Camping still has dangers, despite Kansas being bear-less

Andrew Roland

In some respects, college is very similar to camping; the amount of benefit gained is related to the effort put forth. Some campers park R.V.s at a site with water and electricity, while others sit in a tent through 30 mph wind gusts and hail. Sure, one way or another both types of campers have had fun, but only one has gained from nature’s little lessons. Like learning not to eat the cafeteria coleslaw, lessons are only gained from camping when one is exposed to the elements.

Don’t pitch a tent in the dark

In the dog days of summer, many a camper is tempted to show up at their campsite late in the day to avoid as much heat as possible. Unfortunately, this often results in the hapless camper struggling through tent deployment with a flashlight in one hand, tent pegs in one’s mouth, a hammer in the other hand, and sometimes a beer balanced somewhere as well.

Nonetheless, tent setup is possible, if awkward. As one graduates through various contortions and incantations, the tent will manage to largely erect itself. This can be problematic, as tents love to find sticks and stones with which to torture their residents. The cover of night can hide much more than the wayward rock, I’ve learned. After a recent experience at a local reservoir, I find it advisable to make a quick survey of the local animal poo situation prior to pitching tent. Obviously, you don’t want to sleep in a pile of manure, but that is not how this story ends. As I pulled into my campsite and began unloading my supplies, the sun moved steadily lower in the sky, and despite my best efforts, I wound up doing most of my work in the dark. As I moved about the campsite I found myself clearing away a prodigious number of goose (ahem) … pellets. I kicked them away from my tent and fire, and thought nothing else of the affair… until I was awakened in the early hours of the morning by the honking and pecking of the flock of geese whom I’m sure were not happy to find a camper in the middle of their feeding ground. F.Y.I., cursing at geese as they nibble on your tent does not make them go away.

Bring a big cooler

I think everyone knows not to depend on his or her fishing skills for sustenance on a camping trip. Plus, your chances of catching chips and a six-pack of your favorite beverage are pretty low in local waters. In any case, the thoughtful camper must take adequate precautions with their precious food supply.

The problem with camping in the Midwest is that we don’t have bears, so people get careless with food. When you aren’t worried about a half-ton grizzly snatching your Ho- Hos, you are prone to leaving food in the open. I learned my lesson in Oklahoma, from another fierce predator: a hungry snapping turtle.

I was fishing with a friend in the early morning when he reeled in a dinner-bound catfish. It weighed probably 5 pounds, but was just big enough that it wouldn’t fit into our cooler. We decided to leave the fish on our stringer until we were ready to cook.

As the morning wound on, we occasionally pulled the fish from the waters to display our catch. Word spread throughout our camp that we were going to have fried catfish for lunch, and anticipation was high. We set up our cook site, and were ready to start frying the fish as it was cleaned. I walked over to the lake and started to pull the stringer from the water. There was very little resistance on the line. When I reached the end of the stringer, all that was left was a catfish head and a very satisfied looking snapping turtle on a nearby rock.

Camping is a great way to have fun, but watch where you step, geese are meaner than they look and bears and your friends aren’t the only woodland creatures that will eat your food.