire, and we now have baby wipes in our house. I already miss the quiet and the calm. I miss having nothing to do but sit around a campfire, drink my beer, and talk about nothing important at all.
But, well … I don’t miss the big black beetles that sound like helicopters flying by your ear. I don’t miss trying to pee at 2 AM while holding a flashlight and fearing for my life. I love camping. I do. But I had the same sense of calm after my weekend in Vegas. I guess the important thing is just getting away every once in awhile—away from stress and responsibilities—just for a little while, every once in awhile. So where should we go next?