When I arrived at the campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore last week to windy, cold weather, I was elated. Sure, it was not exactly camp-worthy conditions, but I was pretty sure that meant I’d have pretty much the whole place to myself. And, much to my delight, I did.
Last summer the majority of my solo camping trips were spent in busy state campgrounds packed full of families and couples. All my actions, whether it was cooking hot dogs on an open fire or wrestling with the rain fly of my tent, were done to the background music of screaming children, barking dogs, blaring Steve Miller Band songs, Nascar-ing car radios, fighting couples and, ahem, making up couples, (ifyouknowwhatImean).
While my Instagram photos might have made me look at peace with nature and one with solitude, I was usually on the verge of wanting to KILL ALL THE PEOPLE BECAUSE DID YOU REALLY COME ALL THE WAY OUT TO THE WOODS TO LISTEN TO NASCAR? REALLY??? DID YOU NOW???
As I parked and put up my tent, I reveled in the silence. Finally, I would be able to camp and enjoy the outdoors instead of just wanting to be indoors away from all the people I wanted to kill.
And then I made the mistake of reading the informational handout for the campsite. There underneath the notices about quiet hours and generator use was this:
ACTIVE BEAR AREA??
In ALL CAPS???
So, surely, they meant business.
Suddenly, I missed having camping neighbors. Especially camping neighbors with lots of small children. Sure, having children running around your campsite screaming at all hours of the day can be annoying, especially when all you want is a little PEACE AND QUIET SOHELPMEGOD. But, on the plus side, children are snack-sized and usually covered in ketchup or chocolate. I’m no bear expert, but I’m pretty sure bears would prefer that over an overweight, forty-year old spinster slathered in OFF! Deep Woods and Oil of Olay anti-wrinkle night cream.
At the deserted Sleeping Bear Dunes campground, my only competition for the bears’ attentions was an elderly couple in a bulky RV a good six sites away. Their RV looked totally bear-proof. My new light-weight tent, on the other hand, looked like a dainty, delicious crepe wrapped around a tasty, meaty filling (aka ME).
As I went to sleep that night, bundled up in two sleeping bags and no less than six layers, I tried to push the ACTIVE BEAR AREA warning out of my head. But this is hard to do when there’s wind whipping around your tent and OMIGOD, WHAT’S THAT NOISE?? IS THAT A BEAR?? OMIGOD, IT’S A BEAR!!! I’M GOING TO DIE!!!
I lasted about two sleepless hours before I called it quits and dragged myself and my two sleeping bags to the backseat of my car. I spent the rest of the night battling seat belt buckles and trying to figure out where to put my legs. It was not comfortable, but it was warmer, quieter and, I reasoned, my car was a lot less dainty and crepe-like than my tent.
The next day, the sun came out and the wind died away. A lot more campers showed up at the campground, including a couple who pulled up to the site next to mine. As I listened to them bickering over how to set up their tent, I breathed a sigh of relief. They sounded absolutely delicious.
Have you ever camped in an ACTIVE BEAR AREA? What did you do to prevent yourself from being eaten by bears? I am serious. I want to know.