An experiment camping and commuting in Bemidji

I woke early this morning in a 6-by-8-foot tent with a park employee shouting at me.

“Get to the bathrooms,” he said, really projecting through the paper thin nylon. “A storm’s coming — 70 mph winds.”

My wife Emily and I reached the bathrooms at 2 a.m. A group of campers was already there, lounging on bathroom counters with e-cigarettes.

They puffed steam as lightning lit the sky.

John Enger

“We could be in our bed at home right now,” Emily said.

This all started a week ago when my wife decided we were watching too much Netflix. Both of us work jobs that involve looking at screens. When we get home we make food and look at more screens.

She said we needed a break from our indoor lives. So this week we’re living in a tent in Lake Bemidji State Park. We still go to work — still look at screens for 8 hours a day, but now we smell like wood smoke.

We’ve been commuting to work from a campground for five days now and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

I am a woefully unprepared camper. The blowtorch I use to start fires developed a leak on our first night in camp and turned to a fireball in my hand. Now my hand is totally hairless.

The next morning I opened a can of corned-beef hash with my pocket knife because we forgot the can opener. This made my knife so dull I’ve been chopping vegetables with a hatchet. I could go on describing my incompetence, but I won’t.

Nothing is ever totally dry. In the morning anything touching the floor or the walls of the tent is damp. That includes the clothing I wear to work.

Escaping technology is harder than it looks. Lake Bemidji State Park has super-fast free Internet access. Netflix — it’s hard to avoid.

Camping is still pretty great. Right now I’m at my desk in MPR’s Bemidji bureau office. I’m tired and my clothes are wet from this morning’s rain.

We could have spent last night at home, as my wife pointed out, but I’m glad we didn’t. I might be tired, but the sleep was lost to a midnight sprint for shelter. I’d take that over a late night Netflix binge any day.