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Camping For Pussies
I'm basically an urban girl -- one whose idea of embracing "the great outdoors" involves standing on my porch and watching the birds in my bushes. Hence, I have camped -- I went on a 13-day canoe trip (one change of clothes for six days, another for the other seven) when I was 12 or so at Camp Tamakwa. But, I do not camp. (As some old joke goes, I consider "camping" staying in a bad hotel.)

There are some who don't let a take on camping like mine stop them from doing it. Kimi Yoshino writes for the LA Times about "roughin' in the easy way":

When 6-year-old Ethan Bondick told his mom and dad he wanted to go fly-fishing in Montana, his well-heeled parents were stumped.

"We looked at each other and said, 'Oh, god, now what?' " said Gigi Bondick, 37, a "reformed" attorney whose husband works as a private-equity partner in Massachusetts.

"We're just not the camping kind of people. We don't pitch tents. We don't cook outdoors. We don't share a bathroom. It's just not going to happen. This is a kid who has never flown anything but first class or stayed anywhere other than a Four Seasons."

After typing "luxury" into a Google search along with "camping" and "Montana," the couple settled on The Resort at Paws Up, a 37,000-acre getaway in the heart of Big Sky country. It's a place for affluent travelers who want to enjoy the outdoors but can't fathom using a smelly outhouse, a place where paying someone to light the campfire is a badge of honor, not the mark of a Boy Scout flunky.

The Bondicks, who live in a sprawling home on the edge of a state park outside Boston and hire a personal chef at home, shelled out $595 a night -- plus an additional $110 per person per day for food.

It's a hefty price to sleep in a tent, but the perks include a camp butler to build their fire, a maid to crank up the heated down comforter at nightfall and a cook to whip up bison rib-eye for dinner and French toast topped with huckleberries for breakfast.

The number of visits to U.S. national parks is declining, but "glamping" -- glamorous camping -- is on the rise in North America after gaining popularity among wealthy travelers in Africa and England, where luxury tents come with Persian rugs and electricity to power blow dryers.

On a side note: When your 6-year-old tells you he wants to go fly-fishing in Montana...ever consider telling him "No"? Please, please, don't let me meet this kid when he grows up.

Oh yeah, and a word to those with profiles up on online dating sites: If, for example, your attitude about camping mirrors mine, do not say on your profile that you like to camp to give yourself "flavor." Somebody is likely to take you up on it, and maybe even expect you to camp regularly.

I'm reminded of a friend of mine, a rather sedentary writer who did enjoy the occasional hike, who put on his profile that he enjoyed "bodysurfing." I recommended him as a potential date to my masseuse, and she and I looked at his profile together. I called him up when I got home. "Bodysurfing? BODYSURFING?"

"Girls like stuff like that."

Especially if it's true. And again, what if somebody actually expects you to get in the ocean and human surfboard to the shore without drowning? Ideally, dating should not be fatal -- metaphorically or literally.

Posted by aalkon at August 19, 2007 9:20 AM


I thought we repudiated this kind of behavior back in 1776.

Posted by: Axman at August 19, 2007 8:40 AM

Aw c'mon, Craigslist is always like that... Dating is always like that. "I enjoy going for walks on the beach at sunset, taking a picnic basket to the Hollywood Bowl, meeting new people at parties, toiling in soup kitchens on weekends, and cleansing the feet of lepers."

Posted by: Crid at August 19, 2007 8:41 AM

Just a side note on Paws Up: the guy who owns it, David Lipson, is a Las Vegas businessman with some past legal and ethical business troubles. He's made himself very unpopular with his new neighbors--that is, the whole state--because he's trying to trademark Montana's nickname, "The Last Best Place", for his own exclusive personal use on a line of products, including underwear. It's gotten to the point that our Governor and Congressional representatives have tried to stop him on the state and federal level.

I'm trying to imagine how The Last Best Place would fit on a pair of thong panties, but I haven't had enough coffee yet this morning for that.

Posted by: Rebecca at August 19, 2007 9:21 AM

Lena has suggested in the past (and I think this is from a Lorrie Moore novel, but I might be wrong) that I get a pair that read "Abandon all hope ye who enter here."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 11:59 AM

When it comes to dating profiles, I'm always amazed how many women proudly tout themselves as being sarcastic. Do they really think guys like to hear that?

Posted by: LYT at August 19, 2007 11:59 AM

When people say they're looking for somebody with a sense of humor, it means something entirely different based on the sex of the poster. Women are looking for men who are funny, men are looking for women who will laugh at their jokes. And, believe it or not, there's research that bears this out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 12:05 PM

The quote is actually from Dante's Inferno.

Posted by: Alicia Garrick at August 19, 2007 1:21 PM

Thanks -- I actually am semi-literate, and knew that -- I just didn't want to steal the humorous reuse of the Dante quote, which was from Lorrie Moore (I think)...hence my crediting her.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 3:04 PM

Speaking of which, Rodin's "Gates Of Hell" are a must-see if you go to Paris. It's only one euro to walk around the garden of Musée Rodin, where you'll find The Gates and other amazing sculpture.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 19, 2007 3:10 PM

I don't camp, but my family does. So being a good sport, I go about once a summer and for no more then two nights. We have a boat. It was built in 1978, is large and will "comfortably" sleep 6. --NOT--. There isn't a bed on that boat that is long enough for me and I'm 5'10". And what the manufacturer considers a bed is dinnette table that folds down and the seat cushions are then re-arranged. But my all time favorite bed on the boat is the bench that pulls out and back drops down and there you have it a bed about as wide as a twin bed that is to sleep two. But the best part of this bed are the hinges that poke you in the back.

Ok, so I surrive the night, but then comes morning and I will admit the morning are gorgeous out on the water. The water is calm and sun is coming up. Beautiful. But my family wants breakfast and this damn boat has a small gally. And I mean small. It consists of a sink, a three burner stove top and a small frig beneath the stove, and one cabinet above the sink. No counter/work space at all. And my family expects eggs, bacon, pancakes, in other words the works. Even though the lake is calm the boat still rocks. It is a challenge to cook this damn breakfast for the mob. And cleanup. The only hot water available is water poured from a jug and heated on the stove.

So one summer I thought to myself. I've solved this. I brought a package of donuts and a gallon of organge juice and when the ungrates started whining about being hungry I got up, converted my bed back into a table and sat the orange juice and donuts on the table and smiled.

There was almost a muntiny and I thought I was going to be forced to walk the plank. The family still laughs about that.

Posted by: cuminx at August 19, 2007 5:23 PM

>On a side note: When your 6-year-old tells you he wants to go fly-fishing in Montana...ever consider telling him "No"? Please, please, don't let me meet this kid when he grows up.

Thank you! That was my first thought as well. I'm trying to be charitable and assuming he'd just recovered from cancer. Or gotten into Harvard really early. Or something. My conversation would have been more:
"We're not going to be able to do that, Ethan. Tell you what, though, we'll set up a tent and camp in the back yard and have S'mores and tell ghost stories."

Though I've got to admit, while I enjoy "normal" camping, if someone wants to treat me to a camping trip such as the one mentioned, I'll take it.

Posted by: Kimberly at August 19, 2007 7:28 PM

> I'm trying to be charitable
> and assuming he'd just recovered
> from cancer

I love that. Visitors to Amy's blog are eager to see the best in people....

Posted by: Crid at August 19, 2007 7:55 PM

"This is a kid who has never flown anything but first class or stayed anywhere other than a Four Seasons."

Wow. This kid has obviously had a hard life. [/sarcasm]

Personally I think every kid should have to "rough it" or at least have a job where they genuinely have to work HARD for a while. Improves the chances that you'll appreciate it when you DO have it easy. It's easy to tell those who grew up with that, and those who didn't. Office people that get all bent out of shape and say they can't work when the thermostat is a degree or two outside of their "comfort zone" usually haven't.

And about the dating thing? I personally wouldn't mind if my wife had more snark. I like it when I can verbally spar with someone. Doesn't mean the person is constantly barraging people with verbal barbs.

Posted by: Jamie at August 20, 2007 8:56 AM

"When your 6-year-old tells you he wants to go fly-fishing in Montana..."
...He's telling you he needs the influence of a real man in his life. That's great that dad can teach him financial management skills but at some point little boys need to do some guy stuff.

Posted by: smurfy at August 20, 2007 3:54 PM

Amy, you are really missing huge opportunities to visit places that can only, or at least best, seen by camping. I am 64 years old, can afford to stay anywhere I like while on vacation. Yet I have camped all of my life in places where camping is the best place to stay.

First of all, I avoid camp grounds. Result: No neighbors. It's just me and the wilderness around me. Yes, the mornings might be brisk, and I might have to pee in the woods (cleaner than most public restrooms), but the ability to appreciate nature directly, no human noises anywhere, makes it all worth it.

I am really quite comfortable when I am car camping. I have a comfortable tent (which I often don't bother to set up on warm nights) and a very comfortable air mattress and sleeping bag. It takes me no more than 15 minutes to set up camp. Although I have good cooking equipment, I often will drive from my campsite to a restaurant to eat. Easy.

I led Sierra Club backpacking trips for many years. You simply cannot visit the most spectacular areas of our own California without backpacking to them. If you don't backpack or horse pack, you will never see Big Bird Lake and Dead Man Canyon in Kings Canyon National Park (nor most anywhere else in that park, for that matter). In my opinion these places far exceed Yosemite or anywhere else in California in magnificent beauty.

I suppose this is ok, because the more people who don't camp and don't backpack, the fewer people I encounter when I am doing the same. But on the other hand, the reason I led those Sierra Club trips was to introduce people like you to the joys of the wilderness, in hopes of convincing you to support that wilderness.

You appear to be fairly young and in good shape. You are missing a huge pleasure of life by wimping out. Sad.

Posted by: Gary Steiger at August 21, 2007 1:45 PM

Gary, just as (I'm guessing) you are not "missing out" by not watching a non-stop Sex In The City Marathon, I am not missing out by not camping. I'll be running up and down subway steps in Paris relatively soon...with my friend Pierre, who just celebrated his 70th birthday, and could take you, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and two or three others on at once and not break a sweat.

In short: I know I could be peeing into a bush somewhere and enjoying poison ivy. I'd just rather not.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 21, 2007 3:20 PM

Well, it does help to be able to recognize poison oak, or better, just camp only in altitudes high enough where you won't find any.

Yes, I have visited many of the major cities in the world, and some are intersesting in their own way (especially Stockholm, St. Petersburg, and Hanoi, I think). And I have watched a few episodes of Sex in the City (yawn - doing it is better). I am simply saying that camping and backpacking can open a whole different world of pleasure and wonder and great beauty, and it need not be uncomfortable in the least. Best to start with the guidance of and expert, like a Sierra Club leader.

Posted by: Gary Steiger at August 23, 2007 9:59 PM

TO: Amy Alkon
RE: How 'Ignorant'

" should not be fatal -- metaphorically or literally." -- Amy Alkon

Marriage is fatal, or should be, to 'dating'.

So. I see marriage as the proverbial 'leap of faith'. The point being that the 'last date' is the one where you're offered fugu by an amateur and you bite into it....with relish.

The question becomes....did you study his training as a fugu chef before you bit his meaty 'apple'?


[Look before you leap. -- sergeant at the Basic Jump Course - Benning School for Boys]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at September 4, 2007 4:03 PM

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