Saturday, February 25, 2006

Planning My Summer Vacation

I am making plans to take a friend to the shores of Lake Superior this summer, including a three-night camping outing on Isle Royale. Isle Royale is the largest island on Lake Superior, and it's a wilderness area where no vehicles are allowed. Campsites are first-come, first-served, but I hope that won't be too much of a problem since we plan to travel during the shoulder season, late August. By that time there are fewer people, but even more importantly, fewer mosquitos.

My friend is no stranger to pit toilets and needing to boil water to kill parasites (in this case, tapeworm). Still, we will take a car camping trip some time this summer just to make sure our traveling styles are compatible. She has left all the Superior planning to me, which is a great way to ensure my happiness, since I love to plan vacations.

I have backpacked before, but only when someone else was in charge and told me what to do. I went on a weekend group trip to Lost Maples in Texas, where a third of the group whined incessantly about having to postpone their morning shower until the evening. I camped in a quiet backcountry spot in Colorado with a boyfriend who was unsympathetic to my recent arrival from sea level, but he did do all the work so I can't complain. I walked the Pennine Way in England for a week with a dear friend, and I got heat exhaustion on the second day so we had to hitchhike on the third, and then we resumed our walk.

I bought a new backpack that's probably larger and heavier than it ought to be, but it's incredibly comfortable, and my summer bicyclist legs shouldn't have too much trouble with it. My Coleman tent is also somewhat big and heavy, but there will be two of us, and we can divide the tent and the cooking supplies between us. I will be buying a tiny camp stove, and borrowing other cooking supplies from my parents' cabin. I attended a backpacking workshop this month and collected some clever tips, the most amusing of which was to bring along single-serving packets of instant oatmeal, pour boiling water directly into the packet, stir it up, and eat it without a bowl. One of the workshop participants asked if you then needed to take special precautions to dispose of the wrapper in a hazardous waste container. (No, you do not.)

For food I was planning to bring some finger fruits like kumquats, cherry tomatoes, and grapes, my own blend of instant oatmeal, my homemade cookies with protein powder, beef jerky, dried bean dishes, tortillas, chocolate, some packaged Pad Thai just so we could say we made Pad Thai on Isle Royale... We won't starve. My friend mainly requires coffee and supper, and I mainly require lots of food. While we're car camping, we'll probably drink organic Guatemalan Vienna Roast coffee from some co-op where the workers receive a fair wage, but I'm guessing we'll make do with instant Folgers while we're on Isle Royale.