A view of heaven, from a tent

The urge to leave behind a perfectly comfortable bed and a bathroom down the hall seems like insanity, but sometimes a person just needs to follow nature’s siren song and go camping. And I don’t mean in an RV or a cabin in the woods. We’re talking sleeping bags on the hard ground and a tent that may or may not sustain a high wind that unexpectedly rolls in late at night.

From the time I was a kid and flung a blanket across my mom’s clothesline to make a tent, I’ve been a fan of camping — and for a time my friends were also on board with roughing it.

During a break from college a pal and I once spent an entire week in a tent at the beach, spending our days stretched on the sand and our nights staring at a crackling campfire. Mostly, though, camping excursions lasted just two nights, the preparation sometimes seeming not worth the effortespecially with a friend who insisted on drawing up menus and organizing food teams weeks in advance so there were no surprises. “You’ll thank me,” she said defensively, “When we have a skillet and aren’t forced to cook bacon on sticks over the fire.”camping_fullsize_story1

She was a seasoned camper, even if she was a control freak, so we let her have her way. But there were others in the group who had no idea about the ways of the wild, including someone’s boyfriend who trucked along an ice cream cake in the middle of summer. No amount of cooler ice could keep it from turning into soup. He was also the guy who packed a fan and an extremely long extension cord that stretched to the bathhouse.

One summer my brother, sister and I drove Highway 1 through Oregon and California, equipped with just sleeping bags. I will forever remember waking up in a forest of redwoods, staring up through the treetops, a view I wouldn’t have had in a tent or camper. Of course there was also the night of pouring down rain when we all tried to get comfortable in our car and it seemed morning would never come.

Now I can’t even recall the last time we all went camping. We talk about it, especially now that it’s summer, but too many of my old camping cronies would rather have room service and the peace of mind that they won’t have to make a chiropractor appointment first thing Monday morning.

Still, the whiff of burning charcoal or a picture-perfect day has me wondering where I stashed my sleeping bag and craving a hot dog perfectly plumped from a campfire.

The other day my brother in Oregon called to revel in a recent camping trip he had taken with a guy from work. They packed in to a wilderness area with no modern conveniences, but a beautiful meadow and a lake formed centuries ago from a glacier. He marveled at the deer that came into the meadow, unafraid. He said he could hear them at night munching on grass outside of his tent and when he and his buddy left at the end of several days, a doe followed them for a time. That must have been what Eden was like, one fabulous camping trip.

— Nancy Luse writes from

Frederick, Md.

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