Bears, bugs and gross showers: Joys of camping elude her Leave a comment

Sherry Kuehl’s husband, Kliff Kuehl, took this photo while his wife was running in the opposite direction. Bears, she says, are only one reason she dislikes camping.

Sherry Kuehl’s husband, Kliff Kuehl, took this photo while his wife was running in the opposite direction. Bears, she says, are only one reason she dislikes camping.

Courtesy photo

Something alarming has happened to me. I have discovered that my husband has been somewhat secretive about a new desire. Honestly, maybe it’s not a new desire but it’s something he knows will freak me out, and the fact that I discovered evidence of him plotting to perhaps embrace this craving has me feeling extremely unsettled.

I uncovered his plans while, of course, cleaning the house. There I was tidying up when I found a collection of books, Wall Street Journal articles, and magazines about . . . camping.


I entered my marriage with the solid vow that I would never ever have to go camping. It’s not like I haven’t given camping a chance. I have and it has left me with some serious issues and what I’m sure is a cache of repressed memories.

It all started when I attended a summer camp in Massachusetts at the tender age of 8. It was like I was in a science fiction movie where insects, arachnids, snakes and other assorted things that slither and creep were attacking all the two-legged mammals.

The ticks were so bad that every evening all the campers had to sit crisscross applesauce in a straight line and pick ticks off the person in front of them. We would then put the ticks in a container that would be thrown into the bonfire. The camper with the highest tick count would get an extra s’more.

Are you still with me? Because I’m feeling a little woozy just having to recount that. I endured that for three days until I faked a medical emergency so my parents would have to come and get me.

As soon as I got in my parents’ car, I told my dad (an undiagnosed germophobe) about the nightly festival of “tick n’ pick.” He had to pull the car off to the side of the road until he could regain his composure enough to continue driving. For the rest of his life he would randomly apologize for allowing me to go to that camp.

My next camping fail was in Texas where I experienced the misery of having to shower in shoes as brown river water trickled out of the nozzle. To this day if my flip-flops get wet and go squish, I freak out a little. On a positive note: The excruciating night sweats I experienced from sleeping in an un-air-conditioned cabin so vile that it probably violated U.S. Department of Health protocols prepared me for menopause.

As an adult, well-meaning friends have tried to lure back into going camping, especially when we lived near Lake Tahoe. It seemed everyone loved to spend an entire day packing their car, Tetris puzzle style, with all their gear. Then they spent a half day setting up their mountain campsite, resulting in an area that resembled an REI store.

My issue with mountain camping is three-fold. One, no plumbing (solid deal breaker). Two, bears: lots and lots of 300-to-600-pound black bears. Three, park predators. According to all the true crime podcasts I listen to, camping is like sharing a sleeping bag with a serial killer. Why wouldn’t I just stay at the Lake Tahoe Hyatt so I could live to see the next day? Also, I’m sure it probably cost less than all that camping gear.

When I confronted my husband about his camping stash he laughed. Apparently, his “research” is for some possible father/son camping. Umm, OK. But I told him he needs to know that he’ll be showering in shoes, possibly sharing a campsite with a murderer and I’m sure there’s a bear out there that’s going to take a hearty liking to him.

Reach Sherry Kuehl at, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs on Instagram, and

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