The beauty (and scariness) of the great outdoors

The world is a wonderful place. It’s full of mountains and butterflies and flowers and bunnies and sunsets and rainbows and trickling streams and all that stuff. The awe of nature is what life is made of. Going without seeing these majestic what-have-yous in person is truly robbing one’s self of a life well-lived. It is our duty, as human beings and fosters of this planet, to put our live eyeballs in front of all of the trees and birds and waterfalls, and soak in the life-changing effects they have on us.

But yeah. That whole outside thing. It can be a little scary. A little pointy. A little hurty. Thorns and bugs and vengeful winds are out there waiting for some hapless chap out enjoying a pasture of grazing sheep to pelt him with stinging hail, poison ivy and those black flies that bite you relentlessly. And the sun, the unforgiving sun. It beams down on you all like “Shoulda wore a hat, sucker.”

Despite all of this, camping is still a thing. People voluntarily venture out into the open where all manner of toothy things await them, where the sky can open up and dump the plagues. But, in true human spirit, you musn’t let outdoor dangers dissuade you from adventure.

Camping is rewarding, because once again, the bunnies and streams and non-attacking bears are out there to make your existence fulfilling. The tether between man and nature must never be too long; communing with the elements is good for the soul. There’s a sense of accomplishment in surviving on your own, out in the open, with only the finest camping stuff you can buy – and your remote wifi hotspot.

Upon learning that my dad had this tent that my mom swore they threw out years ago, I decided to try camping. Pricing vacation options, I saw that you could camp mere yards from the actual ocean for, like, $25 a day. Deal! Sign me up!

And bonus: you are camping on an island with WILD PONIES. Yes, as you awake to the soothing roar of the Atlantic Ocean outside your tent, you can have breakfast with a cute pony. Apparently, they have been roaming wild for years, not growing much bigger than pony size, and no one knows how they got there. So, a trip to a island of Mystery Ponies for less than the cost of one month of cable? Sold! I’d never camped before, but it can’t be that hard!

But then Google Maps decides to take you on a detour down a road through a pitch-black forest that was probably last used by a bear instead of a car. Then you find out that regular old tent stakes don’t work in the sand. Then you decide to spend 30 minutes in the sun without sunblock (that giant sunhat from Target? Useless against its death rays!) Then you find out they don’t have Speedway in Maryland (your Speedway gas card? Also useless!) And ponies? They don’t leave piles of rainbows on the ground, that’s for sure.

Despite those hiccups, camping was actually pretty enjoyable. The salty sea air in the morning, hearing the crackle of a fire as it glows to life, watching heat lightning strobe through the roof of the tent, seeing wild ponies drink from a stream, the feeling when you set up or take down your campsite better and better each time.

If you’ve read the memoir “Wild,” about a woman who decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, you know you can’t predict nature, or what level of shoes you are going to need to trek through said nature. Underestimating nature is foolhardy. Thinking you can do without the trappings of food, shelter and modern goods is even more foolish. Once you think man can tame nature, can live in the wild like he’s a regular old bear or something, that’s when it comes up and stings you in the foot.

A friend of mine / longtime camper said that a lot of the skill of camping comes with trial and error. Lots of error. But appreciation and respect for the elements you are intruding on is vital. I learned a little about the primitive life, and I will hopefully do better next time. Maybe I’ll camp in good old Mill Creek Park. For practice.

For now, I will continue to peel and molt my sunburned skin. Does Pony Island have radioactive flies? Because I’m turning into Jeff Goldblum over here.

Do you like camping? Give me some advice at