Monday, August 4, 2014

Nebraska Star Party: Primitive Camping, Part 1

Let's be clear here.  I am not like Bear Grylls of the TV show "Man vs. Wild," who enjoys being dropped out of a helicopter in a remote region of the world to survive for a week on parts from an abandoned dog sled, a piece of parachute cord and six roasted grasshoppers. While not high maintenance, I do appreciate running water and flushing toilets.  And hot tea in the morning. And a cold wedge of watermelon on a hot summer evening.

But I also relish being fully present when the opportunity presents itself.

Folks who attend the Nebraska Star Party are provided a long list of lodging options ranging from the EconoLodge in Valentine, to a ranch-hosted bed and breakfast. And from air conditioned cabins at the entrance to the park to primitive campgrounds right next to the observation field.  

But preservation of the dark sky and your optimal night vision is of utmost importance to the NSP devotees, and one whole page of our information packet was devoted to preserving the dark skies while at NSP.  
Which means there are a lot of rules about where and when you can drive. Or even use a flashlight (which of course should be shielded with a red filter, or red tape you just happen to discover in your car emergency kit you got when you opened a checking account at West Gate Bank 12 years ago and have been hauling around ever since, even though every single screwdriver that is supposed to be in it to use to help adjust your telescope is mysteriously gone when you open it at the camp site.)   

So, being an anxious, first-born natural rule follower, I of course chose the option most likely to help keep me from unintentionally breaking the light rules, and to be in the middle of the action. Because the Star Partying doesn't even kick off until after "astronomical twilight" fades around 10:30 pm.  Past my usual bed time. 

Enter primitive camping.

Thankfully, I had practiced setting up my rented tent in our back yard the morning before I left for camp.  Which took me 5 minutes.  Easy peasy. Even with no instructions included. So I knew it would be simple, and that I could do it.
Every time I walked anywhere on the grounds,
I had to dig these off the bottom of my shoe.

And then I arrived at my beautiful, flat tent-pitching spot, stepped out of the Rogue and felt a sharp pinch on my right foot.  Without glancing down, I knew I either had stepped into cockle burrs or stick tights thanks to my extensive knowledge of Nebraska grasslands.  Wrong-O!  I looked down and saw this. Well, well! Prickly pear cactus!  Who knew?!  And they were hiding under the grass everywhere.  

But what's a few cactus thorns?  I had a tent to put up.
They even clung to my metal wheel well.

Unfortunately, I had been so distracted by the continual pinch of the thorns, I didn't notice until I unrolled the tent that the wind was blowing about 30 miles an hour.  It wasn't windy when I popped that baby up in the backyard the morning before.  So pleased with my tent assembly skills, was I that morning.  But... today was a new day.

As soon as I unrolled it from the bag, parts of the tent starting blowing away. Not even the cactus thorns could snag them. So I ran among the cacti, gathering up the parts, then weighted them down with the bag of tent poles, a rusty hammer and my two gallons of drinking water, while I regrouped.  (This is the point where you realize you are camping alone, and there is no Kevin there to look patiently at you and suggest you just go sit in a lawn chair, relax and enjoy the beautiful view of the lake while he gets the camp ready.)

So, I did what anyone would do in that situation. I cussed a blue streak. JK! (Just kidding.) I am not a swearer, despite coming desperately close on that windblown, cactus-filled, desert grassland last week. So, some of the choices that are available to us non-swearers ran through my head. Cry, pray, or give myself a peptalk topped my list of options.  Crying, while being a very real option, wouldn't have helped. So I said a quick prayer that must have God wishing for longer sentences since he has heard it so much from me:  "Please help me do this."  Then I started talking to myself: "Okay. You are just going to have to calm down here. Take a deep breath. You can do this."

And I did.

And even though it had a obvious lean to the south until those winds died down, and I wondered if the little tabs that I pounded the stakes through would stay attached to the tent or be pulled right off by the gale force wind, my tent was up and ready for occupancy.

And within the next 30 minutes, the wind was totally gone.  The sky was crystal clear. And my tent literally glowed in the sunset.

And I probably did too. 

Up next: Primitive Camping Part 2.  To keep from breaking all blog post length rules known to man, the food, beverage and pit toilet post will have to wait until tomorrow.


  1. Love it! And P.S. I know nothing of these blog post length rules 😂

  2. I love this. I love your Brave story - and am looking forward to more. I love that you are challenging yourself. I love that I know you. I love you, my friend. Keep being brave!

  3. That photo...a tent as Brave trophy. THOSE CACTUS! Wowzers....