This Thursday I’ll take the ferry to Holyhead to meet an old school friend for three nights of camping and hiking in Snowdonia. I’ve never been in that part of the world before – other than as a child in my parents’ car transiting from one ferry to another ferry – so it’s exciting to discover somewhere new. Our campsite is on a lake next to Mount Snowdow. We could literally hike straight up it from our campsite if we are so inclined.
Despite all the sunny photos on the website, we’re not expecting much of the weather. Wind, cold and a smattering or more of rain await us if The Met app is to be believed. I regularly toggle between the forecasted temperature and the ‘feels like’ setting and all I can say is, ‘Oof!’ I should have been warned by the campsite’s boasts about the underfloor heating in their bathrooms. If worst comes to worst, we might end up sleeping in them.
You’d think I’d know better. I recently camped by Lough Dan with my cub scout troop. I went to sleep at midnight saying to myself, ‘I’m nice and toasty warm’ and woke up an hour later saying, ‘I’m a little bit chilly.’ I ended up wearing three pairs of socks and my winter gloves plus all the other extra layers plus the winter sleeping bag and extra sleeping bag liner inside it. Oof again!
I’m not expecting much from my sleep ove those three nights. Not the most consistent sleeper at the best of times, camping brings out the worst in my nocturnal discombobulation. Night time worries about tent flooding or tent blown away or a cocktail of the two an extra frisson to sleep. A light drizzle sounds like a biblical flood inside a tent. A gentle breeze like a hurricane. And the cold, did I mention the cold? Even with my camping sleep pack – two pairs of cloth eye masks plus ear plugs to keep me asleep alongside headphones and predownloaded music for when I’m awake – I’m going into this trip prepared for the worst and hoping for, well, mediocre.
But, this litany of complaints aside, I can’t wait for it, because camping is all about connection. And I’m ready for a little connection.
It’s about connection with nature. Reconnecting, albeit briefly, with the natural rhythms of the world. Waking up to birdcall. Standing outside late at night and seeing the stars vivid and clear or, if they’re lost behind clouds, just hearing the wind rush through the trees in the darkness. Sitting around a fire pit and watching the embers glow and the flames flicker. Huddling in a tent doorway in the morning as it drizzles outside and sipping a cup of team and not needing to be anywhere else.
It’s about connection with others. Camping can be the grown up equivalent of a kids’ sleepover. Particularly on this trip. Two men have known each other for thirty years will spend three nights in a single, admittedly roomy, tent. Away from the kids and work and the hubbub of busyness, we’ll take up where we left a good few year agos or more ago and catch up on everything we’ve missed in each others lives.
There’s so much to look forward to.
But first, I need to get packing. Which takes forever. Ah well. Oof.
[Post-script: For the first night, we were warm, we were dry and we had a great time. The next morning, after a tasty camp breakfast, the tent was destroyed by the wind. Luckily, the guest house that runs the camp had a spare twin bedroom and we spent the final two nights there and we were warm, we were dry and we had a great time.]