This past New Years’ Eve, Jonathan and I drove to the very southern tip of Illinois to camp in Shawnee National Forest. We spent a very brisk winter night sleeping under the stars at the campsite for the Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area, a landscape of layered forests and hidden limestone cliffs. It was a mild January. We had almost no company at the modest campsite, which accommodated about a dozen parties. To start, we had one neighbor, two spots over from us. Later on, as it grew dark, another camper pulled up. They backed their truck into the spot on the far side of our first neighbors, then proceeded to set up camp.
As darkness fell, they turned on their generator. A roaring, thundering beast from the pits of hell. A slobbering sound machine of death, calling on the demon spawn of ten thousand lawnmowers, a hundred and fifty chainsaws, a host of jackhammers, the rumbling baritone of diesel engines idling in a Midwestern parking lot. They turned this thing on, crawled inside their tent, zipped it up and, allegedly, went to sleep.
Even three or four spots down from these generator-happy folks, we could hardly sleep. The noise drilled through our tent, disrupting the peace we’d sought in escaping the city on New Years’ Eve and retreating instead to the wilderness. I grumbled incessantly to Jonathan—the nerve of some people! If they can’t hack the cold, they shouldn’t be out here! What about quiet hours, huh? Can you believe…? And so on, I rattled to him, furious. Once, near midnight, the generator shut off of its own accord. I remember sighing in relief. At last. The stars sung in the sky. We shivered together in our tent. A river gurgled in the distance.
Then we heard them unzipping their tent, coaxing the monster back to life. It roared until morning, when it hardly mattered whether the thing was making noise or not. In another post, perhaps, I'll tell you about camping in cold weather or about the beautiful trails we hiked in this area. I'll tell you about why getting away from it all matters, sometimes, and why it's important to reconnect with the world we inhabit.
But for right now, for this post, as Jonathan and I prepare to take our first camping trip for the summer, let me just tell you—these dudes who ran their loud generator all night were inconsiderate and they sucked.