I hate to come off as an outdoor snob, but on my trip, what many people describe as “camping” is pulling some giant metal box into a parking lot, unrolling the satellite dish, and sleeping inside. At the campground at Glacier National park, a giant ‘bago rolled in, the lights went on, and no one ever went outside.

This is not Camping, this is Kamping.

Now, before you start criticizing me, let me start first. I have camped (or kamped) out maybe 15 nights, and most of them have been in developed campgrounds. For me, it is convenience, as I am on a Mad Dash. Maybe consider this a cheap hotel.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Every night here I have slept out in my tent, on the ground (or on my inflated pad on the ground). Camping you ought to be on the ground, you ought to have to fetch water…

Yet, I would say I am not camping- this is some of the experience I want going forward (again). My favorite experiences outdoors were sleeping out in the desert in the Superstition Wilderness area in January, when the dry little sandy creeks were filled with dancing water, when I could venture out without even a tent, and sleep out under the stars. There is little more fulfilling than being mobile on your feet and self contained.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

It’s not happening on this trip because that’s not the designed mode, but I have it my mind for future trips.

And this ranting gets me back to looking in my dog-eared copy of Desert Solitaire.

Not this ;-)

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Abbey is full on intense about Industrial Tourism:

There will be other readers, I hope, who share my basic assumption that wilderness is a necessary part of civilization and that it is the primary responsibility of the national park system to preserve intact and undiminished what little still remains…

Industrial Tourism is a threat to the national parks. But the chief victims of the system are the motorized tourists. They are being robbed and robbing themselves. So long as they are unwilling to crawl out of their cars they will not discover the treasures of the national parks and will never escape the stress and turmoil of the urban-suburban complexes which they had hoped, presumably to leave behind for a while.

How to pry the tourists out of their automobiles, out of their back-breaking upholstered mechanized wheelchairs and onto their feet, onto the strange warmth and solidity of Mother Earth again?

Abbey outlines his plans for how to go about this- no cars in national parks, no more new roads in parks, etc. Radical. Not done.

I saw this in Wyoming. Grand Teton National Park is designed for Drive Through Tourism. I had stopped for this view, taking time to have lunch on the tail fo my truck. being there.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I watched car after car pull into the lot, and spend 2 minutes there. I literally watched one pull up, the engine statyed running, the windows rolled up. The window went down a crack, a hand held a camera out, pressed a button, and then rolled back up. The car took off.

If that is the experience people want? oh well.

I don’t.

Abbey’s chapter had started with seeing a survey crew roll into the undeveloped Arches National Park he was a ranger at in the 1960s. It closes:

The air grew cool, I put on boots and shirt, stuffed some cheese and raisins in my pocket, and went for a walk. The moon was high enough to cast a good light when I reached the place where the gray jeep had first come into view. I could see the tracks of its wheels quite plainly in the sand and the route was well marked, not only by tracks, but by the survey stakes planted in the ground at regular fifty-foot intervals and by the streamers of plastic ribbon tied to the brush and trees.

Teamwork, that’s what made America what it is today. Teamwork and initiative. The survey had done their job; I would do mine. For about five miles I followed the course of their survey back towards headquarters, and as I went I pulled up each wooden stake and threw it away, and cut all of the bright ribbons from the bushes and hid them under a rock. A futile effort, in the long run, but it made me feel good. Then I went home to the trailer, taking a shortcut over the bluffs.

One more stinger from the Chief Desert Rat:

In these hours and days of dual solitude on the river we hope to discover something quite different, to renew our affection for ourselves and the human kind in general by a temporary, legal separation from the mass…

Cutting the bloody cord, that’s what we feel, the delirious exhilaration of independence, a rebirth backward in time and into primeval liberty, into freedom in the most simple, literal, primitive meaning of the word, the only meaning that counts.

These are among my next goals. Getting back to the passion I felt in 1989 when I read these words by campfire in the Owens Valley.

Don’t be Kamping, be camping.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. What great memories you stirred up! We took this year’s trip at a much slower pace and decided we wanted to enjoy the moments and the scenery and enjoy life more than just enjoy getting to the next destination. What a difference it made!

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