Joys of tent camping wear thin with age

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

It was supposed to be a simple outing. Drive over to Texas’ Caprock Canyons State Park near Quitaque, pop up a tent, then mosey on over to “Bob Wills Days” in Turkey. Instead it may have been the last camping trip for me and The Lady of the House. The two of us have enjoyed camping since we were kids. But things have changed over theyears.

Like the trip to Bonita Lake near Ruidoso last year. We were kept awake by a group of fellow campers who brought a very powerful sound system along with them. While the sharp, edgy strains of the heavy metal band Metallica sliced into the pines, the group was chanting the name of one of their fellow campers.

“Rhon-DA! Rhon-DA! Rhon-DA!” their voices echoing from a quarter-mile away.

“What do you suppose Rhonda is doing?” I asked The Lady of the House.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m afraid to ask.”

The next morning the campground’s ranger was passing by. I asked her about the loud campers.

“Those people over there?” she asked, pointing directly where the mysterious Rhonda had inspired the cheering rowdies only a few hours earlier. “We called the sheriff on them the night before. When the deputy showed up they said they weren’t the only ones with loud music. Then they threatened a lawsuit.”

I looked over at the notorious campsite in the daylight. The fire pit was smoldering, cans on the ground glittered in the sun and a woman with disheveled hair was shuffling around the tents. Could shebe the mysterious Rhonda?

Back home after sharing the story of our heavy metal camping trip, we were informed of the new, 21st century camping ethic by The Lady of the House’s son, Justin.

“Yeah, when we go camping we go to raise hell and have a good time,” he said. “That’s what you go out of town for, isn’t it?”

The days of enjoying the aroma of wood smoke, the wind whistling through the pines, the crickets nearby and the hoot of an owl are gone I suppose.

But back to our “Last Camping Trip.” When we got to Caprock Canyons, there was no heavy metal music, just the hum of air conditioners on

RVs. As we set up our tent we were subjected to aerial bombardment by swarms of buffalo gnats. Then after the sun set and we were preparing our dinner, the gnats’ reinforcements arrived, hungry mosquitoes.

The next morning I opened my eyes to find The Lady of the House staring wide-eyed at me.

“What?” I asked.

“I want an RV,” she said. “Bugs, the shower is a quarter-mile away, we have to set up a tent, set up a kitchen,” she said. “I want our own bed, our own bathroom. We’re not going camping again.”

I can’t say I disagree with The Lady of the House. Sleeping on the ground is getting kind of old. And it’s just as much of a drag to deal with dirty camping dishes now as it was when I was a kid in Boy Scouts. Oh, we’ll still venture out into The Great Outdoors, but we’ll be renting a cottage or using a recreational vehicle. As for our tent, we’ll save that for our back yard when we have too many guests in the house.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: