Well, we had our first camping trip in our new little covered wagon (tent trailer) out on the prairie at Ute Lake this past weekend. Mistakes were made. I'm not ready to talk about how the fishing gear got packed and the fishing licenses got left behind. I don't really care to discuss what it's like to set up a tent trailer for the first time in the dark. I'll probably never tell you what happened when my emergency porta-potty (an empty yogurt container) sprung a leak. I'm also not ready to chat about trying to make coffee on a Saturday morning when you haven't had anything to eat the previous night because you were too tired from setting up the trailer and you discover that the "full" propane tank isn't.
On the other hand, I can't even begin to describe the night sky out there, where sky is mostly what there is. We watched the stars and moon come out (okay, they already came out while we were involved in our monumental struggles with the camper door once it was too dark to read the manual). We watched falling stars and the Milky Way, while in another part of the sky the lightning danced around in a faraway storm. Our wonderful campground host lent us a full propane tank ("that fella in town that fills 'em is only there between 7:30 and 8:00 on alternate mornings and you just missed him") and refused to take any payment at the end of the weekend. I learned to cook full meals without sideboards. It's easy, you just put the plate of bacon over on the bed while you use the big pan on the tiny burner to cook the eggs. We had steaks cooked over a wood fire. We slept with the prairie breezes blowing through our hair, secure in the knowledge that any snakes out doing some nocturnal exploration were probably unable to climb up and join us. We got to listen to Merle Haggard, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Creedence Clearwater Revival simultaneously thanks to our neighbors, together with the soundtrack from Rush Hour 17 (or so), compliments of the guy with the dish on his RV.
In the old, pre-arthritis days, we were purist campers. We were backpackers with serious boots and lightweight tents and infinitely thin foam mattresses. We had tiny backpacker stoves. We only ate what we carried and we packaged up little servings of oatmeal and trail mix. We were strong and we knew how to do camping the right way. Now we drink beer and sit in lawn chairs getting cricks in our necks looking up at the night sky, while marveling at the way that country music and vintage rock can start to blend quite nicely after a bit.
We were too busy with our camping experience to take any photos, although I had carefully packed extra batteries for the camera this time. I've asked the nice folks at the New Mexico State Police web site for permission to use one of their pictures of Ute Lake. I'll post it here if I hear back from them.