LANDERS: Camping? No thanks

LANDERS: Camping? No thanks

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We’ve all been there. A friend or a group of friend approaches us and says, “We are going camping, you should come with.”

Despite what you hear and see on the news, there are really two types of people in this world: campers and non-campers. I am firmly in the non-camper group.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the outdoors and have a tremendous appreciation for nature and animals. However, I just chose not to sleep in nature with the only thing protecting me from wind, rain, dirt, snakes, ticks, and dangerous animals is a piece of nylon half the thickness of a tissue.

Pending where one would camp, there are some serious dangers that exists in the presence of animals who don’t particularly like you. Moose, bear, wolves, etc.

I can’t blame them. You wouldn’t like if you woke up one morning to find a guy or girl wearing cargo shorts and flannel trying to start a fire in your living room either.

People who go camping are a different breed. They have some sort of genetic mutation that causes them to wake up one day and feel the need to abandon things like electricity, heat, central air, and the all-important indoor toilet. Campers will say that they are trying to, “be one with nature,” but all too often nature doesn’t want them around at all.

Case in point, a guy camping on the Appalachian Trail posted a video to YouTube of a skunk who broke into his tent, tried to steal his backpack full of food, and then bit him. This is exactly the type of thing that doesn’t happen when one sleeps in a structure with four walls and a roof over their heads.

Never in my 49 years have I had to fight off a skunk who broke into my home and tried to steal my food. The closest thing to it was when my older sisters would try to eat all the ice cream in the house when I was younger. They never bit me, but my three older sisters did emit some strange odors in their teenage years.

Beaver attacks are also something to watch out for while camping. There is at least one documented case of a beaver biting a man in his leg, severing his artery and killing him. Another beaver attack was reported out of New York when a Boy Scout troop leader was attacked by an alleged rabid beaver.

The troop leader was swimming when the beaver sunk its teeth into the man’s chest and wouldn’t let go. In the fight, the man eventually pulled the beaver off but not before being bit on the hand, arm, leg, and buttocks.

The beaver was, and I am not making this up, stoned to death by the boy scout troop that rallied to their leader’s aid by hurling rocks at the swimming killer rodent. Luckily, the troop leader recovered from his injuries and all the boys in the troop were signed by the Yankees to five-year contracts.

A friend of mine told me of a story of a guy who was attacked by a Grizzly Bear, not just once but twice on two different outings. If I was attacked once by a bear while camping, I would start looking for a new hobby that didn’t involve the risk of being smelled, seen, chased, or eaten by a bear. Should I be attacked by a bear a second time, I would start looking for a new continent to live on.

I also don’t particularly like the advice you are given if you are confronted by a bear. You are supposed to either play dead, or act loud and crazy, pending if it is a Black Bear or Grizzly Bear. These seem more like the characteristics of our Presidential candidates than good defense plans for bears.

Another risk of camping is the assortment of insects that live to either sting you, kill you, or feed on your decaying body in the woods. Wisconsin is home to the aptly named assassin bug. The assassin bug kills its prey by stabbing it to death. It apparently doesn’t know its own size either because it has been known to stab people. Imagine a bunch of little Jason Vorhees bugs trying to stab you to death as you are trying to eat your protein bar at the campfire.

If camping wasn’t bad enough to be the target of biting skunks, killer beavers, bears with a vengeance, and serial killer bugs, even the plants don’t want you around. Here in Wisconsin, poison oak, ivy, and sumac, are the least of your worries. Cow parsnip has a chemical that is activated by sunlight once it’s on your skin, causing open sores and burning blisters. Stinging nettle also has serrated edges that acts like a syringe to inject its poison into your skin like a James Bond villain. Not to mention, campers face a serious risk of trees and large branches falling on them during breezy days or storms.

At this point, I think Mother Nature is trying to make is abundantly clear that you aren’t welcome in her woods for an extended period of time. Perhaps campers are immune to the dangers, or at least naive to the possibility of being bitten in the chest by a beaver while trying to play dead against a charging bear that smelled your open sores from the poisonous plant you touched.

Either way, the next time someone invites you to go camping, realize these people are not your friends. Kindly thank them, and go back to the comfort of knowing that your surroundings are not trying to kill you. Seriously, when was the last time a remote control bit anyone?

Brian Landers is a former Dells mayor and writes a weekly column for the Events. You can reach him at brianlanders@charter.net.

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