Before we were RV’ers, we were avid campers. We tented in the redwoods when our youngest, who was just learning to walk, discovered the pure joy of full-body dirt emersion. We coaxed the kids along backpacking trails with the meager reward of a single M&M for every 100 steps. And we set up family camp with our closest friends every August at our favorite Waldo Lake campground. When the kids grew up and our aging backs complained, we snagged a cute homemade teardrop camper on eBay. Its comfy ready-made bed and prepacked kitchen renewed our passion for exploring the great outdoors. The step from our little “Teary” to Bessie was a giant one, but we knew we’d be back. Our good friend, Kathleen, gave Teary a snug home in her garage while we were gone and a few weeks ago, we reclaimed her.
Living in an RV is just not the same as camping, even in the middle of a national forest. Night sounds are muffled by insulated walls. Heat and cold are easily alleviated by thermostat. There’s no challenge to cooking with a full interior kitchen, including microwave. There were times on our trip when I longed to be tucked into our teardrop bed, feeling a breeze through open doors, listening to crickets or rain pattering on leaves, peering up at the stars and moon, waking up to a bedside view of a lake or grazing elk.
So we were excited to try our hand at real camping again. When our friend Kelly texted us from our favorite Cascades campground and said she’d nabbed an extra site for the Labor Day weekend, we packed up quickly and headed into the mountains.
Gypsy has traveled with us since we found her as an orphaned newborn in Missouri (see Kitten Rescue). Living on the road was all she knew for the first 11 months of her life, and she’s an excellent traveler. When we’re outside, she sticks close by on a tether. And she hikes and walks on a leash right alongside the dog. She even comes when we whistle.
This new kind of camping was a bit of an adjustment for Gypsy. In the RV she ruled the dash while we drove, leaping at windshield wipers in the rain, stalking semis we passed, eventually snuggling in with Bailey on her bed between the front seats. Driving in the car was cramped and crowded, and the dash was very unsatisfactory. But she found comfort in Kate’s arms while I drove. And once in our site, she reluctantly accepted the tether again and set herself up as sentry, making sure we were safe from the packs of chipmunks that skittered through the trees.
The shift in accommodations was a bit of an adjustment for us, too. Mostly I missed having our own bathroom. And although I’d complained about bringing along Kate’s “luggable loo” toilet, I was grateful for it after I smelled the outhouse. And it was cold at night – down to 36. It took half an hour to warm up the “bedroom” with our body heat at night. And in the morning, I could no longer get up early, put on my robe and slippers, turn up the heat, and let Kate sleep while I made tea and worked on my blog. Getting up meant facing the outside temps with nothing but extra layers. And then there was the tiny bed. Less than full-sized, and now made smaller by the full-grown cat who insisted on stretching out in the middle.
But all in all, I loved slipping back into less than luxurious camping. It feels more like me. When I drove down the road pulling our cute little Teary, instead of having oncoming cars slow and look at me like I might plow them down, people pointed and smiled, kids waved, and I fielded “You sleep in that??” with a happy thumbs up.
We had a great weekend camping with our friends, canoeing on inflatables on the quiet Deschutes River, cooking over a campfire, and sharing toasted marshmallows with the dogs. And although Kate is already eyeing alternatives for our next step up, I’m more than happy to embrace the tiny life for a few years more.
For more on this weekend and all our other teardrop adventures, go to http://teardrop-trails.com/secret-lake.html.