Camping in COVID

On Saturday, my siblings, partners and friends went to Kirby Cove to camp for one night. I haven’t camped in about four years, and never with my siblings or with this group of people so naturally, I was a little anxious about how the experience would be since this was going to be a new surrounding, a new set of people to interact with and new restrictions that would complicate the experience. 

No fire: Because of the recent fires, there was a state mandate that didn’t allow open flames. This meant that we would have to camp with no campfire, which meant no wood, no s’mores, no huddling around the fire with hot chocolate. One of the reasons why so many people are fond of camping in the first place is because of this experience. No fire obviously also meant no cooking and no warmth.

Primitive bathroom: There was no place to shower and the bathroom consisted of a hole in the ground in a very murky, smelly and fly laden public restroom. There was no running water, so campers had to bring their own supply of water and hand soap. 

COVID and physical distancing: California is still experiencing aspects of sheltering in place. While many businesses are opening up, with safety precautions, health officials are still encouraging people to physically distance with face coverings. How would this look while we were camping? Would it be possible to relax in the company of potentially infected people as we spent time together enjoying the outdoors?

Even though we were only camping for one night, we had to consider these implications because they would affect the way we spent the next 24 hours. In the end, we did what many seasoned campers did: make it work. We ate food the didn’t need much preparation like granola bars, crackers, sandwiches and later in the night when we saw other campers lighting fires, we did the same. We ate bowls of ramen and mac and cheese. Someone even brought bags of MREs. My brother managed to make us s’mores to go along with our wine. The weekend wasn’t the most gourmet, and we definitely got our fill of sodium, but the pleasure of eating simply and meaningfully despite the fire restriction made every bite of food more savory and sweet. 

Having decent amenities in a public restroom are ideal, especially when it’s dark, cold and you’re tired. The last thing anyone wants to do is struggle with is the smell and sanitation of the “toilet”. I wish there was an upside to the primitive bathroom at Kirby Cove, but I’m finding it very difficult to write one, let alone think of one. 

The physical distancing was challenging. We were outdoors, in the fresh air, so we definitely felt more relaxed. Although we didn’t hug or sit next to each other closely, the experience still felt intimate. We had the best campsite in the park, and it was very exclusive from the other areas. We had an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and we were away from the noise and heavy foot traffic. We had enough areas for people to retreat for alone time and other places for people to join in a conversation. Again, under other circumstances we probably would have played games, shared drinks, even hugged, but because of the present situation we had to do without what felt natural while camping. Still, we didn’t walk away from Kirby Cove with negative experiences; in fact, we’re already planning the next trip. Bathrooms and fires or not, we’ll be ready for whatever comes. 

We know there are more experienced campers who thrive and manage off much less conditions, and while I playfully referred to us a seasoned, we obviously are not, not even close. But for a day, eating out of bags of dry food, squatting with hungry buzzing flies and sleeping out doors with the private view of the most beautiful landmarks of mother nature, we surely felt seasoned.

4 thoughts on “Camping in COVID

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