Since camping, and campers, are a major part of my novella, Dead Reckoning, I thought I’d tell the story of my first camping trip. My immediate family is decidedly non-outdoorsy, due to growing up in cities or suburbs, and because of our bad allergies to pollen. Therefore, on our family trips (and there were many—my dad was a geography professor) we often visited outdoor sites, such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Everglades, but we always overnighted in hotels, or if we were feeling rustic, furnished cabins. Since my father had hated his summer camps as a child, there was no pressure to go to these. No scouting trips, either, as I dropped out just before Webelos (off the topic, but can you believe, in this day and age, that they still use this embarrassing name?), and the Cub Scouts didn’t camp.
Well, of course I went into a type of work, field archaeology, that entails working outside every day (yes, despite my faulty immune system—I never said I was smart). On one of these jobs, at the ripe old age of twenty-three, I finally went on my first camping trip. It was a fairly long ride to Big South Fork National Recreation Area (in Tennessee), so we didn’t arrive until after dark, and after a quick meal we got on the drive. Because of this, we decided to forgo a hike, and camp just off one of the roads. We set up our tents (I recall attempting to help, but I doubt I was very useful), and because we were young archaeologists, started drinking heavily. I unfortunately over indulged, and therefore spend most of the night passed out near the campfire (although I did manage to trounce my friends at poker, which doesn’t speak well about their gambling abilities). My designated tent mate probably thought he’d made out well, since he got his tent to himself for most of the night, but it did come at a price; instead of an alarm clock buzzing, he was awakened to the sound of me simultaneously peeing and puking outside the tent.
So technically the next night was my first authentic camping experience. After our hangovers had burned off we spent the day hiking. Which I recommend—Big South Fork was fun and very scenic. My friends made fun of my “backpack”—actually a soft travel bag with a strap—but it ended up working just fine. That night our campsite was a good mile or two into the wooded hills, near a stream. I participated in the more traditional camping activities this time—we cooked our dinner, cleaned up, and hid the remaining food from bears. We learned our lesson from the night before and made it an alcohol-free evening. As such my friend Bruce did have to share his tent, but didn’t have to watch his step while exiting the tent in the morning. It was a fun weekend. Friday night in the college-type, debauchery sort of way, and Saturday in an outdoorsy, actual camping way. I’ve camped a few times since, but I’m still definitely a novice.
Suffice it to say, the Luddite camper characters in my story would definitely be more adept living in the woods than me.
About the Author: I was born and raised in New Jersey, and graduated from Rutgers University. I work as a field archaeologist. When I’m not excavating prehistoric sites or exhuming graves, I enjoy writing, mostly in the horror/thriller/suspense genres. I’ve had short stories published by Bibliophilos, Mausoleum, Mobius, Ragshock, Morbid Curiosity, Generation X National Journal, Cthulhu Sex Magazine, Aoife’s Kiss, and Conceit. Dead Reckoning is my first published ebook. A second,“Kaishaku, is due out in late August, 2012, also with Musa Publishing. http://paulstansfield.blogspot.com/.
Kurt Minnifield is a fledging actor playing a zombie in a low budget horror movie. The director and crew decide to move their shooting to lovely and isolated Watkins State Park… only they don’t get proper permission.
Victor Newsome is a thirteen year old trying to both shed his nerdy image and learn outdoor skills at a special survival camp. After teaching the boys how to make shelter and kill their own food, the counselors decide to take a day trip to the neighboring state park—Watkins.
A series of ethical lapses, poor decisions, and bad luck lead to a colossal misunderstanding. Violence erupts as both sides fight desperately against a dangerous set of foes. Who will be more savage—the literal “monsters,” or the boys equipped with deadly weapons, and the knowledge of how to use them?