Not happy campers

At the very end of summer, before my son went back to school, I took him and my parents to the coast for a couple of days.

When I was growing up, this was our yearly summer vacation. We would camp on the river, far enough away from the coast to be warm yet close enough that we could drive there without asking "are we there yet?" more than 12,000 times.

Every summer my family would go camping. We'd cook food either over the fire or on one of those propane camp stoves and swim in the river every day instead of taking a shower. As a kid, I found all this thrilling and exciting, and my parents are the kind of easygoing folks that found this relaxing as well.

Now, as an adult, my interest in camping is less than zero. In fact, my interest has plummeted so far into negative numbers it's only comparable to the national debt. My vacation mantra sounds something more like this now, "I need a shower and a flush toilet every day." My parents stare at me like I was dropped on my head as a child (which only they would truly know the truth about). What child of theirs requires a flush toilet, every day? I am probably the most high-maintenance, needy creature to ever come out of the Abel household.

My sister loves camping. She also rarely watches television and avoids junk food. I can tell, by an unscientific comparison of the number of photos in my parents' house that she is the favored child; though the competition from Silas, the only grandchild, is fierce.

For our summer vacation at the coast, I rented a cabin — a cabin that came complete with a shower and a flush toilet. There was no need to pump the propane camp stove or blow onto a faintly glowing ember among the crushed newspaper. This cabin came with not only a stovetop and oven but a microwave as well. There was no struggling with poles and stakes and the fact that no one ever remembers to bring a hammer along. Our biggest issue on this year's trip when getting set up for the night was finding the toilet paper. I was grateful no one mentioned the option of just using a big leaf.

My dad took Silas camping for a night this summer. They didn't go far, just to Emigrant Lake. They set up the tent, unpacked the car, and played all afternoon. At the very end of the day, while beginning to discuss how many hot dogs they could each eat for dinner, Silas was bitten by a wasp.

Silas and I have spent long hours at ScienceWorks watching their beehive go to work. Silas is even willing to fish drowning bees out of puddles and pools, and we have certainly read about the Magic School Bus visiting a beehive. Silas may be able to appreciate bees as pollinators and industrious workers, but wasps as biting insects, which chase after your food, was more than he could handle.

Despite the fact that it would soon be dark and all the wasps would disappear for the night, Silas insisted on going home. The food, the tent and all the gear got packed back up into the car and Silas and Grandpa made their way home.

The new requirements for vacations in our house are a shower and a flush toilet every day, and a bug zapper at all times. I may miss catching salamanders at the creek with my sister, and the crackled, black edges of a hot dog cooked over a fire, but Silas and I just don't seem cut out for it. We are not hardy, easygoing folk.

Zoe Abel is thinking about her next vacation, preferably something with room service. You can contact her at

Share This Story