In a Tent

A moment of weakness, that’s the only way to explain it.  Despite my heretofore utter, adamant (dare I say pig-headed?) refusal to participate in any way in the so-called recreational activity of camping — tent camping, no less — I caved to peer pressure.  I agreed to accompany John and two of our friends to a campsite in the woods and spend three nights, however insane the thought, in a tent.

Did I mention I was drinking wine at the time?  I was, and in a quantity sufficient, apparently, to throw me just enough off-kilter to almost convince myself it was a good idea.  I mean, I enjoy the outdoors.  Hiking is a lovely way to spend a crisp Pacific Northwest day.  Thing is, though, after the hike is finished I’m ready for civilization again.  A hot shower.  A restaurant.  A real bed in a real building with real walls.

You know, the opposite of this.

setting up the tents

When setting out for a three-day camping trip, not only are you forced to carry along your own shelter (and I use that word generously, considering the only things between you and the elements are a few sheets of stitched canvas and a zipper) but good heavens, it takes damn near as many days to pack everything else four people need — including what appeared to me to be a good half cord of logs to build fires (for warmth, of all the ridiculous things) — as it does to camp for that same amount of time.

camping stuff

Had we planned the exact trip — hiking, sightseeing and all — yet tweaked it just a little to include three nights in, say, a charming B&B, we would have instead packed:


And we needn’t even discuss bathroom issues…but of course I will.

I give our camping friends the utmost credit for securing us a mighty nice site — or as nice as a site sans private bath can be — in that there was a perfectly respectable public restroom facility within reasonable walking distance.  In the daytime.  In the dark of night, however, it would have proven far too tricky a trek a la flashlight when half-asleep.

Thus, once (or twice, or thrice) per night when a certain business required attending, either John or I would shake the other awake and whisper the need to unzip the door and venture out into the blackness to find a tree at a (barely) polite enough distance from our friends’ tent.

As every woman in the universe knows, this is much easier for a man.  Much.  Granted, I’m a squatter from way back, beginning in the early ‘80s when we were building our second home on a couple acres hidden discreetly in the woods and minus the luxury of a portable facility.  Yet as accomplished as I became at answering nature’s call in full view of Mother Nature herself, my expertise is limited to the daylight hours.  With the cover of night comes the very real worry about the consequence of bad aim, namely — and specifically when sleeping outdoors — crawling back into the tent slightly, ahem, soggy.

I’m pleased to report, in spite of my fears, that never happened over the course of our three-day camping adventure.  At least not that I was aware of at the time.  Or would be willing to admit afterwards.

Fortunately for all of us — especially my three camping companions who would have otherwise been subjected to relentless whining — there were no serious mishaps of any kind during the trip.  The weather gods smiled upon us, granting us three clear, sunny days, and the one night we were awoken by sounds of something padding around our campsite, it turned out to be neither bear nor Sasquatch.  (As far as we know, anyway.  None of us unzipped our tents to find out).

And on the very last afternoon, while our friends chose to stay at the campsite to relax and nap, John and I headed into town — to civilization — for a little souvenir shopping and a visit to a waterfront adult beverage establishment to whet our whistles and reminisce.  We were in the charming village of Eastsound, after all, on Orcas Island.  The very spot where, just over two years ago, we decided quite off-the-cuff to sell our farm and move up here.  It’s a special place for us.

So all’s well that ends well, right?  Yes indeed.  Still, when next summer rolls around and we’re again partaking in a bit of the grape with our camping aficionado friends, should the topic of repeating this trip come up, I intend to take a drastic measure to ensure I keep my wits about me:

I’m switching to coffee.  Black.


Me and Sacagawea

Like Lewis and Clark before us, we recently journeyed to the northernmost reaches of the Pacific Northwest on a quest of exploration. While John and I reached our destination much faster than Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did, I’m not certain our trek was all that more comfortable. I’d like to see either of those men stuck in the middle seat of a packed 737 for four hours. Judging from the illustrations on Wikipedia, these guys looked more like First Class passengers to me. And I’m not talking free First Class tickets redeemed with frequent flyer miles. No, no. These fellas appear to have been the real deal.


I mean, look. Isn’t that an ascot around William’s neck? Neither John nor I even own an ascot.

Though the method in which we traveled to Washington differed slightly from that of Meriwether and William, our reasons for checking out the area were similar. We all desired a closer look at the region. In our case, however, the ultimate goal is to move out there permanently. Lewis and Clark merely visited.

As it happened with our predecessors, we learned a great deal on our expedition. For one thing, we’d been fairly certain our future homestead would be on Orcas Island. But as we scoped out several areas along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we began changing our minds. Orcas Island is indeed spectacular — in our humble opinions, nowhere else we’ve been in Washington trumps the sheer beauty of it — yet the island is a tad more remote than we’re comfortable with. To get anywhere else, you must take the ferry. In the summer months that means at least a two-hour wait in line; in the winter months, there’s the risk of ferry cancellation due to bad weather (they can get some crazy winds up there).

Still, Orcas Island was the only place we met with a real estate agent. It was pre-planned, and although we’d already pretty much decided we’re more interested in Port Townsend, say, or one of the more accessible islands, we chose to go ahead and look at properties. If the perfect place was awaiting us on Orcas, we didn’t want to miss out.

And the first place the agent showed us nailed it.

Orcas house

The main house was slightly smaller than our home here (perfect); there was another structure being built that could have been turned into a guesthouse (perfect); it was on five beautiful acres (perfect); and oh my, the view.

Orcas view

Once inside the house I turned to John and said, “Write a check.”

Which brings up the one problem with the place: the price. This property costs almost as much as we’re asking for our farm, and that’s not part of our game plan. We need to walk away with cash in our pockets when all is said and done. The purpose of this whole exercise is not only to move to the Northwest, but also to retire. From what I understand, you need to set aside enough money in order to do that.

Details can be so annoying.

So after bidding a reluctant adieu to my dream home, the agent took us to two other properties that, while meeting the criteria of costing less, simply didn’t do it for us. Our last and final stop then was to see a property the agent referred to as “the farm.” It was only two acres, which is fine with us, and years ago was indeed a small working farm. The agent cautioned us, however, that the current owner had let it get rather run down and that we needed to recognize it as a diamond in the rough.

“Squint when you look it,” she warned me, in particular.


I can’t squint that hard.

pile of wood

Turns out, neither can John.


Finally, after traipsing around two acres of what looked to us like a toxic waste dump (all the while listening to the agent wax nostalgic about the lovely little farm that used to be there 20 years ago) John finally said, “This might be fine for a younger man to tackle, but not for me.”

The neighbors looked a little disappointed,


yet we were actually kind of relieved. The day’s outing had served us well in cementing our prior decision that Orcas Island isn’t going to be our final destination after all.

We’ll Lewis and Clark up to the Pacific Northwest again in a few months or so. Maybe to Oregon this time, or if we find a serious buyer for our farm, it might mean another sojourn in Washington to real estate shop around Port Townsend. I’m telling the agent up front, though, that I have no intention of squinting.