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:

suitcase

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.

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Beware

Warnings abound.

tsunami sign

No, no, I’m not talking about this one (though don’t think for a moment this one doesn’t creep me out). While tsunami warnings do indeed abound — there’s a similar sign in our neighborhood, in fact — there’s little to no day-to-day talk about the threat. The subject broached far more often, with a far greater sense of foreboding, is wintertime.

As most everyone knows, the weather is temperate in the Pacific Northwest. Winters are mild, especially as compared to other states as far north as Washington. Yet because we are so far north, we get a crazy fluctuation in daylight hours through the year. It’s not exactly the Land of the Midnight Sun but it’s one heck of a lot closer to it than anywhere else I’ve lived.

When John and I moved into our house in early June, light would start filtering through the window blinds well before 5 a.m., not to go dark again until long after 10:00 at night. Now that gap is narrowing, with darkness falling much closer to 9 p.m. We haven’t experienced a Washington winter yet, but John and I are getting a bit jittery over how much farther south the sun is setting nowadays, in addition to the relative earliness of the event.

From our deck last June, we’d watch the sun go down over Protection Island.

sunset

Since then, sunsets have slowly scooched to the left.

sunset now

Although the weather has been the epitome of perfection for weeks on end — such unaltered perfection a rarity in this part of the country — good luck finding many folks around here able to sit back and relish it for what it is. When we comment about a beautiful day to a passerby on the street or someone working in one of the Port Townsend shops, half the time the response we get is something like, “Oh you should’ve been here last year. It didn’t get out of the 60’s until September!”

Our friends Varen and Walter, both of them long-time Washingtonians, often point out what a remarkable season it’s been. This past June, in particular, was apparently quite the anomaly. We’d been forewarned about June — how it tends to be cold and cloudy, thus earning the name “Junuary” — yet the month turned out to be mostly delightful. July was sublime; so far, August is following suit.

September is supposedly the finest month of all, and we’ve heard nary a disparaging remark about October. November, on the other hand, is a different story. In the spirit of full disclosure, Varen and Walter continue to fill us in on what’s to come beginning in November, and it sounds most dire. From what they’ve told us, I’m envisioning November and December as something like this:

zombies

Maybe that’s a tiny exaggeration. However, the days are certain to be as short during those two months as they were long in June and July. And to be perfectly fair, no mention has been made of zombies. (We’ll just have to wait and see for ourselves on that one.)

This is probably a more realistic depiction of winter in Western Washington:

black screen

Should be fun. One thing I know for sure is it’ll be an ideal time for an extended vacation. South.

Ah, but unlike several of our neighbors who live here only half the year, John and I aren’t in a financial position to own both a summer home and a winter home, so our vacation won’t encompass the entirety of the darkest months. We’ll need to find something to do here, and I had been worried about keeping John occupied. He goes a little bonkers when he’s not outside working in the garden, and there is no gardening in this part of the world during the short days.

Fortunately, he just began some big projects: putting up more fencing, building a greenhouse, and terracing three sections of the yard to create additional level areas for growing food. Nine pallets of 65-pound blocks for the terraces arrived yesterday, four of them shown here.

blocks

I suspect he’ll stay busy well into the winter.

What will I do during that time? Well, when I’m not sitting by the fire reading a good book or working on a pile of crossword puzzles, I’m sure I’ll be peering out the windows, tracking John’s progress. At least until it gets too

black screen