A simple plan for happy campers
I never camped growing up, but I gather that camping isn’t what it used to be. These days it involves air mattresses, Gore-Tex, and custom cooking accouterments; a friend recently told me she outfits her Coleman stove with a panini maker.
Well, we’ve got one on all of you modern camping wimps: We went out to dinner.
That was how we managed a spontaneous camping trip with friends on a just-starting-to-get-nippy fall weekend. Sleeping would be easy, we figured. Cooking would be hard. So we packed cold cuts, fruit, and cereal for breakfast, and figured we could find a family-friendly restaurant somewhere in the Pioneer Valley.
Thanks to a little luck, our minimal planning turned out well. We had made no reservation at DAR State Forest in Goshen, but we found the last two adjacent campsites. No boat? No problem. Someone had left an old canoe at the boat launch, so the kids could sit inside and pretend to row. Nature provided most of the entertainment: rocks to skip, lizards to spot. And the most useful thing we brought from home, it turned out, was a little container of worms. The kids took turns fishing - we’d remembered to pack one pole - but they spent a lot more time setting up a worm camp in the boat.
As it turned out, we weren’t the only weenies on the campground. At the site next to ours, there were no tents at all: A touring punk band had pulled up in a retrofitted school bus, painted grey, with a bomb on the side. Inside, it was apparently palatial. They didn’t cook hot dogs, either.
Actually, I’m not sure what they did for dinner. As for us, we found a restaurant right in town - a low-key, homespun, mom-and-pop place with a sizable collection of locals at the counter. The waitress didn’t flinch when our grimy horde arrived, and they were right to be pleased; all that fresh air had made us hungry. We ordered a lot of food, including a second helping of dessert, to go. The plan was to eat it by the campfire. Who needs s’mores, after all, when you’ve got pie?
Joanna Weiss can be reached at email@example.com.