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Camping with a Significant Other

by Daniel Lawton

Last August, when the weather in the South was hot and sticky, I planned a trip to Chicot State Park in Ville Platte, Louisiana with my girlfriend. It was our first camping trip together, and the idea was to remove the distractions of everyday life and enjoy some quality one-on-one time.

I had never been to Chicot before, but a cursory glance at the website made it seem like a nice, secluded spot to spend a weekend. Here’s what it said:

The park covers over 6,400 acres of rolling hills and water in South Central Louisiana. An extensive hiking/backpacking trail completely encircles Lake Chicot and includes several primitive campsites along the way. The hiking trails allow visitors to experience and enjoy the park’s natural landscape, its bottomland hardwood forest and the lake itself.

When we arrived, we registered and received directions to our primitive campground a mile away. During the following twenty-four hours, we made potentially every mistake two novice campers can make. Here are a few tips on how you can avoid doing the same.

Communicate Your Expectations

Before this trip, my girlfriend had only been camping a few times, mostly in campgrounds. As we began the trek back into the forest, the heat quickly became stifling. The path was covered with spider webs and horseflies buzzed around our heads. It was not a pleasant walk and clearly not something she had in mind. By the time we arrived at the campsite, we were both covered in sweat and she was clearly frustrated.

Get Your Information Straight

One of the attractions both of us had to Chicot was the fact that it was surrounded on all sides by a lake. My girlfriend had brought her swimsuit, actually two swimsuits, and was especially looking forward to spending time in the water after the fatiguing trek in. However, one look at our surroundings made me realize that I had failed to do my homework.

Lake Chicot resembled little of the “cool refreshing waters” that I had expected. Instead, it was a very large swamp, replete with lush vegetation and dark, murky water. A quick call to the front office confirmed another downside: The lake was full of alligators and snakes. The swimsuits quickly went back in her bag.

Sleep Comfortable, Sleep Tight

I’m a very Spartan sleeper in general and can sleep soundly with slight discomfort. However, the small pad that I had brought was definitely not up to snuff for my girlfriend, who tossed and turned all night. In hindsight, bringing a better sleeping pad would have been well worth it.

Puppy Love

My girlfriend’s dog goes everywhere with her, so when she asked if he could tag along, I acceded. However, on the trek in, he was also fatigued by the heat and was barely able to make it (on the way out, I had to carry him). Once we got to our camp site, he immediately dashed into the alligator-filled waters, making both of us nervous. Finally, when he piled into the tent with us, he was not only a bit smelly from his earlier adventures, but also barked every time an armadillo or other animal skipped by.

Don’t Screw Up the Romance

Though I brought the ingredients to make S’mores along with a bottle of wine, any chance of a moonlight make-out session was killed by the fact that I forgot to bring a lighter to start the fire. With nothing left to do, we dove into the tent at around 8 p.m, which was a respite from the mosquitoes that were everywhere.

Stay Connected

Even though pretty much everything that could have gone wrong on our camping tripdid, we actually didn’t have that bad of time. The tough circumstances forced us to bond and work as a unit, which is what camping with a significant other is really all about.