Pretty In-Tents Weekend

First off, let me state for the record that I love camping.

In theory.

Often though, the reality doesn’t match up to the picture you’ve painted in your head. I’d been looking forward to this weekend’s getaway ever since I booked the reservation on December 20. When your backyard is knee deep in snowdrifts and the temperature is hovering around 9º, an outdoor getaway sounds pretty appealing: a crackling campfire, a lush nature hike, a pristine lake, grilled meat. It’s the perfect one-two-three-four punch (five if we’re counting sipping maple-flavored whiskey whilst sitting upon a rock with our feet dangling in the cool, refreshing water).

The world sure is a different place than it was when I booked that reservation, which made me long for it even more. How I yearned to get away and relax after so much time spent cooped up at home…

…umm, relaxing.

Well, whatever. Fresh(er) air is always appealing! So Tara and I took off after work on Friday for a weekend at Horse Thief Lake, a nice, secluded* getaway just a few miles from Mount Rushmore.

*Secluded may be an overstatement given the campground’s proximity to busy Highway 244. See: “just a few miles from Mount Rushmore.”

In any case, it’s a lovely little place in the heart of the Black Hills, and when we checked in, the campground host told us, “You guys have the primo spot!” I knew this going in: I’d taken great pains to find the best spot in the campground, one that was surrounded by ponderosa pine trees for privacy and a mere stone’s throw from the lake. Site #24, if you’re ever so inclined. I’m not ashamed to admit I lorded over the fact that “I snagged us the best spot in the campground, babe!” quite a bit at first.

So we got settled in at our primo spot, pitched our tent, cracked open some cold beverages, and commenced to having a perfectly relaxing, enjoyable weekend.


A bunch of things conspired against us, almost from the start. By Saturday morning we were dealing with:

  • A leaking air mattress
  • Raging winds threatening to blow everything not tied down (which was, umm, everything but the tent) into the lake
  • Swarms of mosquitoes that I only learned later have no problem biting through clothing
  • Annoyingly persistent allergies exacerbated by the wind
  • A PMSing wife

Sensing my wife’s frustration (made clear when she shoved her breakfast into the garbage without taking so much as a single bite five seconds after dishing it up because half the campsite went flying into the bushes after an especially powerful gust), I suggested we pack up and head home. Fortunately, that little hormone burst subsided and she said we should go for a drive instead. I was game, so we headed into the hills outside Hill City (I wonder how that town got its name) and explored a dirt road that paralleled a lovely little creek surrounded by rolling green countryside and lined with wild purple irises. We even stumbled upon a crumbling prospector’s cabin and boarded-up mine. It was a great way to kill a few hours and recharge our her spirits.

When we got back to camp, the wind had subsided slightly. It was warm-bordering-on-hot, so we were able to deal with it. Tara grabbed a nap in the hammock while I read a book on my Kindle with my camp chair set up on the shore of the lake. It was pretty idyllic, actually. Tara started a fire, we threw on a steak and some corn on the cob, and all appeared to have settled down. We had salvaged our weekend!

But then Tara went and said, “You know, we could go home tonight.”

Now, she’d already asked if we could break down camp first thing Sunday morning and do breakfast at home instead. After the havoc wreaked by that morning’s wind, I’d agreed to this plan. And honestly, the prospect of a hot shower and not having to deal with an air mattress that was less air and mattress than advertised proved too tempting to resist. When Tara said we could stop for ice cream on the way home, that sealed the deal. So while dinner was cooking we disassembled the tent and loaded up the truck. And after our meal, we drove home, making the promised ice cream run first. It was 10:15 by the time we arrived, but the air conditioner was pumping lovely refrigerated air through the house and pots and pans weren’t flying across the kitchen, so I can’t say I have any regrets.

Did we puss out? Maybe.
Do I care? Nope.

We have at least one (and maybe two) more camping trips planned this summer, so we’ll have an opportunity to redeem ourselves.

After buying a new air mattress, of course.

29 thoughts on “Pretty In-Tents Weekend

  1. Oh boy…

    See, I too have idyllic images about outdoor living but…ugh

    Bugs. Lack of flushing toilets. Mattresses that leak…I don’t know. The cabin option, a little more pricey but a must if bug bites and allergies take away your fun, is maybe a better option, at least during dusk when the biters come out, and for sleeping.

    Having said that, the images are stunning! It makes up for it, doesn’t it.

    What flavour ice cream did you both have?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally makes up for it! Despite the less-than-stellar overall experience, I still have no regrets. I did mention to Tara yesterday how much I’d like a small camper like an R-Pod or a Scamp. At least that way you could escape from the wind if you had to.

      The local ice cream shop always has a flavor of the day, and I would have gotten that, but it was coffee. I love coffee and I love ice cream; I’m just not a big fan of coffee-flavored ice cream. So I got a pina colada malt: vanilla with pineapple, coconut, and banana. Delicious! Tara got a brownie sundae.


  2. I am a solid Girl Scout camper from way back, but admit that when a certain age came along I just couldn’t do the air mattress thing anymore. I still love cooking outdoors, smelling like a campfire, living out of ice chests for a short time, but the sleeping on the ground can never happen again.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Twice we tried to tent camp (for the week) and ride our quads at China Hat in central Oregon in early June. Twice we only made it one night. The 2nd time, we were desperately breaking camp in a hail storm when it had just been 80 degrees an hour earlier.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love camping too, but as you said…in theory. And my idea of camping is a camper w/a shower and bathroom. As you can tell, I’m “boushie” when it comes to camping. HA! 🙂

    Honestly though, I have to say that the spot where you set up camp was STUNNING! Primo spot indeed! I saw a few of your photos on Instagram and loved them! And I have to say, your tent looks really nice, and a good size.

    I applaud you for dealing with the ragging winds because it was very windy here too, and at one point I thought the wind would blow my windows in. Thank god I have double-pane glass windows.

    I don’t think you pussed out at all. And as you said, there are more camping trips planned for this summer!

    AWESOME shots, Mark!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tara and I would love a camper…but such an investment isn’t in our budget currently. Maybe someday though!

      I’m glad your windows didn’t blow in. You know, for something invisible, wind sure is a powerful thing. Take care and have a great week, Ron!


  5. I’ve gotten excited to go camping in my beloved San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles so many times, but then at the last minute I start thinking about the bugs and gross bathrooms and have never been able to go through with it.

    Ditching the wind for ice cream sounds like a good choice.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. My husband’s idea of roughing it is a 3 star hotel. I grew up going to Girl Scout and church camps and then was a scout leader for 8 years. There’s an appeal, but I think I’m at the age where I’ll stick with a B&B in the mountains.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve noticed my tolerance for “roughing it” has diminished somewhat as I’ve gotten older, too. A leaking air mattress might have felt like an adventure when I was in my 20s. Now? Not so much!


  7. Most of my camping experiences have been positive, (and there have been quite a few over the years), so it gets a thumbs up from me. My wife is less enthusiastic – the campground has to have showers and flush toilets. All I ask for is decent weather.

    Liked by 1 person

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