Many veteran campers will explain at great length that the main reason they spend their vacations like Neanderthals in pop-up canvas caves is because they need the change.

But are all changes good? Wouldn’t a stretch on a Georgia chain gang or a week in solitary at Sing Sing be a change? Shouldn’t a vacation make us feel good while we’re on it rather than just making us feel relieved when it’s over?

My first camping experience came when my parents decided I needed a change. (or maybe they did.) I was backpacked onto , kicking and pleading, the bus to Camp Now-ee-Gotcha in the Poconos

By my third day, the camp counselors were using me as an exhibit for the insect bites and severe sunburn lectures. The activities program was very detailed and very strict and the food was swill. (That’s not a misspelling.) And the scary campfire yarns about maneating and boyeating beasts in the nearby forests made night time sleeping impossible. I dozed off during a swimming lesson while attempting the backstroke and was again a star in the artificial respiration video.

All this led to a very rewarding experience, not in the camp, but during my eventual escape and my conversations with interesting drivers as I hitchhiked home.

One old truckdriver remembered he’d endured a miserable week as a boy at Camp Now-ee-Gotcha and years later, as a G.I., soon after the D-Day invasion, was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner of war for five months.

I asked him which camp experience was the more painful and, after a thoughtful few minutes, he admitted he couldn’t decide between Now-ee-Gotcha and Stalag 22.

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