Princess: Getting caught with your pants down | AspenTimes.com

Princess: Getting caught with your pants down

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

The other day I told Ryan I wanted to go camping.

He blinked at me a few times, kind of like a baby chick trying to pry its eyes open and bring the world into sharper focus.

“Really?” he asked.

I nodded.

He grabbed his Kindle and was immediately on Amazon, buying cooking utensils and a camping stove, his sock-covered feet excitedly twitching as he shopped. He has really cute feet — they’re square-shaped, like little bricks.

Anyhoo, this was a highly unusual request. I know admitting you are not that into camping is like saying you don’t like animals or babies, but it’s just never been my favorite thing. That’s not to say I haven’t done it, because I have, many times. It’s just that to be honest, I prefer a room with a view (and a bathroom, and running water, and comfortable, crisp cotton sheets, and a down-filled duvet and temperature control). I’m happy spending all the livelong day in the backcountry but prefer to return to civilization for a meal, preferably served to me by a waitress, and a good night’s sleep.

My aversion to camping is probably because I was traumatized after a 30-day wilderness course with the National Outdoor Leadership School in the Wind River Range of Wyoming that was supposed to teach me how to thrive in the outdoors, but it had kind of a reverse effect.

The first mistake I made was renting all the gear I needed from the school, because my idiot boyfriend thought that made more sense than buying everything. In the end I would have spent a million dollars for better gear. My rented boots never fit right and caused blisters within the first 20 minutes on the trail, and my heels never callused. They just kept blistering, bleeding and peeling. To this day, I think of blisters as the “major-minor injury” because it amazes me how much pain can be caused by such a simple little flesh wound. My sleeping bag was short and tight, so it was more like a garment than something to sleep under. We were issued flies instead of tents because they’re lighter, and I guess that was fine until ours shredded in a windstorm and we had to sleep with another group in a space so tight we were like little worms squirming around in a hole.

The one thing I learned from the National Outdoor Leadership School is that I am a horrible leader. Everyone in my group hated me because I was the slowest one. It was the first time in my life I was unpopular and could not use my wit or personality to change it.

I also learned I am a horrible map-reader. Whenever it was my turn to navigate, I led the group to every 39-foot cliff in Wyoming, so then we would have to backtrack and it would take us twice as long to get where we were going, which was pretty much in circles.

Our packs were miserably heavy and the mosquitoes plagued us the entire trip, so if you even had one finger that wasn’t covered in nylon, it would be swollen within seconds from these little airborne blood-sucking monsters. Then we had a bear come into our camp to demonstrate how ineffective our “bear hang” was because he managed to tear it down and get into our food anyway. And that was the most comforting part about having a bear track us over the course of four days.

The highlight of the trip came when I had to go to the bathroom due to what we referred to as “the 30-second warning” on account of the high-fiber foods we were eating. Were in the middle of some kind of class, probably learning about wilderness first aid wherein they taught us that you’re pretty much screwed if you get seriously hurt in the backcountry. So I took off into the woods to squat behind a tree, and just as I pulled my pants down, this bolt of lightening struck about 5 feet from me.

The blow was so great it knocked me off my feet. What I didn’t realize was I was standing on top of a ravine, but it was behind me. I fell backward and tumbled down this steep hill with my pants around my ankles, just in case I didn’t feel like I’d been spanked hard enough already. It was for sure one of the most humiliating moments of my life.

The ironic part is I made it through the whole course. I spent 30 days in the backcountry without a shower, running water or plumbing, and I walked more than 100 miles. I learned how to cook some pretty amazing food with just a pan and a flame and even enjoyed fresh food like trout and edible greens. I was one of the only people in my group who didn’t get giardia (probably because I developed temporary OCD and washed my hands, like, every two minutes) and definitely was the only person in my group who wasn’t emaciated and stick-thin by the end of the trip. (Thanks to my Russian Jewish ancestors, I could probably survive for years on just water.)

But in the end, I decided I really didn’t like camping.

The thing is, I told Ryan I feel a sudden and overwhelming urge to get out from these four walls, from television sets, computers and smartphones. I don’t want to eat dinner at the coffee table and then watch TV for three hours and then lie in bed and read celebrity gossip on my E! app before putting on my headphones and listening to an audiobook until I fall asleep. I want to watch the sunset, sit around a campfire, gaze at the stars and fall asleep to the sounds of nature.

Let’s just hope this time, I don’t get caught with my pants down.

The Princess is going through an anti-technology phase. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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