Pack Ethics; Go Camping

The jam hadn't started at Avogadro's last Wednesday, so I sat at a table of old friends tuning up. "Hey Mike," said Sue Forebucks slightly strummed her slide ukulele, "how was the jam last week?"

"Don't know," I said. "I was vacationing in the Black Hills."

"Us, too," she said. "Stayed at Legion Lodge Campground in Custer State Park."

I laughed. "We stayed there one night, too. Had the pickup truck camper and moved around to all the campgrounds to get a better feel for the place."

"Isn't it lovely there?" she said. "The beach wasn't crowded and the drives up to Sylvan Lake and Mount Rushmore were gorgeous."

"Well," I hedged, "the drives were nice. The kids especially liked the tunnels, but it didn't seem like much of a park. Our favorite place was Center Lake because it didn't have a lodge or restaurant. Had a more rustic, woodsy feel, like you were truly camping."

"With stinky pit toilets and no showers?" she said flatly, "No thanks."

"But you get trees," I said, "and some distance from other campers when you sit around the campfire watching the stars, listening to the owls, and roasting marshmallows with the kids."

Tanya Hide snorted derisively as she bent the bar on her chain saw to check the sound. "You guys sound like the folks who let the kids ride bikes through the campground making it feel like a suburb."

"It's good exercise and they need to burn off energy after a long drive," said Sue.

"Spoken like a true RV user with a sink and oven and electric lights. That ain't camping, that's just living in a moving house."

"Well it's good for getting the kids closer to nature," I said. "They can climb rocks and build pine needle forts and keep the fire going. Get introduced to camping without making it difficult."

"It ain't camping unless you're in a tent," said Tanya. "We bring sleeping bags, a tent, and good old Betsy here," she patted her chain saw, "for firewood. Throw a couple potatoes in the coals and whittle roasting sticks for hot dogs and we're set."

"You're still camping in a parking lot," said Seymour. He doesn't play an instrument but just likes to listen and annoy. "I like backpacking, the Leave No Trace method where you don't cut firewood or dig trenches or destroy the environment with fire pits, toilets, and pavement."

"That's too hard to do with kids," I said, "and if everybody who car-camped went backpacking, it'd still feel like suburbia."

"Seymour's approach just causes hidden destruction of the environment," said Sue. "Look at an oil refinery to see where your butane fuel comes from or a food processing plant that provides your foil wrapped, freeze-dried lasagna. You're out in the wilds carrying space age equipment and pretending to be aboriginal."

Before Seymour could respond, Sloan Down spoke up. He's an old guy who plays the electric bones which need no tuning so he was just listening. "You kids don't know squat about camping, talking about leaving your air-conditioned house for a week and living in the woods with no cares. I was homeless once. Company went out of business, and like most folks, we were only three paychecks from the street. It took over a year of living in a tent, showering at the Y, and working any job I could find to finally get a place to rent again. We don't camp anymore." He turned to Steve. "I see you brought your guitar tonight, let's play Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad."