FIRST PERSON/Kathryn Joseph – Don’t bother me…I’m crabby

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Whoever coined that was obviously an older woman who spent her first weekend ever “camping.”  
 
It wasn’t such a crazy idea, it was May, there were no bugs yet, and the cause was noble – volunteering for the annual horseshoe crab census count under the full moon in Cape Henlopen, Delaware.  They’ve survived 350 million years; it remained to be seen if I could survive two days.

Rule #1:  Think twice before testing the great outdoors with a buff Nordic companion, no matter how cute he is.  We were travelling in a van – not like a delivery van but a large, plush one, big enough to hold all our supplies and equipment; enough for Army maneuvers, in fact.  I don’t understand why he  seemed genuinely puzzled that all I brought did not fit neatly into a backpack.  I mean, along with all the required gear, a girl needs her pillow, chair, Starbucks, sleeping bag with built-in magnifying mirror and Chanel flip-flops, doesn’t she?

Anyhow, it rained the entire day on the drive up to Delaware.  But, being the perfect party planner, I had called ahead to verify that there were rooms available in Lewes as an alternative to the tent, which to any sane person is not an option when it’s wet.  His alternative: Sleep in the van, of course!  Well, I never even made out in the back seat of a vehicle in high school and I certainly wasn’t about to spend the night in one now. But as we sped right by the B&B’s, with me waving wistfully out of the back window and choking up with grief as they disappeared into the horizon, I realized my fate was sealed.

It was actually pretty cozy after we set it all up – the equipment was in the wet tent, we in the cushy, dry van.  With soft music, the light of the moon through the trees, it was not exactly the Ritz Carlton but I give it a decent Motel 6 by comparison.  It’s all relative, as they say.  I was with a true Viking to whom the great outdoors was second nature; or probably first nature;  To him, a civilized hotel is unworthy, what with all those annoying man-made services like bed linens, hair dryers, and room service.  I felt in safe hands.

That night, we embarked on our first ‘stroll to the beach’ maneuver; this one in the pitch dark, along a wooded trail, with what was surely the rustling of bears in the woods and snakes coiled in the bushes.  We plodded on….and on….and on, my feet killing me, begging to turn back, whining that I was still ‘in training’ or should I say, ‘out of training’ – finally coming to a DO NOT ENTER, SECURE AREA barrier.  Great, now we could go back!  Not!  Like a dutiful girl scout, I stopped, while the warrior leapt over the barricade and disappeard into the black never-neverland, for what seemed like hours.  I lay down and took a much needed rest.  We finally reconnoitered for the trek back, and got lost amongst the giant sand dunes, like Moses in the desert, wandering around, no water, no manna from heaven.  I never thought I’d be so elated to see a campsite.

The next day was another exercise, this time covering the entire length of the magnificent beach, sun blazing, perfect sky, with my ‘You need to get in shape’ sergeant by my side.  (I kept explaining, “Round IS a shape!”, to no avail.)  The horseshoe crabs  had obviously been on just such a forced march and were found dead where they collapsed, unable to make it all the way to the end of the Point.  I wanted to join them.  But I trudged, waddled, and shlepped to the end and back, where Harold the Horrible had jogged ahead in perfect form and settled in for the long wait of my eventual return.

The food was delicious; we had brought lamb steaks which he grilled to perfection.  Tip of the day:  Don’t eat meat on a camping trip if you’re not used to it .  Fortunately the public bathroom was within sprinting distance.  It became my best friend for most of the day.  I decided not to test my stomach with alcohol, so he enjoyed wine with the meal and I guzzled ginger-ale.  Little did I know, that meant I would have to drive the van!  What?  I’m 5’3″; how am I supposed to conduct a locomotive?  My panic reared its ugly head but the choice was made clear: either drive or walk.  (Note to self:  Next time (ha!) just say “Yes Dear”, then shoot him).  Anyway, I finally decided it was preferable to risk our lives with me driving  than try to hoof yet several more miles at night and become roadkill.  I pity the driver behind me as I tried to maneuver that giant tank but we made it to the crab census just fine.  Although there were zero, count ’em (0) zero live, mating horseshoe crabs to count, the event was a success, the lighthouse twinkled and beamed, and we twinkled and beamed back.  And even dead horseshoes are an awe-inspiring sight, like tiny slain knights in shining armor scattered across a battlefield. 

Would I do it again?  Perhaps, but this time, I’d be armed with experience, imodium and relationship-training.  There’s a lot to be said for a taste now and then of the simpler life, where nature rules, and the sight of giant campers skulking silently by their campsite is preferable to the chaos of city living and traffic jams.  Especially if I could sneak a sedative into my treasured companion’s drink
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