Last weekend, I noticed a tent go up in the backyard at one of the neighbours’. Backyard camping is always the best for lots of reasons. Carrying the tent and sleeping bags 50 feet from the basement doesn’t give anyone a chance to ask, “Are we there yet?”
In the light of the day with no shadows, evidence of ghosts or any sign of nocturnal critters, the kids want the tent as far away from the house as possible. No sense camping out if you can see your bedroom window.
Mom and Dad want the tent in a spot that can be seen from the kitchen window or the deck. It’s not exactly a guard tower, but the premise is the same, they want to know what is going on at all times.
Once the sleeping bags and air mattresses are in place and the comic books, flashlights and stuffed animals are brought in, it looks like home away from home. The excitement builds as the evening approaches. The kids strategize about who will sleep where and plot schemes to stay awake all night.
But the campsite is ready. No 300 km drive in heavy traffic, no noisy camping neighbours and all the amenities of home.
The bathroom for instance. Being able to walk from the tent to a hot shower and flush toilet is pretty darn good. I want you all to close your eyes for a second and let your olfactory senses take you into one of those campsite outhouses. Paper on the floor, wet toilet seats, gagging odours and bugs all around.
During the day, the biggest flies buzz constantly around your head and in the dark of the night they give way to the hungriest mosquitoes, who know just exactly how vulnerable you are and how difficult it is to pee, hold a flash light and swat at the same time. Brushing teeth in your own bathroom should never be taken for granted.
Once the bathroom chores are done, it’s time to settle in the tent. Now, in the dark, under the shadows of the tall trees, the kids notice how far away from the house they have put the tent. Barking dogs two blocks away sound like wolves in their own backyard. Birds taking off though the trees must be vampire bats and the squirrel running along the fence is surely a cougar if not a bear. Is this even the same backyard?
Eventually the question is asked, “Dad, are you going to sleep out here with us tonight?”
The proximity of the kitchen is great too. Once the kids have dozed off after pleading then threatening, you can sneak into the house, turn on the electric lights and make a cup of coffee. After all, even if the kids do fall asleep, Mom and Dad will keep one ear pointed to the backyard in case of emergencies. It is usually a long night.
About three in the morning when the evening has finally cooled down, it’s not uncommon to hear small footsteps on the stairs and find a couple of backyard campers, holding their Teddies, wrapped in blankets and head for their bedrooms. “It got too cold, Mom.”
But the next day bigger plans are hatched for the night to come. After all, cougars in your campsite is something to brag about. At least that’s what McGregor says