Spring Break 2016: “Go Camping”

Between the litter, noise pollution and stoned adolescents, the point of “protected wilderness” suddenly dawned on me.

By Finlea Baxter, University of Oklahoma

I looked out my window and into the open field behind my apartment building.

The grass was dry and brittle, and the creek that ran next to it was muddy and deep. The ripe smell of sewage rose in the morning air to mingle with the acrid smoke from the nearby traffic and the tang of decaying foliage. It was perfect.

After I pulled on my jacket, I set off, locking my door behind me and striding toward the line of trees at the edge of the field. Never mind that I was almost hit by a car twice as I crossed the street. Never mind that I tripped on the curb and fell face-first into the grass. I was on a mission, dammit, and God help the man or woman who dared try and stop me.

I arrived at the edge of the field more or less in one piece. The wind had picked up, and I had to shield my face from flying leaves.

Once I was able to clear the hair out of my eyes and spit the dirt out that had flown into my mouth, I smiled.

So what if the leaves were still dead and crunchy underfoot? So what if the tranquility of the small creek was interrupted by a plastic grocery bag here and there, and the entire creek bank was a patchwork of animal droppings? I was going to enjoy the serenity of nature. Who needed a national park, with its rangers and litter laws? I had scraggly trees and piles of poop.

I sat gingerly to avoid getting crap on my backside and sighed contentedly. And sighed again. And scratched an itch. And looked around awkwardly. And then sighed again.

The funny thing about nature is that there really isn’t all that much going on. I didn’t have anyone with me because everyone else was busy, and all I’d brought were my keys and my friend’s little green camera. What does a poor millennial do to battle boredom in the great outdoors? Why, take selfies, of course!

Staycations from Hell: Camping in the Woods Behind My ApartmentI had just positioned the camera for my third selfie when I heard a rustle in the bushes across the bank. Gripping my pepper-spray, I looked up to see a very, very disoriented frat boy stumbling through the trees and smelling like he’d singlehandedly funded the annual income of 5,000 California ganja farmers. I have no idea what they’d laced his weed with, but this dude was higher than the Empire State Building.

I watched in horror as he saw me and waved, fumbling with the zipper on his filthy jeans as he did so. My finger slipped on the shutter, and in that moment, my perfect disgust was captured in a selfie for the ages, my head drawn so far back in confusion that I had grown another chin.

He began to hum Freebird as he finally managed to successfully lower his zipper. I scrambled away from the creek bank, patently refusing to look below his waist as I heard the tinkling of water hitting water coupled with the relieved sighs and groans of a man who was clearly high off his ass.

Deciding that this was quite enough nature for me, I walked as quickly as I could back to my apartment, refusing to look back as he called to me and sang broken lines of Freebird in what I can only assume was some kind of bizarre pothead mating ritual.

As soon as I hit my door, I locked it. There was no way for me to know if he’d seen which door was mine, so I wasn’t taking any chances. I’m from Dallas, and my faith in humanity wasn’t all that strong to begin with.