I know plenty of people who have a camp, by which I mean some sort of getaway on the water, in the mountains or just in the woods.
Over the years I’ve been tempted to get one of my own but never quite succumbed.
I’m not a hardcore fisherman, so a lake camp would be wasted on me. Since I’m a canoer you might think a river would be just the thing, but what I like about canoeing is exploring different waters, not paddling the same ones over and over.
The nearest mountains are too far away for my tastes — I just don’t like driving that much. And as for a deep-woods hideaway, I already live in one.
The nearest I came to seriously considering buying a camp was after Angelyn and I chanced upon a little north Mississippi hideaway called Snow Lake Shores.
We were taking the scenic route home from Jackson, Tenn., through the Holly Springs National Forest when we passed this charming lakeside burg in the middle of nowhere — a dam, a lake, woods and cottages on Highway 4 between Holly Springs and Ashland.
I did a double-take. Was that some sort of Maine fishing village we had just passed?
We turned around and ventured down the little road into the village. It seemed to be a place of enchantment, a mix of permanent residences and vacation cottages.
I envisioned buying a cottage, basking in a hammock and launching my canoe from the back yard.
Snow Lake Shores is close enough to Jackson, Tenn., to stay when we see our relatives, or meet them for a game in Oxford.
Angelyn was less excited, and when I started doing the math, my enthusiasm waned as well. I tallied up what all would be involved in terms of insurance, utilities, lawn upkeep, house upkeep, not to mention the actual cost of the place. Who’s going to mow the grass, fix a leak, spray for ants when I’m not there?
Plus, since Angelyn and I already live in the woods in Amite County, we don’t need an escape. We’ve got plenty to do outdoors to keep us occupied. And I’m within close driving distance of a national forest and plenty of lakes, rivers, parks and trails.
n n n
So the camp idea faded away — until I came across a clearing in the woods while bushwhacking trails on a piece of Amite County property I call the Outback.
It was a tiny nook, a sanctuary, on a small seasonal creek beneath towering poplar trees. It was about as far from the madding crowd as you can get around here. You’d have trouble finding it with a drone.
Later I had some roads bushhogged on the place, so I could reach the clearing on an all-terrain vehicle. I deposited a couple of plastic lawn chairs there so I could sit and think, or chat with Angelyn or a buddy. I even planted a couple banana trees for a tropical feel.
Now and then I’d get caught in the rain out in that vicinity and found myself wishing I had some kind of shelter there — a camp, you might say. That’s when I remembered an old screen-house tent tucked away in my camping closet.
I had bought it after a 1998 campout in the Okefenokee Swamp when mosquitoes about ate me alive. I noticed other campers using screen houses and enjoying the evening while I had to wear thick clothes and douse myself with bug spray until I gave up and retreated to my tent where I lay sweating.
When I got home I bought a screen house so that wouldn’t happen again. But I rarely had occasion to use it, and it wound up buried in my closet.
n n n
I dragged it out and took it to the clearing, glanced at the instructions and got to work.
I say glanced because I really didn’t take my time studying the design. After all, I’ve pitched tents hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Who needs instructions?
What followed was a comedy that should have been videoed under the title, “Pride Goeth Before a Fall.”
My struggle with the monstrosity of fabric, mesh and poles was pure slapstick.
I quickly realized this was a two-man job, but that didn’t deter me. In the process, I nearly broke one pole, crimped another, and ripped holes in the mosquito netting. When I paused to inspect, I noticed the whole structure was skewed sideways.
I decided to check those instructions again.
Turns out I had pitched two poles upside-down, causing them to bend. The thing was so big I had to step on the mosquito meeting to reach everything, thus tearing it.
The whole endeavor was an epic fail. I retreated to the house in disgust.
But I cooled off, rallied and returned with duct tape and a piece of scrap aluminum pole. I splinted the broken pole, straightened the crimped one and patched the holes with duct tape. Good as new!
So now I have my own camp. Nothing fancy, but definitely low-cost.
One of these days I may even spend the night in there.