Camping During a Pandemic and Protests

Harrington Beach State Park Adventure (Belgium, WI, USA)

Due to the global pandemic and daily protests getting out of the city to reconnect with nature was absolutely necessary.

Milwaukee, the city I live in, is one of the most segregated cities in The United States and emotions have been high these last few weeks. As an empath the energies have been overwhelming. I really needed to get out of town for a while.

This was an amazing 40 mile bike ride to the Park. From downtown Milwaukee the Oak Leaf Trail runs north into the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. You ride these trails until arriving in Belgium where a right turn and 2 more miles gets you to the park.

I tried out some new camping equipment on this trip with the hope of finding lightweight gear for future trips abroad.

Fire Starting:

I had a magnesium stick for starting fires. I found this video which covered all the details of starting a fire with this tool. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGo_Pxul1QQ

The main things to remember when starting a fire with a magnesium strip:

  1. prepare your fire in advance. You want to have all the materials ready to burn when you spark your starter material.
  2. Collect the magnesium bits on something like a stump, bandana, shirt.
  3. Protect the bits from the wind.
  4. Starting a fire this way will take some time, be patient.
  5. Practice doing this in a non-survival situation so you are familiar with how it works.

I also tried starting a fire with my glasses. This did not work like in the movies. I was not able to create a pointed reflection of the sun. I think my glasses may be plastic. I also tried the mirror that comes with my compass. That also did not work.

What I would recommend for fire starting is bringing a lighter (or two) and matches. Put them all into plastic baggies to keep them dry. These tools will be able to start many fires for a shorter adventure.

The magnesium strip doesn’t have to be stored in a plastic bag. It can be used to start 100s of fires. This would be more appropriate for a long term adventure.

Air Mattress:

I did a lot of research before deciding on the “Legit Camping Sleeping Pad”. My only criteria was to find something light weight that packed into a small space. It is 57cm/22.4 by 188cm/74in fully extended and packs down to 9cm/3.5in by 26cm/10.24 in. It weighs 1.1lbs.

Honestly of all the things that happened on this trip, the air mattress was the least of my worries. It was super easy to blow up and maintained firmness for the two nights I used it. I have a Tempur-Pedic mattress topper at home and this air mattress is comparable to that. I slept like a baby.

No Tent:

10 out of 10 would not recommend camping with no kind of cover. I was rather naive in believing that this experience would be similar to camping under the stars in the Mojave. It wasn’t. It was wet and cold. I was woken up by morning dew on my sleeping bag and started a fire to dry it off.

Taking advantage of this time awake in the middle of the night, I laid down on the picnic table and looked up at the stars. The view was breathtaking. So many bright lights in the sky, so far away in space put life into perspective.

Why is star gazing so much fun? It inspires this sense of awe and wonder. What is really out there? Why is that thing shooting across the sky? Is it an alien? Are humans alone in the universe? Are aliens laughing at us? Are they considering jumping in to help or are they watching and eating popcorn? Am I an alien? Would I be from Sirius or Pleiades? Does my tiny little life matter? Are the things I worry about really that important? There are just no words for how beautiful the night sky is. It’s breathtaking.

Camping by yourself:

The urban life has made me soft. I was scared of the dark, making up scary stories in my head. Fearing for your survival when you face the unknown in nature feels different than facing the unknown during a pandemic or protests.

In a pandemic the unknowns are:

Will I catch the virus?

How long will lock down last?

How will this change society?

The fears it inspires are:

What if a family member gets sick?

Is it actually possible to die of boredom?

What will I do if I loose my job during the pandemic?

In a protest the unknowns are:

What changes will be made?

Will the changes be enough to bring peace?

Will this escalate?

How long will protesting last?

How will this change life moving forward?

The fears it inspires are:

The possibility of all hell breaking loose.

More people getting sick and dying from Covid-19.

The possibility of a strong governmental response that puts us into an Authoritarian regime.

Solo Camping is quite a bit simpler. The unknowns are:

What just went bump in the dark? (either a human, a creature, or a plant)

Will that thing kill me? (highly unlikely because humans are scarier than animals and the humans here are all good nature-loving, bike riding types)

The fears it inspires are:

All in your head.

What is the take-away from these observations?

The take-away is that there is a place for society and a place for nature. Society actually protects us from the elements of exposure found in the natural environment. I’m not talking about animals eating humans, but the heat and the cold. Camping with other people also helps calm our fears of the unknown. For these things, I am very grateful for an operating society. I like going to coffee shops and starting conversations with complete strangers about everything and nothing.

Nature reconnects us to ourselves. Nature is a mirror that doesn’t scream back at you. It’s quiet, calm, mysterious, and silently working in harmony to grow. Imagine if humans were like that? Nature strips away all the labels and equalizes survival. This trip helped me put into perspective what really matters in my life. The people I have around me and the natural world. Paired down even further what’s most important to me is the company I keep and the essence of life itself.

How are you recharging during this time?

Please leave a comment or email: firewalkerarts@gmail.com

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