Although I hate mass-market American "beer" -- aka the root of all evil -- there are times when drinking anything else would be wrong. And camping accounts for five of the top ten times when it's absolutely correct to drink this swill. The first time is guy camping, when you get away from everyday life to drink, tell lies and scratch yourself. The second and third are fishing and/or hunting camping, which are pretty much the same as guy camping but with bitching about how bad the fishing and/or hunting are thrown in. The fourth is party camping, when a co-ed group -- one that hopefully includes women who aren't averse to a clothing-optional environment -- gets blasted and eventually thrown out of the campground by the campground host, unless someone in the party is enough of a woodsman to get the host drunk as well.
And then there's family camping, when you all pile into the family truckster and head to the mountains for a few days -- or until you appreciate the monotony of civilization, work, bills and hemorrhoids. We went family camping with the Mormon Representative's tribe a couple of weeks ago. As an experienced camper, the Mormon understood the need to pack in plenty of bad beer. It travels well, and you can cool it in a lake. It relaxes you enough that your blood pressure doesn't go sky-high while you struggle with your "pop up" tent for three hours. It makes the process of starting a fire for another three hours seem fun, too. You can teach the young ones valuable wilderness survival skills, like how to crush a beer can by standing on it while dimpling the sides with your fingers. And any camping game -- including Uno! and Candyland -- can be turned into a drinking game with bad beer. (Wilderness survival tip: "6" on the Candyland wheel is a "social" for all players.)
Most important, enough bad beer will distract you from the fact that death is imminent. When a storm blew in over Grand Lake, we sent the women and children to high ground while the Mormon and I stayed behind to secure the boat in the midst of a spectacular lightning display. Thunderstorms don't typically make me nervous -- unless I inadvertently fly into one -- but standing knee-deep in water, mooring a fiberglass boat at 8,000 feet, was enough to raise the hair on my neck. Or maybe that was the static electricity. Fortunately, we'd stowed a cooler on board and quickly swilled some nerve-calming brew. And then kept swilling. As safety-minded people, we knew that a big pile of empty aluminum cans would make a great lightning rod.
Despite our best efforts, we made it out of the mountains alive and still married. Although I continue to hold a harsh view of cheap American "beer," when you're roughing it, there's nothing better. Or worse.
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