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Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Indoor Cat Goes Camping

I may have mentioned it somewhere before, but right after Steve and I got married, I said, “Oh boy! Now I have someone to go camping with!”

To which Steve replied quietly, “I’m an indoor cat.” 

I was crushed.

Fast forward nearly fifteen years later: we just got back from our second camping trip this year.

The first trip was nothing to write home about, save that I would discourage anybody from staying at Bud’s RV in Gearhart, Oregon.  The.Worst.Campground.Ever.  It started with a barely concealed hostility from the help behind the counter. The RV park was right on US 101, so we were treated to the constant sound of traffic which seemed to be largely made up from logging and distribution trucks.  Each of the eleven or so tent sites was right on top of the other with no bushes or any plants to provide privacy. They were also fairly narrow, which made tying down the fly difficult. The worst part was that I kept catching a whiff of sewage the whole time we were there and it took me a shameful three days to finally realize that they had us parked on the septic tank. Needless to say, we left a day early, knowing full well we weren’t going to get a refund (I asked when we checked in; maybe that was what incurred the hostility), and if you knew what a tightwad my husband is, that should say something.

This last weekend couldn’t have been a better 180 from the coast experience. The original plan was to do some dispersed camping (more on that later) with Steve’s sister Susan and her boyfriend. We wound up camping at the Riverside camp ground in the Deschutes National Forest because we could build a fire in the fire ring at the campsite.  There was a burn ban on for the disbursed campsites, and Susan’s boyfriend is an avid dutch oven cook.  As it was, there was plenty of space and cover between campsites, and everybody seemed to respect each other’s privacy and sleep habits.  So the trip was nice and relaxing, and on Sunday, Susan’s boyfriend took us fishing.  That was pretty awesome, because I caught a trout! Which was delicious for breakfast the next morning.

Measure what you have first
But prior to this latest trip, I made myself a grub box.  They are also called chuck boxes or patrol boxes, but I use the term grub box because that’s what my grandfather called his.  His was just a large plywood box with a lid on it (which could have stood in for a coffin, actually).  

The base frame

After looking at a bunch of them on the internets, I decided that I could do better than anything I saw, and I think I succeeded at that.  With the exception of having to buy hardware for it, the whole thing was constructed from lumber I had languishing in the garage. 

Two thirds finished

Getting it together was a little tricky because the plywood warped a little from having been leaning against the wall for so long, but it went together in the end.  I am not the best craftsperson by any means, and it looks a little rough in spots. 

Field test

We field tested it this past weekend and it performed the way that I hoped it would, which was to make camp cooking a whole lot easier. It may not be a fancy-schmancy camper like some people have, but it worked fine for my needs.  The only drawback that it has is that fully loaded, it weighs a metric crapton. I need to work on lightening the load for next time. Gotta think about that one.

Tippy tap
The other thing that proved to be a great addition was the tippy tap, which is something I keep in my bug out box. The first tippy tap was built by Dr. Jim Watt in Zimbabwe using a gourd.  There are plenty of pictures out there of camp hand washing stations, but they usually involve a reused detergent bottle with a large tap that was designed to be laid on its side to dispense the detergent; the problem with these is that you have to touch the tap.  

Foot lever at bottom
What I like about the tippy tap is that it’s foot operated and also that it uses a tiny stream of water to get the job done. Susan and John were so impressed with it they decided that they needed to make themselves one.  You can get the instructions for making one at Because the campground was fairly primitive with only one pit toilet and a nearby hand pump for water, the tippy tap really came in handy, no pun intended.

But back to dispersed camping.  I don’t know how I got to be fifty-six years old and completely ignorant about something so wonderful as dispersed camping.  Anyone can camp pretty much anywhere in the country’s national forests and national grasslands, and on BLM lands.  For free. (Best price ever!)  There are no amenities, and you can’t camp more than fourteen days in the same spot, nor can you camp within 200 feet of any water source, plus you also have to manage your fire responsibly.  You also have to pack everything in, including water, and you have to pack everything out, including used toilet paper. You also have to check with the forest or grassland’s government website to check for local regulations, because they are all different, but all of them adhere to the Leave No Trace principles. It may be a little more rustic than the kind of camping that you’re used to, but what a wonderful way leave society behind and go get immersed in nature.  We are making plans already for going next June before everything dries out and there’s a burn ban posted. I can’t wait! 

Oh, and the indoor cat finally admitted that he enjoys camping. Woohoo!
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