Forget about camping at Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujik National Park, Ontario’s Sharbot Lake Provincial Park, Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Provincial Park or any campground for that matter. I much prefer campgrounds with inviting names like Delta, Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton and Westin, but it was not always so.
As college students in the seventies, my friends and I could not possibly afford those establishments. Our meagre budgets would only permit a borrowed, canvas tent that reeked of mildew and a car known as “Tin Lizzie,” but we were young and adventurous. Four of us embarked on a camping trip to idyllic Prince Edward Island, the province home to red clay and potato fields for as far as the eye could see. We hoped to sip a glass of Anne of Green Gables’ raspberry cordial. We crossed the Northumberland Strait on the ferry from Caribou, NS to Wood Island, PEI.
CAMPING IN PEI NIGHT ONE
Mid-afternoon, we stopped at a campground near Charlottetown and pitched our 8-person tent. I would like to get my hands on the committee that determines how many people a tent will sleep. 2-person? 4-person? 8-person? I’m guessing Lilliputians from Gulliver’s Travels, Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz or the Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. GRRRRRRR.
I rolled out my sleeping bag expecting to claim a spot in the centre of the tent. A corner was not the right place for me to sleep because of claustrophobia. Would anyone trade spots with me? Nope. I should have warned them in a sing-song voice, but I did not.
After a long day, we settled down for the night.
How could we not have noticed that we had pitched our tent in the path of every flight in and out of Charlottetown?
Thankfully, at a certain time of night, flights ended and we drifted off too sleep inhaling the fresh air of PEI.
The campground was silent, except for the occasional sounds of coughing and snoring. Those of you who know me are aware that I turn into a different creature when I fall asleep. The zombies, ghosts, spooks, goblins and ghouls that avoid the daylight, visited me in the dark of night. I could not get away from them because I was sleeping in a corner of the tent.
My blood-curdling screams pierced the night air. The others sat bolt upright and though an intruder was attempting to murder me. It served them right for making me sleep in the corner. It did not take long for someone to GLADLY trade places with me.
CAMPING IN PEI NIGHT TWO
As soon as morning came, we pulled up stakes and struck out for a second day of exploring. By mid-afternoon we pulled into a much larger campground with more amenities. We were 18 and 19-year-old young women with a healthy interest in the opposite sex. A tent full of Prince Charmings could be waiting for us.
Sure enough, a group of young men arrived at the site directly opposite our tent? They definitely took note of four young women. We observed the young men were ill-prepared with camping, lacking basics like a hammer, but had enough booze for the whole campground. They made numerous trips across the road to borrow tools until they managed to pitch their tent. Now, I wonder why they bothered to bring a tent because they had no plans to sleep.
MONSTERS IN THE NIGHT
Night fell and we settled down for the night while the boys partied on. In the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of footsteps very close to our tent. My legs turned to rubber instantly and I froze. I could not move a muscle. Then came the taunts, “Hey girls, wanna party? Come out and have some fun. We really like you.”
The boys became a little more aggressive, slapping the sides of the tent. Only a layer of canvas separated us from them. What if they collapsed the tent on us? How would I breathe? They would not give up easily.
And then, from the bowels of the tent a deep voice bellowed, “NO, GET OUT OF HERE!” A collective sigh of relief rose from all four of us. Evelyn wanted them to think there was at least one male inside the tent, hence the deep voice. Each of us had been awake during the entire episode, but no one made a peep, until Evelyn could stand it no longer. It worked. The footsteps retreated.
As soon as the sun came up, we tore down that tent and beat it out of there. We stopped at the campground office/convenience store/laundromat on our way out. Guess who was in the laundromat? The party boys. They were washing their sleeping bags.
CAMPING IN PEI NIGHT THREE
We were not taking any chances for our final night on the island— no airplanes, no creeps, no blood-curdling screams. A church camp became our refuge. All four of us felt safe and slept like babies. And so ended our first and last camping adventure.
I think I have camped one more time since that experience of long ago. Sleeping on the ground with creepy crawlies galore, shivering in the cold, stinking of smoke, scared of bears and stumbling to the bathroom in the dead of night is not my idea of a vacation.I will trade my sleeping bag any day of the week for a 13-inch pillowtop mattress draped in 800-thread count, Egyptian cotton sheets, down-filled duvets, pillows of all sizes and shapes and room service. Camps Delta, Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton and Westin are more my style. Go ahead and make fun of me. I can take it.