Weekend Wanderer: Panic at the Campground

weekend wanderer

A few years ago, my husband joined an organization whose mission is public land protection. 

In short order, he joined the Pennsylvania chapter’s board. 

He asked for my blessing before doing so. Joining the board meant I would shoulder more of the workload at home. 

How could I say no? It’s a great cause, for sure. And he’s home just so much when there’s nothing to hunt. How can I finish Suits with him around all the time? 

Also, he leaves drawers open. I don’t get it. They’re super easy to close. 

So go, I said. Join that board.  

And oh man, did he ever join that board. I probably should have been more tolerant of the open drawers because, well, I don’t see him long enough for the drawers to open. 

If you know what I mean. 

And the travel! New York, Idaho, Montana, Harrisburg. He leaves for days, sometimes a week. 

He must be more tolerant of my idiosyncrasies than I am of his because he invites me to travel with him. 

Or maybe he just likes my open drawers. 

Why wouldn’t I go? My husband is off doing his little board things, yielding me plenty of time for Suits. The organization’s events are usually held at breweries. And I have loads in common with a group devoted to public lands. 

That last part is sarcasm. I don’t have loads in common with a group devoted to public lands. Recently one of their members was swimming in Florida when an alligator swam up to him. 

And he — he took a picture of it. A picture

We all know I’d never swim in any Floridian waters because of alligators. But if an alligator does swim up to me while I’m, say, completing my scuba certification in a Pennsylvania quarry? No. There will be no pictures. 

That being said, this group and I get along famously. They’re the nicest people, all ruddy and jolly from hours in the fresh air. They bear gifts — drink tickets and stickers, beer koozies, and tools with applications beyond my comprehension. 

Huh. They kind of sound like Santa Claus. 

And listen. If Santa Claus joined this crew, he’d blend right in. About 99.9 percent of the group’s men sport beards. 

So I tag along on these trips, find a bathroom that isn’t a portable toilet, and spend a glorious four or five hours with my husband. 

Over, you know, about four or five days. 

This works for us. We don’t fight, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and our shared love of slab bacon brings us together for a few meals. 



But during that unbearable camping trip in the Catskills two summers ago, going our separate ways was disastrous.  

In my mind. It was disastrous in my mind.  

Our campground sat below the brewery that was, of course, hosting the event. The final evening of our stay was apparently the start of New York’s monsoon season.  

The campground filled with puddles and frigid rainwater rivulets. The nearby creek swelled from a shallow, two-foot wide trickle into a, well, slightly less shallow, three-foot wide trickle.  

The public lands group huddled at the brewery, soaked with rain, camaraderie, and microbrews. The grey day sank into night. The rain continued. 

As usual, I left my husband to drink with his people while I slipped off to bed. A cold, wet tent a King of Prussia Mall away from portable toilets is a better bet than a brewery with a bathroom, right? 

That’s more sarcasm. 

I awoke from a sleep made uncomfortable by rain-soaked clothes, boots I hadn’t bothered to remove, and a bladder willing to use the portable toilets my brain had vetoed.  

It was four in the morning. 

I was alone. 

I ran through my husband’s possible locations. Drinking with his buddies at a brewery with indoor plumbing? That was a, if not the most, reasonable explanation. 

I discarded it. 

Had he succumbed to the dry warmth of a trailer? Ridiculous. He’d never leave me alone. 

He’d never leave me alone. 

Oh no. He’d never leave me alone. 

I had just one explanation. 

He was dead. Obviously.  

The story unfolded in my head. He had lost his way wandering through the dark grounds below the brewery, winding up in the creek. At two feet wide and ankle depth, that Mississippi of a stream had carted my husband off like he was Moses in a basket. 

Or that garter snake I crossed earlier in the day got him. 

Either way, he was gone.  

I needed help. 

I went to our neighbor, camping in his truck. But he wasn’t there. 

Oh no! The creek had gotten him, too! 

I’d never find my way to the brewery in the dark and couldn’t risk trying. Unless I wanted to completely orphan my children. 

I couldn’t drive there, either. The patchwork of tents between me and the brewery guaranteed I’d run over someone, expanding the orphan crisis generated by this camping trip. 

All I could do was wait. Wait for daylight. 

It came, gray and dark and rainy, bringing my husband with it. 

“You’re not dead.” I deadpanned.  

“Nah,” he said. “Drinking at the brewery.” I’ll say. He was his own open container of alcohol. 

“Good,” I said, genuinely relieved and happy to see him. “It’s time to go.” Even our donuts were saturated.  

You know, now that I’ve told this story, I have a better understanding of my husband’s absences. Who wants to live with that pretension? 

I should probably go open some drawers. 

If you know what I mean. 

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