Instead of doing my long run this weekend, I gave my legs a rest and did something way more fun—I went camping! It was a last-minute trip, booked just a week ahead of time. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the campground, located just outside of La Crosse, Wisconsin, near the Mississippi River, but it turned out to be an awesome weekend retreat.
I haven’t camped in forever, though my fondest childhood memories took place on family camping trips. I loved catching tadpoles with my older sisters and walking to the campground general store to buy black cherry Warheads. Oh, and campfire pies! No kid can forget those. Later I tasted independence during summers at Girl Scout camp, where I stayed up late stargazing and singing around the fire. The words to “A Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe” are forever burned in my brain.
Long story short, I was very excited to sleep in a tent and roast marshmallows again. The whole week of the trip, I bothered my boyfriend/camping buddy almost hourly about things we needed to pack and food I wanted to make. But in the end it paid off because we ate like wilderness royalty (even though we forgot to pack pillows). Here’s my man friend making kebabs over the fire on our first night:
Our campsite was tucked away in a tiny forest of pine trees, and the plentiful pinecones and needles made mean kindling for our fires. The campground on Goose Island was next to the “Mississippi Backwaters,” a series of sloughs and narrow channels perfect for kayaking. So kayak we did! All day Sunday. We paddled past floating fields of lily pads and marveled at bluffs in the distance. For lunch we stopped at this mucky little island below, where we ate PB&J sandwiches, drank beer and played in the river.
And I must say, I was pretty proud of our menu. Though we didn’t have a grill plate, we did have one roasting stick and a little propane stove to make eggs and heat water for coffee—like I was going anywhere without my French press. That shiny camping essential helped us out with the rest. I chopped up potatoes, onions and peppers, wrapped them in foil, and stuck them in the fire to finish off this big, smoky breakfast our first morning.
Even though the mosquitos were out in full force on our second night, and we ended up in the tent playing Egyptian Ratscrew and killing tagalong pests, the trip rekindled my love of camping. It’s cheap! It makes me happy! Why haven’t I been doing this more? Big shout-out to my dad, who recently gave me his old tent. I’ll be escaping on trips like these a lot more often.