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PRIMITIVE HUMANS APPEAR AT MODERN CAMPSITES

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Well, it's that time of year again, the time of year when you have an urge to take everything that fills a 2,000-square-foot home and cram it into four boxes and a duffel bag and head for the hills.

I'm speaking, of course, of camping, that wonderful back-to-nature experience that we all crave.The interesting thing about camping to me is not that we all have this primitive urge to head for the hills, but that men and women have such a different view of camping.

"My wife's idea of camping," a friend of mine says, "is to drive five miles out of town to the nearest campsite we can find. She wants to go camping but be close enough to home that she can drive back to town to take a shower in the morning."

While proximity to home is a requirement for women campers, the opposite is true of men. My husband isn't a happy camper until we've driven as far into the back country as our four-wheel-drive vehicle will go, until there isn't another living soul in sight. "That's what I like," he says as he stretches out on a lounge chair, "peace and quiet."

This compulsive behavior, of course, is a throwback to when men were hunter-gatherers and traveled great distances in search of meat for supper.

Women, on the other hand, who were left at home to tend fires and children, felt better making loud noises so that if there were any large beasts of prey around, it would scare them off. So women prefer busy campsites with plenty of people around to have in-depth discussions in case there are bears or wolves lurking in the bushes ready to pounce if there's a lull in the conversation.

So even now, after all of this time, a typical campsite has women sitting around the fire talking and cooking while men, probably sensing they will be drawn into a conversation at any minute, disappear for hours looking for deer tracks and a good place to hunt in the fall.

When it's all over and we've acted out our age-old camping traditions, there's only one thing left to do: try to figure out how to get everything we own back into a duffel bag and four boxes.

Our ancestors had the same problem; they had to leave behind anything they couldn't carry on their backs. So, somewhere deep in my husband's psyche he has been preprogrammed to want to throw away anything that doesn't fit in four boxes and a duffel bag.

But that's another story.