I wouldn’t say that I’m against camping, but I wouldn’t say I’m for camping either. Our ancestors used to sleep outside on the ground every night; I have trouble sitting on my front lawn for extended periods of time. The lucky ones had caves. The days of competing with bears in the real estate market is over, but camping still exists. One of my favorite comedians Jim Gaffigan sums up my feelings on camping the best.
I’ve camped once before and that was during an elementary school aged sleepover. We thought it would be a great idea to camp on his front lawn, but we spent all night in his house watching scary movies and eating pizza, we may have slept a total of 5 hours outdoors, pretty long for a sleepover, and we had Fruit Loops for breakfast. It was a sleepover with an outdoor excursion.
I’m an adult now and my friend asked if I would be interested in going on a weekend camping trip. He had a boatload of extra camping equipment and goes camping all the time. I agreed to go.
The First Day
My friend told me to arrive anytime after 2 on Friday. I interpreted that as “I’m getting there at 2, so any time after will be okay.” So I plan my trip around getting there at 3. I probably would have gotten to the campsite earlier, but I decided to carpool with someone else and he got delayed, so we end up arriving closer to 6. During the 2-hour trek it takes to get away from civilization, my friend texts me that he’ll get there at 7:30. Wait hold on, WHAT? I’m 15 minutes away, what do you mean you’ll get there at 7:30?! I even texted him earlier telling him I’d get there around 6. In my car we have a borrowed tent from a family friend and 2 sleeping bags, my friend is bringing the rest. We sort of need that.
Trying to delay as long as possible we stop at a small town, or normal town considering I have no cellphone reception and the towns this far from civilization are small. The town had a bank called Jefferies Bank. I don’t know who Jeffrey is, but it’s pretty bold of him not include his last name. Is he the only Jeffrey in town? I feel like I couldn’t name my son Jeffrey if I lived in this town because of this bank. Maybe his last name is Bank and the store actually sells firewood. I don’t know I didn’t go in. Jeffrey has a monopoly on money and the name Jeffery, what a jerk!
The deli we stopped at was called The Corner, aptly named because it was on perhaps the only corner in town. We go in and order beer and ice cream, I needed to treat my body somehow before sleeping on the ground all weekend. While we were there someone called in and ordered a garbage pizza. I have no idea what would be on that, but my biggest regret was not getting one too. I don’t even know what it looks like, but it smelled delicious in my mind.
We arrive at the campgrounds and checked in under his name. We get a wristband and assigned campsite #502, I’m assuming it’s just a patch of grass with a number on it. Thankfully it’s possible to drive straight up to our new home, but we have to drive through all the #100s first. The #100s campground is like a flat football field divided by a road in the middle. Everyone has their cars parked on their section of lawn and everyone is out barbecuing, drinking, frolicking, merry times all around is what I’m trying to describe. I love the comradery here, if this is camping then I’m looking forward to it, but alas, we’re at the 500s. We drive straight through wonderland, arriving at our isolated tree infested campsite #502. It’s also on a slant, it’s getting dark, I still have no cellphone reception, and my friend with all the equipment is nowhere to be seen.
Neither of us has much tent building experience and it took 5 minutes before realizing we’re missing the poles to hold the tent up. For 5 minutes we sort thrust the tent up in the air hoping it’d hold shape and debating whether to sit under it like during parachute day in gym class, the best day. Using the poles in the trunk is much more practical though. Thankfully there are bathrooms that aren’t trees and one’s located down the hill we’ll be sleeping on. With our “camp” set up, we decide to explore the rest of the campsite. Down by the bathrooms we see people smoking the reefer out in the open, back by the 100s people are throwing a light up Frisbee. If the 100s is the Garden of Eden then the 500s is Gotham City…without Batman.
It’s dark when my friend arrives at 8:00 with all the equipment.
Dumb friend – “Sorry for being late, let’s start setting up camp, I’ll grab the flashlights.”
Me – “Maybe you had gotten here at, oh I don’t know, 2 we wouldn’t need flashlights! But okay, let’s do this.”
We could practically set the tents up with our eyes closed, which wouldn’t be too different a task we have now. The rest of our party arrives shortly after (was everyone but me informed to arrive this late?! I was told 2!) 7 people and 1 dog total. I don’t know the standard amount of time it takes to set up camp, but it takes us 3 times longer than that.
Someone brought these leaves that apparently act like a sort of bug repellant, I immediately snag those bad boys and rub them all over my body. Afterwards I thought briefly how fucked I’d be if the leaf was poison oak. Apparently his dad is coming too, but he’s lost and we can’t call him. A few of us go down to reception to get cellphone reception, they don’t have reception. They tell us to drive a mile down the road to get a signal. 7 miles down the road we’re able to call him, he’s on the campsite. That was productive.
The Second Day
In the morning we set out to go white water rafting down the Delaware River; the starting point is less than 10 minutes away. We bring 2 kayaks, but we rent a raft and oars at the place. The trip is supposed to last around 5 hours and is around 10 miles in length. It’s not sunny outside.
I probably should have paid more attention to the woman giving instructions, but all I remembered was that there would be 2 bridges and shortly after the 2nd bridge we’re done. We split 5 people in the raft and 2 people and 1 dog in the 2 kayaks. I’m in the raft. We cast off and one of the kayaks immediately gets stuck in the “rapids.” I have rapids in quotation marks because the water was shin deep and the current wouldn’t be out of place in a Jacuzzi. Hopefully the rapids are bigger down stream (they aren’t). After laughing at our friend, we rescue him, and then literally get stuck 2 seconds later. Where’s that second bridge?
Our 5-man group is ridiculously slow, increased weight > increased row strength, while the 2 unburdened kayaks are swimming laps around us. Rowing with 5 people isn’t really ideal as we have 2 people rowing on one side and 3 people rowing on the opposite, someone sits in the back to sort captain the raft, but it’s still awkward to move around. We brought a volleyball to throw at the 2 kayaks throughout the trip. I throw at one of them and miss, we’re too big and slow to retrieve it…we’re also too big and slow to get away, this was a terrible idea. Good thing there are 4 other targets besides me. The dog comes onto our raft, he seems to be enjoying himself more than me.
Everyone other than us on the Delaware seems to be drinking heavily; even the kids. All we brought were sandwiches. I like sandwiches, but I was thirsty. There was even a group of people that managed to tie pool floats together to make one giant float. No oars either, just alcohol. I got on the wrong raft. I guess if you wear a life jacket you can do anything out here, no ones drowning in these “rapids”. There were supposed to be level 1 and 2 rapids on this trip, but the water wasn’t even fast enough to turn white. Honestly I could have drowned faster than the pace we’re going, and I was wearing a life jacket.
I made a couple of jelly and ham sandwiches hoping someone else would eat them by accident, unfortunately the jelly is clearly visible and they make me eat them. Jokes on them, they’re delicious; people need to put jelly on more sandwiches. Somehow I make eye contact with a frat bro wearing a bandanna on the raft. He starts screaming and pumping his fists, a race has been initiated, oops. I shove down my sandwich and we start paddling, their raft of 5 drunk people is somehow faster and more coordinated than us. I swear the bandanna makes them faster. Fear pushes us ahead and they stop to drink more beer. I don’t know what they would have done, but he just had this look in his eye…we use this fear to get to the 1st bridge. I throw the volleyball at one of the kayaks and hit him in the head, this was a great idea.
We passed a raft playing “Jump Around”, it was stuck in my head for the rest of the weekend, that and garbage pizza. We decide to anchor at the side of the river so we can jump in, what a terrible idea. For anyone that wants to go down the Delaware in the future I recommend bringing beer and jumping in the deep water. Going to shallow water was a terrible idea because if you fall down, you fall on rocks. So giant me and the dumbos that ventured into the river were just trying not to fall down the whole time. The stream that seemed to only hinder our speed on the raft seemed vengeful and swift whilst in the water. We warn the others tying down the boat to not come in with a sense of urgency that could have been warning someone about the hockey faced psycho behind them, or at least I was. Crouching in the shin deep shallows I wait for the others to rescue me. My own water thankfully keeps me warm while I freeze in the Delaware. I’m basically saying I peed on myself.
There’s a spot towards the end of the trip where you can jump off a “cliff”. I say towards the end, but we still haven’t seen that damn second bridge. I would say the ledge was about 12 feet up. There was someone named Nancy that got up but was too afraid to jump. I never understood why someone would climb up, see other people jump, and then not jump themselves. At that point I’d think embarrassment would overcome fear. I won’t forget Nancy, you’re cowardice lives on forever. I get hit in the head with a volleyball, this was a terrible idea.
We simply jumped off our boats. At one point the rest of the people in the boat thought it would be funny to leave my friend and I for dead in the water, without life jackets, and make us swim the rest of the way. I hated them more than the song Jump Around. I was impressed with how fast they were able to paddle away, we were never this fast when I was there. Luckily we commandeered one of the kayaks. Three guys, one kayak…it doesn’t work, but holding on kept me alive. Our luck changed when the water turned shallow, now we could swim while stubbing our limbs on rocks. Did I mention I was angry? We pass the second bridge at least.
Eventually we caught up to the raft, the first thing I do is yank someone off the raft and into the water #revenge #drownwithme. My fellow drownie jumps on the boat too and we throw one more person off the raft. We don’t toss the last person in, 2 lives were left for dead and 2 lives were repaid in kind, this was justice. I use my towel to dry myself off and so does everyone else. No one else brought a towel. What were they thinking?!
After paddling a little more we see the end point towards the right of us, but on the opposite side of the river is New York while the end point is in Pennsylvania. Is it ironic that neither is Delaware? Wouldn’t it be cool to say you swam from state to state? Two of us thought so, we jump off the boat and start swimming to NY. I wish we started on one side and swam to the other instead of starting at the middle and making this trek 50% more difficult. We get to the other side, I’m already regretting this, and there are people on the bank laughing at these two dumb kids swimming to the wrong side. We know we’re idiots, but we’re idiots that can claim they’ve swam to another state. I’m so tired swimming back across the river that the nonexistent current almost sweeps me too far down. I get back at the Delaware River by peeing into it again.
His dad who’s supposed to pick us up is nowhere to be seen. Apparently it’s about a 40 minute drive back to our campsite. That’s when it hit me, I’m cold, wet, tired, and miserable now, but even after getting back to camp, I’m going to be just as cold, wet, tired, and miserable, just in a different place outdoors. I start to lose hope.
Thankfully someone more competent than me manages to get us a shuttle back to where we pushed off. I’m pretty sure we were supposed to pay for this beforehand, but we didn’t. I fall asleep on the ride back and wake up to discover our driver takes us literally right back to our campsite. I love this guy. I needed to tip this man money, but I would’ve given him all my money if he brought me home.
The kid’s dad hasn’t even left, he’s been cooking the whole time. He’s forgiven quickly when we start eating. I jump into a shower, warm water usually doesn’t feel this good. It remained the perfect temperature between warm and hot for a solid 45 seconds, and damn if those weren’t the best 45 seconds of the day. Sweet baby Jesus that’s all I needed…a garbage pizza wouldn’t hurt either.
The Third Day
Half the group leaves in the morning because they have work on Sunday, the rest of us clean up and get ready to go paintballing. I would generously describe my experience with paintball as beginner.
Friend – “Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting ruined.”
Me – “Good thing I don’t have any nice clothes.” (I like my shitty clothes and now I’m kind of really scared to play paintball. I’m more scared for my clothes though.)
When we go sign up for paintball and see two other distinct groups there, the 1st group is a bunch of guys here for a bachelor party. The other group consists of Europeans that all look like they’ve handled weapons since birth. Both are clad in full body camo suits. Now I’m really anxious. I ask reception the price of those camo suits? Give me the rest.
We talk to some of the guys from the bachelor party group, one of them jokes that if we get to know one another maybe that means we’ll go easy on them, it’s like he’s reading my mind.
At the location we get our guns, masks, and paintballs from the one guy working there. A European says something in whatever language they speak, it sounds Russian (it’s not Russian). The rest start laughing. One guy from the bachelor party tells his friends to try shooting him and runs 100 meters away. The first shot hits him in the ear, I want whoever shot that on my team.
We go to the paintball forest course and there’s a family finishing up. It’s a father with 2 boys and 2 girls who look to be aged in their late teens. The 3:3 game they just played against each other lasted for about a half hour. None of them are wearing camo suits. They look more terrified than me. Now comes the tough part, making teams. Our group consists of 4 people, 3 guys and 1 girl. The bachelor party consists of 6 guys. The Europeans consists of 2 guys and 3 girls. Now I don’t exactly beg, but there’s no way in hell I’m teaming up with the non camo suit family. I suggest we team up with the bachelors for now and switch up if the teams are unfair. Everyone agrees. Thank God. I wanted to be on the bachelor party team, they speak English, and seemed more fun. The other team wears yellow caution tape on their arms. I can hardly tell the difference between the teams.
The course is a forest covering a pretty wide area, but not gigantic enough that you can hide too effectively. There are trees and some wooden bunkers set up, one side seems to have the higher ground while the other side seems to have more bunkers. We take the higher ground, I learned that one from Obi Wan.
Game 1 Bachelor Party + Us (10) vs Europeans + Family (10)
I put on my mask for the first time and it fogs up immediately, but it’s better than loosing an eye. The guy that gave us the equipment says he’ll referee, he’s wearing a t-shirt and shorts. That’s it. At the signal all of the bachelors run up the field along with my one friend, who actually plays paintball. 3 of us stay behind, we’re not meant for war. Eventually I start moving, but moving fogs my mask even more, I can’t see a thing. Whelp this is a team battle, they seem to have this covered. I hide behind a tree and stare intensely at what turns out to be another tree for 3 minutes. I’m still about 10 feet from where everyone started. Fuck it, I run blind to some blurs who turn out to be my teammates. We’re shooting at some bunker down slope, I shoot some rounds in unison. Teamwork! 2 minutes later and the game is over, we wiped them out in 5 minutes, we didn’t lose a single person. The family leaves after this game, I see them as sacrificial lambs needed for me to flourish.
My Kill Total: 0
My Death Total: 0
Overall Death: Family of 5
Game 2 Us + Europeans (9) vs Bachelor Party (6)
At this point we all know the bachelor party was the alpha group and this game should be a lot more fair despite the number difference. We get the high ground again. The guy that refereed last time is nowhere to be seen, probably nursing that family back to health. The game starts like a classic game of hide in seek.
Bachelor – “Are you ready?”
Me – “Sure.”
Me – (No)
The Europeans go into the forts on this side, preferring the people to come to us. I feel like this takes away all advantage of the high ground, but what do I know? The same as Jon Snow. This game is a lot more even, I barely shot any bullets in the last game, but this game I’m shooting all the time. I still can’t see. I run out of bullets half way through the game. I walk off the field. We end up winning that game after about 15 minutes, we won with 5 of our team still alive. I’m starting to think this higher ground thing has a big advantage.
My Kill Total: 0
My Death Total: 1 suicide
Overall Death: 1 European girl doesn’t want to play anymore
Someone sets up empty water bottle cans 20 feet away, everyone tries to hit them down. I don’t hit a single can.
We’re trying to figure out how to split the teams for this 3rd game, I suggest picking teams, the bachelor of his party says I should be a captain because I suggested it. But I suck. I’m 1 captain and my friend is the other, I get first pick.
Me 1st pick: I pick the bachelor 1st overall. I figure all his friends are here for him and he’s been pretty friendly the whole time, plus he should have been a damn captain. His paintball skills did not factor in my choice at all.
Bad guy 1st pick: He picks the best bachelor shooter.
Me 2nd pick: I pick the guy who shot his friend in the ear on his 1st shot ever, plus he seemed funny. Paintball skills factored into half of my choices.
My friend 2nd pick: Some other bachelor guy.
Me 3rd pick: Now I was tempted to just pick all the bachelors and try to recreate the super team that dominated that first game, but my 1st pick wanted me to diversify and not choose his friends. He was right. I chose the taller of the 2 European dudes, I needed a bigger target than me.
My friend 3rd pick: The other European dude.
Me 4th pick: I pick the European girl that already had her mask on. She seemed prepared.
My friend 4th pick: The other European girl.
Me 5th pick: I pick my friend that I brought on the trip over my rival captain’s sister. I was hoping that she’d slow him down. My friend didn’t really want to play this last game, I don’t blame him, we can’t see anything out there, but screw him he has to play #diewithme.
My friend 5th pick: His sister.
Me last pick: I pick the meaner looking bachelor, I didn’t want to piss him off. Honestly he probably didn’t care, but that was my reasoning.
My friend last pick: Last bachelor dude.
We get the higher ground because I suck and I want that side. If this were football I walked away with ball first and choice of field. Nice.
Game 3 Captain Me (6) vs Captain Not Me (6)
The referee that was there for the 1st game still hasn’t returned, how bad is that family injured?! I’m ready to take some risks and lead my team to victory this time. I hide behind the rocks we had target practice on, there’s paint everywhere, this is how I get paint on me for the first time. This game is already going longer than the last two, the teams are finally even. 5 minutes have passed and no one is out yet, actually I see my friend on the sideline, that bastard doesn’t even look hit. One “casualty” so far. It feels like it’s been 10 minutes, but I haven’t fired any bullets yet #conserveammo. I keep turning around to protect my face and clean my mask, but it fogs up a few seconds after, (how is everyone else playing this game blind?) I have no idea what’s happening at this point, but I move further into enemy territory.
I’m covered in dirt/paint and still blind, but I continue to shoot towards what I hope is the direction of the other team. I see the other captain and his sister are eliminated, I would learn later it was from friendly fire. I’ll take it. Actually it looks like a lot of their team is eliminated, when did this happen? I’m almost out of bullets from my shoot first see later tactics when we somehow go up 4:1. Honestly it’s a miracle none of my teammates shot me, the only distinguishing difference is the yellow caution tape on my arm, meanwhile I can barely distinguish a tree from a person.
Someone starts shooting, I go around the shooter and together with another teammate we take him out. My first kill, game over! Wait nevermind, it was my own teammate. I’m out of bullets. Talk about a two-man swing. It’s now 2:1, I just helped eliminate my 1st overall pick and on my walk of shame back I see another one of my teammates camping out in a bunker. I tell her the last guy is hiding somewhere, but I haven’t seen him on this side. She leaves her spot and gets shot immediately. Talk about a 3-man swing, I eliminated 3 players on my team, we had a 4:1 advantage… About 5 minutes later the game ends, we won. It was all thanks to my leadership. I’m currently undefeated without killing anyone. 3-0
My Kill Total: 2 friendly fires
My Killed By Total: 2 suicides
Overall Death Total: 6 Bachelors and 1 of us
Well it looks like it’ll be the last game because we barely have any paint left. We see the referee before we go into the game and tell him to please come play for us. He seems excited and goes to gather his gear, we tell him to hop on whenever he wants. We get the higher ground, 4 times now for me.
Game 4 Us (3) vs Europeans (4)
I’m feeling pretty good, I’ve made it through 3 games unscathed, this is my last game, I’m going Rambo on their asses. My friend and his sister take the normal high ground route, I take the side route with more trees. After crouching around stealthily for a minute, I just straight up walk casually, I’m unkillable, there’s no point in hiding. I start shooting at what appears to be a person, it’s a tree. I swear if I could get points for shooting trees I would be the best at this game. My shooting gives away my location and I get fired on, I run out of there as fast as I can. Screw Rambo, that guy’s a dumbass. I meet up with my teammates on the high ground, both are fine and they’ve somehow killed 2 people and have one pinned down. It’s my time to shine, they cover me as I sprint around the enemy in the bunker and unload my paintballs on him. I actually have one kill now. Nice. It’s 3:1. We end up surrounding the last girl and she just surrenders. She mentions how she was trying to shoot someone earlier, but then that person disappeared. She thought I was there the whole time and thought I was tracking her, all according to plan. The referee never joined the game. I was worried about being hit in the beginning and somehow made it through the whole day undefeated despite playing like crap.
My Kill Total: 2 friendly fires and 1 legit kill
My Death Total: 2 suicides
Overall Death: Both European girls
Game 5: Us (3) vs Europeans (2) + (1) Referee
I start zipping off my suit, and the referee comes back, he wants to play. Well you should have come last game buddy! Now he’s going to play against us.
Me – “Sorry I would play, but I’m out of paint.”
The referee gives me some of his. Now I have no excuse. I ask him how to keep my mask from fogging, he tells me to breathe down with my mouth. When I try his technique my mask still fogs up instantly. We get the low ground this time, there’s no way I’m making it out alive. Game starts and I figure I’ll go around for a surprise attack, that’s when I see a t-shirt wearing blur from the top. I get sniped, two shots in the neck and one on the shoulder, less than 30 seconds into the game. I’m not even exaggerating here, less than a minute I’m dead. The referee knows the course like the back of his hand and he’s always looking at his watch. Get it? Cause you also see the back of your hand when you look at a wrist watch… I was just standing out in the open like an idiot. The good news is he shot me from so far away it didn’t even hurt. Somehow this game lasts for a half hour after I die despite the 2:3 low ground disadvantage.
We leave and spend over an hour searching for garbage pizza, but don’t find it.
I would recommend camping with someone who knows a lot more than you do. Also the more people the better. I felt pretty uncomfortable after going in the water all day, so I can’t imagine how horrible it’d be if it started raining. Only go camping when there’s good weather. Sleeping on the ground…yeah it’s not something I’ll miss, going back home made sleeping in my bed much better. For a cheap vacation I’d recommend taking a week off, camp for 2 days, then come back home for 5 days and appreciate how awesome it is to live in a house.