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  • Writer's pictureKim O'Cain

Lost in the Forest: what's a girl to do?

How to survive the forest when you don't have a hair dryer.

So, unlike my high-maintenance character, Ashlyn, in my debut novel, Gap Year Project, I relish being in nature and "lost" in thought under the canopy of giant redwood trees. While Ashlyn's idea of roughing life is not having enough foam in her latte, mine is closer to sleeping under the stars on a damp night. But, when it comes to frolicking in the green lined paths up a mountain, I so look forward to the comfort of a hot shower and a powerful blow dryer at the end of the day. And I know Ashlyn would relate to that!

But I didn't always feel that way. No, I was a die hard camper with a Swiss Army tent, a North Face sleeping bag, and one clear plastic tot with every essential for a two-week trip. Instead of spending money at the salon and getting my nails done, I was at REI raking up points for my annual dividend shopping spree. I could go several days proudly wearing my camp fire, soot smudges across my forehead and cheeks before I touched water to skin, let alone a full body scrub. It was kind of an unspoken competition amongst my hard-core camping friends. But I could never hold a flame to their feats-trekking through Tibet leading high schoolers and backpacking the Pacific Trail.

It all changed on our second trip to the National and State Redwood Forest in the blink and you'll miss it city of Orick. We trailed behind our friend's retro red and silver Shasta trailer in our Ford Flex filled to the gills. While they quickly docked their home on wheels, my husband (who over the course of many years became an avid camper), Bryan and I unloaded, unpacked, strung together and pitched our family size fabric tent. And then we continued to unload, unpack, setup before we could settle-in to the majestic setting that encircled us. Our friends had already built a fire and laid out a spread of tasty snacks while the kids where whittling sticks for their fishing venture in the creek just feet away.

We unfolded our camping chairs and huddled around the fire oohing and aahing once more at the indescribable peace and beauty of the ancient trees that swayed all around us reminding us of the waves gently crashing on the shore of our home in Santa Monica, some 1,500 miles away. Relaxed and full of burritos and friendly banter, we slipped into our tent for some much needed sleep. But before my husband would dare put foot into a bed or bag, he grabbed a towel and toiletry bag and headed for the dreaded public shower. But not me, I snuggled into my down sleeping bag not a drop of water erasing smudges or smoke from hair and body and feel fast asleep. No shampoo, condition, rinse, repeat and blow dry for me. I could survive with a little deo and a cute cap.

Swish. Swish. Swish. It's all my husband could hear as he tried to make the sleeping bag stay on his thick air filled sleeping pad as he tossed and turned trying in vain to find that sweet spot of oblivion. It would not come that night or next or the night after that. I, on the other hand, was a consummate veteran girl-scout prepared for anything. With my orange rocket shaped ear plugs and velvety blue eye mask, I slumbered quietly next to my thrashing husband and ten-year old son.

On the third morning, Bryan declared that would his last night sleeping in a tent. Our next camping trip would be in a trailer with every comfort of home. At first I was appalled. I had spent the last few years perfecting my car camping kit and menus. Friends would ask me for secrets and pics of my gear and packed tot. I couldn't wrap my head around driving a trailer and sleeping in a bed while I was supposed to be setting my roots in nature, on the ground, in a bag. I couldn't even reply. I had no intention of succumbing to and becoming a "fake" camper.

As fate would have it, that night the wind picked up, thick fog settled in making it nearly impossible to light a fire and keep it going. We climbed into the cozy hug of the Shasta and played boisterous rounds of Yatzhee until we couldn't keep our eyes open. And it was then that I looked at the beds ready for our friends to climb into that changed me into a TT (#traveltrailer) fan for life. For the first time, I couldn't sleep a wink in my expensive, state-of-the art tent.

Fast forward a year and we're driving into my beloved Redwood National Park once more but this time towing a 26-foot trailer with every comfort of home including my blue blow dryer, which has its permanent spot in the bathroom. That first night I took a hot shower without the fear of getting some horrible foot disease from the public showers. I dried my hair with a towel then plugged in my blow dryer, put some lovely R+D gel in my hair and blew out every frizz waiting to take over and thanking my husband for this luxurious gift in the middle of the wild, untamed forest.

So ladies, it doesn't matter if you're a hard core backpacker or an RV/travel trailer kind of camper, the point is that you're living your life exactly the you want and that is all that matters - hair dryers or not.

In case your curious about my car camping gear, here's my list of essentials. And yes, it all fit in that bin the picture below!

Kim O'Cain's car camping essential gear

1 clear plastic bin

2 collapsible dish washing bins

1 sponge

1 refillable dish soap dispenser filled with Mrs. Meyer's Lemon

1 webbed laundry bag

1 spatula

1 tong

1 set of collapsible metal hot dog/s'more roasters

1 large spoon

3 sporks

1 large chef knife

1 steak knife

1 sharp scissors

1 mixing bowl

2 stacking pots with lids

1 frying pan

1 tin foil

3 plates

3 bowls

1 thin, plastic cutting board

1 roll paper towels

1 roll septic safe toilet paper

1 small pack AA batteries

3 head lamps

1 First Aid kit

Bungee cords in different sizes

1 rope

1 pack playing cards

1 roll duct tape

1 notepad

1 pen

1 roll of quarters

1 long rectangular tablecloth

Happy Camping!

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