“Don’t Pee on the Tent, REX!”

Tales from a backyard camping experience

IMG_2339 We’re preparing our two-year-old Labrador retriever for an upcoming backpacking trip. To do this we thought we’d start small. How about a backyard tent sleepout? Just to see how he reacts to the tent and sleeping outdoors. This is a pampered dog, you know.

On the actual backpack trip, we want Rex to sleep in the vestibule (aka front porch) area of the tent. We decided this because a) we have a two-man tent and Rex won’t fit inside the actual tent. And, b) the Lost Coast is the “land of ticks.” We did a short hike there in December where Rex picked up no less than thirty-two ticks. And thirty-two is when my daughter and I stopped counting and began screaming.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not trying to exclude Rex from sleeping inside with us. Rex will be the most protected animal on earth from ticks, fleas and other vermin when we commence this trip. It’s me and my husband I worry about! The ticks will crawl on Rex, and when they cannot attach, where are they going to go? That’s right. They’ll be climbing on us. I’m not going to be wearing a tick collar, and I don’t want armies of ticks crawling on me.

I was getting over a cold so my husband had full dog duties the weekend we chose to test Rex and the tent sleeping arrangement. Hey, it was his idea. Not mine. I was on the couch with my box of tissues watching television when I heard the shout, “No! Don’t pee on the tent, Rex!”

I didn’t think they’d last ten more minutes.

Come on, Rex! Don't be scared of the tent.

Come on, Rex! Don’t be scared of the tent.

I have to give my husband credit. They came in at 5 a.m. Rex never seemed so grateful to be inside. He quietly rolled into a ball at the foot of the bed so he wouldn’t bother anyone as if saying, “Please. I’ll be good and super quiet if you just let me sleep here inside with you.”

“You guys did so well,” I said. “Did he sleep in the vestibule?”

My husband replied, “Not exactly. I got him to come into the tent for a while. And then he went and sat on the lawn furniture by the back door and stared back at me.”

We’re calling the experience a success because Rex slept mostly near the tent or inside of it. And he didn’t pee on it.

We decided to work on Rex sleeping in the vestibule (aka front porch) at a later date.

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Getting Started

I am about to embark on the craziest journey ever.  Oh, but not just one!  I’ve committed to two journeys in the next year.  The first is an epic backpack trip of 100 miles in Newfoundland.  The second is another epic backpack trip along the Lost Coast of California.  They are epic and crazy because I don’t like backpacking.  I’m a nervous woman, and my feet…are finicky.  They bruise and blister.  They don’t like shoes.  I absolutely hate the pack!  I hate the sweat, the tears.  Hills.  I hate hills.  Walking with 30 lbs. on my back.  Hate that.  And the food.  Dehydrated powdered meals.  Baggies of nuts.  Bleh.  Sleeping in the dirt?  Not a fan.  There are so many, many reasons.  But the main issue is the bathroom.  There are no toilets on a backpack trip.  Just let that one sit with you for a moment.  I’m not complaining about lack of flush toilets.  I’m talking about no toilets. Once you fully digest the lack of toilet, then not having a shower will seem like a breeze.

Collapsed after an 8-mile backpack trip on Catalina Island. 100-Mile backpack trip? Easy-peasy. Not!

Collapsed after an 8-mile day backpacking on Catalina Island. 100 miles should be easy-peasy.

So why go at all?  If I’m going to whine about everything and hate everything.  Why go?

Because.  Backpacking is also exhilarating in a way that can’t be expressed until I’ve finished a trip.  I get to see places beautiful beyond words.  Backpacking is about making goals and reaching them. There is no choice.  Once I’m out there, I gotta get back to the car!  I’m always amazed at what I am able to accomplish when it’s all over.  I may be tired and stinky, but as I walk back to my ride, I’m celebrating, cheering on the inside.  And, did you know?  Weight loss and fitness are natural byproducts of backpacking.  Bonus!  Overcoming the minor discomforts of backpacking allows me to put everyday life into perspective.  It’s an emotional cleanse.  I feel like I can do anything.  That’s the thing about backpacking.  It teaches me how to go through difficult times and come out of the woods with grace and dignity.

And that’s why I love backpacking.

Follow me as I chronicle the training and preparation for these journeys, and a few others I take along the way.  You can laugh with me as I attempt to appreciate the beauty of being in nature while wearing a backpack.  And laugh with me some more as I attempt to push harder, go longer in a training session.  Maybe you’ll see me as goofy.  Maybe you’ll see the courage it takes to get up and go try something new, something difficult I’d never imagined doing before.  Either way, let’s laugh.  The Universe is a jokester.  Let’s see what She has in store for me.  Because the truth is I am a slightly overweight, moderately unfit, forty-something year old woman who enjoys clean sheets and hot showers, loves red wine and chocolate cake, and quietly reading in a comfy chair, a stream of sunshine lighting the page, with modern-day bathroom facilities nearby.  This whole 100-mile journey thing ought to be good.

The hardest part of anything is getting started.  Here we go!

After hiking all the way up here, you know I’m going to drink some wine later!