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Long before the word “glamping” was coined, my high school girlfriends and I were making a mockery of the camping experience during long weekends spent at Lake Livingston. Pitching tents seemed like too much work, so we brought tarps, spread them out over a clearing, and threw our sleeping bags on top. When night fell, we’d sleep in the open air under the stars, stars that were so much more intense than anything we could see in light-polluted Houston. 

Not that we allowed too much darkness to seep into our camping experience: before night fell, we’d string Christmas lights from tree to tree to tree, running an extension cord to the power outlets (we always booked campsites with power outlets and running water). And that wasn’t the only thing we plugged in; we’d also hook up a TV and VCR that we’d lugged along. After a long day of swimming in the lake—once we tried swimming all the way to Pine Island two miles offshore (park rangers in a speedboat saved us)—we’d slide tapes into the VCR and watch The Golden Child or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the millionth time. 

For breakfast, we ate cereal with milk stashed in ice-laden coolers. For lunch, we made sandwiches. For dinner, the sole meal involving the always-difficult preparation of a campfire (we had only been in Girl Scouts for the cookies), we made a sad, sputtering fire that would last only long enough to half-cook some Walmart hot dogs. We ate them mostly cold, in untoasted buns, not caring that our campsite was considered embarrassing by every serious camper who came across it. We were together, sharing the canopy of the trees and stars—and our spiderweb of Christmas lights—and that’s all that mattered.

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