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Upon returning from a camping trip, I ride the lalala peacefulness of spending a few days outdoors free of walls and electricity and glowing screens. All the work leading up to the trip, a distant blur not worthy of remembering. Then another trip comes around and as much as I know it’ll be good once we get there, every minute leading up to it, when we’re running around for tick/mosquito repellent and cooking and stuffing everything in the freezer so it keeps, it’s a lot of work.

I miss being a kid. My dad did all this work for us and he made it look like fun. Time to Tetris all the supplies in the truck and still have room for 6 people! Time to drive 3 hours without air conditioning because for some reason it was always busted. Then at the camp he cooked all the food while we canoed and jumped off bunny cliffs along the Delaware River. At night he’d wait for all of us to retire to our nice tents with zipper doors before backing into his long hippie mummy mini tent feet first and wiggling in until only his head stuck out. If he rolled over in his sleep the entire tent either went with him (if the ground was soft). His favorite saying – Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without – speaks to why he waited until the tent he had as a teen in the 60s dry rotted before splurging on a tent with a zipper that covered his whole body.

Camping leaves you with so many stories that, unlike all the work prior, stake a permanent spot in memory. So it’s okay that I burnt myself twice this morning trying to check on food in the oven while keeping the freezer from swinging open again. My apartment is smoky but the cornbread tastes perfect and will be even better warmed up on the fire with some honey.

One weird experience from our Acadia camping trip back in June is only slightly on my mind. On the last night, I was about to fall asleep when my boyfriend whispered that there was someone walking around our campsite. I opened my eyes and saw the silhouette of a person passing between our tent and the fire a few feet away. We saw nobody when we looked around with the flashlight and checked that the car was locked, which of course it was. A car alarm went off a few sites down about a minute later. My boyfriend then fell straight to sleep while I lay wide away magnifying the sound of every snapped twig. His super power is willing himself to sleep in seconds any time, any place.

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This time it won’t be just the two of us and we’ll have more to look out for than some weirdo trying to rob campers. There are rattlesnakes and a number of Lyme infected ticks in the area. Bart Yasso’s telling of how Lyme disease impacted his life as a runner in My Life On The Run is good motivation to stay vigilant and well sprayed down with oh-so-healthy chemicals to keep the ticks away.

Oh, and there are black bears, but that seems like a given in most parks. I’ve been working my way through Mark of the Grizzly, thanks to Angela over at Toasty Strings for the recommendation. Each chapter details a grizzly attack and it’s obviously terrifying, but also gripping and loaded with information I hope will never come in handy. I read recently that grizzlies are able differentiate colors. In a wide open tundra, bright tents might make them curious and more inclined to investigate than camouflaged ones. Wish I read this before getting a colorful tent, but we’re not exactly off to Antarctica. Yet.

There are some major differences between what to do when encountering a black bear versus a grizzly. Here in the Northeast, we only have black bears. And they rarely attack large groups of people, especially if you don’t leave food and trash out. Small kids are to be piled on adult shoulders to make them seem bigger. The most important thing is not to run because that can trigger a predatory response.

I’m trying to fill my head with the right answers because my nieces have so many questions about bears. These things are good for kids who live in bear country to know, but I can’t help wondering if they wouldn’t be so nervous had they not watched Backcountry with us a few weeks ago (not my decision). It’s loosely based on a fatal black bear attack that occurred in Ontario. The movie swaps which person was attacked and makes one of them look like a fool to blame when in real life they were both avid outdoors people who were unfortunately in the path of a predatory bear. It’s watchable, but not good and the changes they made don’t serve the story. But they did use a real bear and it’s gory. Imagine seeing this when you unzip your tent:

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Off to the wilderness we go. Despite all of the above, the woods are among the safest places a person can be. Lately, running in our neighborhood by myself feels far riskier than a few days sleeping beneath the stars. The prep and planning are finally done. Now I’m excited.

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