I am not a camper. I make no apologies of this and really haven’t ever felt the need to in my Chicago-life. But I am not in Chicago anymore. I am in the land of tough, rugged, outdoorsy, Scotts. And the general notion that Scotland is the best experienced outside. Which I agree with and I do often. Before we moved here we bought all kinds of hiking crap and waterproof crap and I let my outdoorsy, granola, Subaru driving, alter-ego Heidi step out a little bit. But not long enough to sleep outside.
To be perfectly honest I HAVE camped. There was a lot of what I guess would be considered “glamping” as a youth- girl scout camp and summer sleep away camp in cabins with thin mattresses and some form of latrine. But there were the odd nights at those camps where it was decided to embrace the outdoors and actually sleep in a tent. For one night. For a couple hours. Beyond that, I actually did sleep outside for like 5 days straight in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania without toilet, shower, or any means of cooking other than open fire when I was about 14. But I also rode a horse all day every day during that time and to eb perfectly honest, I’d do most things to hang out on a horse all day. And for the record- I refused to poop those 5 days and maybe peed once a day. Which is funny since now I probably pee outside once a week….oh Scotland.
Anyway. So people camp here a lot. Which I was indifferent to. But then…then Mumford and Sons announced they were bringing their Gentlemen of the Road tour here to Scotland in my favorite part of Scotland- the Cairngorms. And they had a camping package. And months ago when all this was announced Heidi took over and was like, “Great! Mumford and camping in the mountains! Yes!” And before I could argue the tickets and camping pass were purchased. Heidi is way too optimistic and doesn’t think things through like the actual logistics of camping in Scotland.
A couple weeks later a couple we’re friends with told us they were down too. Thank god because who knows what would have went down without them. Actually, maybe they were a curse because I probably would have bailed on the camping part of the weekend and just gone and enjoyed the music. In fact, I’m pretty sure that would have happened without them….A few days before the weekend, Kaitlin and I met to talk about what we were bringing and details. I asked, “What if it rains?” and she answered, “Then it rains.” “But what do we do….where do we sleep then?” She said, “Outside.” Hmmm, I don’t like not having a plan B.
As it so happens, it rained. A lot.
When we got to Aviemore and parked the cars in the drizzling rain, we loaded ourselves up and started on what we didn’t know would be a mile hike to where we would lay our tent in the by then pouring rain. We were one of the last people there as camping had started on Thursday and as we walked through field of muddy field of tents, I grew tired and crabby and decided we would set up camp at the first spot that I think would fit our two tents. I should mention we borrowed the tent from the couple we went with, and sleeping bags, lanterns, coolers, and mats from E’s coworker. And that when we went to enter the actual area, our friends had forgotten their tickets in the car- so E and I went in solo and had to set up a tent we had never seen before solo. Major props because we only had like 5 extra stakes and two extra poles at the end of set-up and our tent didn’t ever fall down. Quite proud of that one.
At one point during set up, a security guard came up to us and said something totally illegible and frankly, it could not be English. Not a chance it was english. He repeated what he said once more to me, and then to E when I could not grab a single comprehendible world that I could understand. He had to be Welsh. Seriously. Are Scotts required to speak welsh? Because it definitely wasn’t english and he didn’t seem to get why I couldn’t understand him. So it must be that Scots are supposed to speak welsh and well, I’m not Scot and it just sounded like gibberish to me. In hindsight….I’m pretty sure he was telling us that we shouldn’t put our tents there as that area was going to flood. Would have been beneficial to have taken welsh in high school….
When we went back to our friends to get their stuff and show them where we were, we also realized the entire cooler full of beer and cider couldn’t make it in since it was all in glass bottles. So Kaitlyn and I began the trek back to the car, dragging a top-heavy cooler with tiny wheels through fields of mud while the boys set up the other tent. It was really pouring at this point. We hung out at the car until the guys came back and then we all loaded up again and began the ever increasingly muddy trek back to the campsite.
We had a lot of stuff. Bags of food, coolers, sleeping bags, mats, tents, cooking supplies. E and I both had our huge bags…they were the same size as the other couple’s but the other couple actually had their tent, mats, and bags INSIDE their backpacks. Our backpacks were as just as full but they only contained clothes. Lots of clothes. And even though my shoulders killed me….I have never been more thankful for being a packrat and bringing all those damn clothes.
At like 10pm we were finally settled, soaked, frozen and hungry. We cooked up some brats and onions on their grill (we provided food, Chris cooked) illegally under the tarp that connected our two tents. We were exhausted and cold. But I had decided since it was so wet and miserable, we needed a tarp and the pillows I had originally forgone in the car. The other couple had laid a tarp down under the tent and we didn’t…but we did have one in the car that had a softer texture on one side, and water proof on the bottom that we could lay at the bottom of our tent. And of course the pillows. Because after more thought, sleeping on wadded up clothes wasn’t going to cut it for me…not in these conditions. I needed every ounce of luxury I had.
E & I made the long haul back to car, all while E complained that I was being high-maintenance. But the walk warmed me up, we were both grateful for pillows, and even more super grateful for that tarp since by morning- the water had soaked through the tarp. I was damp and chilled through. But the sun was shinning and all the hippies were laying everything over barbwire fence to dry while we enjoyed and sunshine and breakfast of cheesy eggs, toast and PB, coffee, and bacon. Our friends had fallen asleep before we made it back with tarp and pillows the night prior and they were elated to find us in our tent when they woke up. Apparently the bet was I was going to stay in the car…but I didn’t! I made it. 24 hours more to go!
We then decided to walk into Aviemore to hang out, have some drinks and eventually eat lunch…where we got caught in a pretty terrible downpour that lasted our time in town and the entire walk back to camp. A little after we arrived at camp the rain stopped and the sun came out. Hippies took off some layers and even a rainbow appeared. And thats when we saw that one of our tent-neighbors (who was much more sensible and intelligent) had decided this was miserable and left…leaving their tent spot open. We decided it was worth it to move our tents to their plot of land.
When E and I moved our tent…this is what was underneath us.
I am not kidding I was sleeping in that puddle. At this point we walked BACK to the cars to grab yet another tarp (since everything was soaked through, water now soaking through our sleeping mats and bags). The sun stayed out just long enough to dry the mats and bags, and we repositioned everything….and I will say, despite more rain and mud, we stayed dry for the night. Had we been wet, I would have went to sleep in a running car because even though I was dry, I wore the following to sleep in on the second night: long johns, sweats, 2 pairs of socks, a t-shirt, a long sleeve, a sweatshirt, a Patagonia fleece, gloves, a stocking cap and my hood was up…all while fully zipped into my sleeping bag, with my pillow, not having any parts of me exposed. It was freaking cold.
Oh and Mumford and Sons were great…though I’d like to see them again not at a festival venue. And unfortunately we didn’t see a lot of the other acts because we were too busy being exhausted and miserable, or changing, or cold, or moving campsite. I have never been covered in so much mud. Thank god for waterproof hiking boots, wellies, and waterproof pants and jackets.
The worst bit about camping was waking up on Sunday morning. As if the last day of any trip isn’t bad enough…on the last day of camping you have to carefully and meticulously pack everything up (even less pleasant when everything is covered in mud) and haul it a mile uphill in the mud back to your car. It pretty much took 3 trips to get everything to our campsite, but we made the decision right away we were going back in one trip. Because we just couldn’t make the journey more than once. Some things were left behind, but it was still a miserable, grueling walk back to the car. Oh, but the sun was out NOW just in time to make us sweat our asses off. It might not have been so bad if we had gotten more than 3 hours of sleep the night before, or if the boys weren’t so hungover, or if Kaitlin wasn’t 6 months preggers (holy hell, if I am half the pregnant woman she is E would think he won the lotto). As it was…it was a death march. Perhaps comparable to my last 2K of my marathon. No…worse.
For once I am overjoyed at the fact I overpacked because when I peeled off a muddy, wet disgusting layer, I just folded it into itself and had something clean and dry to put on. And I always had more layers to add on when sleeping. Had I not been able to do those things, I’m not sure I would have made it. Of course, Aviemore is gorgeous when not raining and the people were all so friendly. But, I am never festival camping again. Never. I don’t even know if I’ll ever try any type of camping again. I can understand the appeal of waking up in the middle of nowhere with some gorgeous scenery…but…
- Scotland is never warm. You will never be able to sleep outside without at least 2 pairs of pants on here.
- I have awful shoulders so would never be able to hike all day, then pitch a tent in totally desolate, remote area. I’d be able to get about a mile away from the car max.
- Pretty sure Stella would hate it.
Maybe my next time camping will be somewhere where I won’t freeze at night. I can see how potentially lovely it’d be to wake up on the beach watching the sunrise over lake Michigan on a warm September morning…but in the states you can’t just pop a tent wherever the hell you’d like. So what are the odds I can in fact camp somewhere that I really want to camp? I won’t totally rule it out…but my next time camping will be sans festival, only be for one night, and will be very dependent on the forecast for the weekend.
And I have to say I feel like a total low-maintance bad ass for surviving two full nights, in miserable weather, without sleep, camping. I didn’t even throw a single temper tantrum! No tears were shed- not one! I mean, I’m practically Bear Grylls.