Slowly and insidiously, my two burrowing hounds make their way to the bottom of the bag, tangling themselves in my feet. I lie on my back, but can’t sleep in that position. I turn to lie on my side, and one dog moves to the curve behind my legs, another to the curve in front of my stomach. They curl into donut-dog position. The arm I’m lying on hurts. I roll over on my stomach. The dogs adjust, flattening out into dog-logs on either side of me.
Because I don’t have a sleeping pad, the cold, hard ground seeps first into my flesh, then my bones. The only way I’ll be warm and comfortable is to have the mummy bag on top. I ruthlessly dump the dogs out of the depression at the bottom of the bag, re-layer the blankets, adjust the pillow and—at last, at last—lie down for the final time.
I look at the lighted screen of my cell phone, which displays the time. One hour and 49 minutes have passed since we pulled into the park. The dogs burrow in again, turn a few times, scratch, lick their paws, lie down and heave those profoundly contented dog sighs. My muscles unclench, my breathing slows. I am warm, comfortable, exhausted. I should sleep like a baby.
I have to pee.
POSTSCRIPT: A few months later, we stayed at a free national forest campground near Hebo, Ore., and set up camp in a field, near a black Lab sitting with an old-timer working a flintlock. We talked to the man—who turned out to be a retired forest service employee—the next morning. He said to me, “Well, I was watching you, and I thought to myself, ‘Now, there’s a gal who knows how to set up camp!’” What was that saying about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks?