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Spots on The Rock

Enjoying the great outdoors

The do's and don't's of island camping, and why it should be on your summer bucket list

No bed, shower head or refrigerator to run to in the middle of the night. No Netflix or Hulu in sight, let alone a Wi-Fi signal. No light switches, remote controls or even a bathroom around the bend.

Actually, scratch that. … The "bathroom" is virtually everywhere and anywhere you want it to be. But just nowhere near where we sleep, please!

Ah, camping.

Last weekend, I kicked off summer with some friends by camping at a remote beach in Dededo. Yup, we willingly drove ourselves, pothole after pothole, to one of the most remote places on island, and for what? We certainly don't know.

For two days we "roughed it out" in the roughest definition of the phrase possible. Although we had prepared rather luxuriously, Mother Nature had other plans. And that's just part of camping, we soon found.

Base excess

On a whim, we decided to camp just days before. Our meeting time was 10 a.m. Now, what time do you think we actually met?

After picking up my friend Gloria, we met our other friend Michaela to get snacks and drinks on base, for no other reason than because it was cheaper.

If you think camping is inexpensive – and it can be – it often isn't, especially nowadays. So, if you've got a friend with base access, you'd better become best buds with them!

Walking into the store, our eyes bounced off the walls and minds boggled. I suggest you plan out what to get before entering the store, because you'll waste more time than you think.

What am I going to crave tomorrow afternoon? Will spinach dip hold up better than nacho cheese dip in a cooler overnight? What chip bags are filled with more chips than air? Is candy a good idea at all? These are the questions you must answer, but maybe we just overthought it, too.

Grab what you want, but more so what you need. In any case, like any other trip, it's better to pack more than what you think you'll need.

Since we smart people knew that, we stopped at two more stores after the first because we thought of other items we "needed," like marshmallows and tanning spray.

Besides the essentials, like lots of water and food, don't sweat the small stuff. Camping shouldn't require an all-out shopping spree, which we now know.

CHamoru Standard Time

Completing our crazed runaround, we finally met our other friends at noon. Yes, CHamoru Standard Time is real, folks. It's also in the stars.

For the next 30 minutes, we traversed the bumpy road into northern Guam, as modern amenities faded away and nature sprouted to life all around us. "This is real," I thought, gazing wide-eyed through the window. I say "through the window" because we savored our remaining minutes of air conditioning, as we pulled up to the sun-baked site.

Then came the most challenging part of camping: the setup.

This sucks, because obviously, the first thing you want to do when you get to the beach is relax by the water and dig your feet into the sand. Nope, not for us.

While that's an option, you want to get the hard part out of the way early on, or so my friends convinced me. Designate a spot for everything: coolers, tables, chairs, barbecue pits, tents and more importantly, bathrooms.

Lug everything out of your vehicles and recreate a living space that will work for your temporary stay.

Camping shouldn't be convenient, but it's definitely worth saving your chump change to invest in gear and outdoor amenities that make the experience all the more enjoyable.

And speaking of enjoyable experiences – what's for dinner?

Gloria's glorious goods

Food is the one necessity we really didn't plan at all. Go figure.

We're truly lucky that Gloria got with the program and not only supplied meats and rice, but took the time to marinate everything, and bring cooking utensils and containers.

If and when you camp, I wouldn't expect anyone else to forget about food, but just in case, here's your reminder.

Whether it's 20 $1 burgers from McDonald's, a fully-stocked fiesta feast from Jamaican Grill, Grandma's quick catering services or last night's leftovers, do not forget to bring food. How could you?

Continuing our stroke of luck, Gloria's goods lasted us all weekend with but a small hand-sized container's worth of leftovers left.

It's funny, our barbecue and red rice dinner Saturday night turned into Sunday morning's barbecue quesadillas and fried rice special. You've got to make do with what you have.

And that goes for pretty much everything else you do while camping. Make do with what you have, and whether you're as far away as Cocos Island, or closer to civilization in Tumon, try to avoid leaving camp to grab stuff you forgot. What's the point of roughing it out?

Unless your health and well-being are threatened, get creative with what you brought if it ends up not being enough. You'll find a way to make it work. It's the innovative aspect of our human nature.

No black mirror? No problem!

So, aside from setting up camp and eating the day away, what else is there to do without a television or smart phone in front of you? So much!

In hindsight, you really wonder what you're going to do for hours on end outdoors, especially on Guam. But let me just tell you, there's so much you can do.

For us, the time ran out and we didn't even get to do everything we wanted to do, but that's OK. Of course, this does depend on where you're camping and how long you'll be staying.

As long as you're in good company, under the light of the sun and stars, everything will align, and you'll find that sitting silently on the shoreline with a cold drink in hand is therapeutic beyond thought.

Since you're on Guam, chances are you will be camping at the beach. For all the times you've dreamed of collecting seashells by the seashore or lounging lazily in a hammock, now's your chance.

We did just that for some time, and since it was low tide, we also explored the exposed reef, where we found puffer fish, clams, sea urchins, starfish, tons of colorful coral and an octopus.

When we finished frolicking across the reef, we searched for any sorry excuse of a pool to submerge ourselves, having been scathed by the scorching sun.

That night, we built a bonfire with whatever dead leaves we could find, creating a ferocious fire unlike what you might see in the movies. It was Guam style.

Those marshmallows I mentioned earlier obviously came in handy for s'mores here, though we had to stay about 5 feet away.

S'mores, by the way, are a camping essential. I don't care what you say. Sitting by the warm fire as waves calmly crashed nearby and a cool breeze blew in, our sweet treats made the night that much sweeter.

Cards against civilization

As the flames of the fire faded into wisps of smoke, we adjourned to a small round table and broke out a deck of cards. As we millennials might say, the night was about to get lit.

A deck of cards is a staple of any camping session. If you don't bring a deck of cards, or at least some kind of board game, please pack your things and go home. You just wasted your weekend.

Breaking out cards is simply quintessential quality time. Gather around a table and let the game-meister of the group take the lead. There are countless card games to play, and as the night turned into early morning, we counted more than we could fathom.

The next day was our last, and as all endings go, it was bittersweet. We looked forward to Wi-Fi and a real shower, but hesitated trading the serenity we came to savor.

As the moments fleeted, I laid down on a lounge chair by the beach and took one of the best naps of my life beneath a shady tree. Two hours later I awoke to the bright blue ocean beaming in front of me. Parting with paradise is its own kind of heartbreak.

We wrapped up everything we had brought, leaving behind only our footprints, and said goodbye to an unmatched summer's start.

Pack your problems and leave them behind

There isn't a moral to this story, but if you haven't noticed, there's no happy ending, either. The whole weekend was an endless happy ending, and that's the best way I can describe camping.

If you can muster the energy to climb out of bed, if you can somehow convince your boss to give you the weekend off, if there's anything you cross off your summer bucket list – pack up your everyday worries and daily routine, and leave them at home while you go camping. You won't regret it.


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