Now that it’s starting to warm up in the wild outdoors of Utah, a lot of people are extremely excited to sleep outside and burn some dry wood near one of our amazing National Parks. While I fall into that classification of people, having a beard takes what you smooth-faced folks call a “good time” and mixes in a bit of inconvenience and a dash of flammability.
Walk with me and I’ll guide you down a day in my life visiting the great outdoors with an oversized beard.
Setting Up the Camp Site
The fun begins as soon as I begin putting the camp site together. Have you ever accidentally zipped your hair into a jacket? How about accidentally attaching your beard to the earth by staking it to the ground along with your tent? I have. Zero stars. Wouldn’t recommend. Best part about this mistake is that you don’t know you’ve done it until you stand up. Or rather, attempt to stand up. Once you’ve noticed that you’re attached to the ground, you have to unstake the tent, remove beard from earth, then restake all over again.
Once the tent is up, next the interior decorating begins. Sleeping pads, sleeping bags, etc. Now, if you get lucky and there are zero bugs around, you can just leave the tent fly open and not worry. However, if there are swarms of gnats or mosquitoes, you gotta zip that tent flap closed. Or, you can zip your beard directly into the tent only to notice it when you move your head and the entire tent moves with it. Unzip tent, remove beard from zipper, accidentally kneel on beard in process, lose my mind, have wife assist to avoid descending into madness. Man, the great outdoors sure are GRRRREAT.
Hitting the Trails
Now that the campsite is all set up and only a few beard hairs were sacrificed to the great outdoor deities, it’s time to hit that dusty trail and do some exploring. Disclosure: for me, this next part is a very normal occurrence in my life. But for anyone who doesn’t have a huge beard, this will be a little confusing, so let me explain.
For some reason, the general beardless (and small bearded) public treats me like I’m some kind of G list celebrity. Phrases like, “Sweet beard, man” or “I gotta ask, how long have you been growing that thing?” or “Wow, can I touch your beard?” or even, “WHOA, CAN I GET A PHOTO WITH YOUR BEARD, MY [insert relative here] HAS A BEARD AND WOULD LOVE YOURS,” are a very normal occurrence for me. I’ve even had people yell “HOLY HELL, SWEET $@%^’N BEARD, MAN,” from a car. People get weird sometimes… and being secluded in the middle of nowhere hasn’t stopped people from being weird.
No matter what park, no matter what part of the world, no matter the time of day, people NEED to tell me that I have a beard. It’s astounding. My wife’s parents find this absolutely hilarious. We’ll be hiking some random and very secluded trail in Arizona and then all of a sudden a family will appear from behind a bend. And one person from that group will say some kind of beard-related comment and then the rest will join in. It’s like clockwork. I’m so used to it that I don’t hear most of the jokes or Duck Dynasty references anymore. But new people hiking with me can’t get over it. It cracks me up.
However, even better than the comments is sometimes, while I’m out exploring a new trail, I find myself on a narrow part and someone will go to walk past me in these close quarters. And that friendly stranger could very well get a face-full of my beard if there is an unfortunate gust of wind. This is my favorite part, simply because of the look of sheer panic and recoil of horror that happens is just something that fills me with joy and happiness.
Kicking Back After the Hike
Now that we’re done exploring, let’s head back to the campsite to get some relaxing done with a nice warm fire going. Remember when I mentioned flammability? Well, here we go.
Everyone’s favorite part of camping is the campfire, and that’s no different for me. If you’re like me you start by getting all your kindling split up, so you grab your hatchet and split up the smaller wood. No you grab your hatchet (and part of your beard by accident) and go to swing and pull some beard hair out mid-swing. Once you reset your grip and start swinging, you’ll have a nice pile of wood in no time.
This is the part where you start to assemble your perfect fire. I like to use the log cabin method – you know, the one where you stack the wood Lincoln log style. I also try to remember to avoid kneeling on my beard in the process, but I’ll never get that part down. Now that we have built the log cabin and some strategically placed balls of newspaper, it’s time to set it ablaze! FUN BUT ALSO DANGEROUS BECAUSE I’M EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE. If it is a windy day, I ask someone else to light this thing up. Because one misplaced gust of wind and a little flame, and this beard is history. Have I lit part of my beard on fire? Yes. My advice? Don’t.
Now that the fire is roaring and we’ve all had our fair share of hot dogs or burgers or whatever other unhealthy dinner we’ve eaten, it’s time for everyone’s favorite camping dessert: S’mores, or as I like to call them, a delicious enormous mess that will haunt me until my next real shower. Literally the second after I enjoy my first bite, I’m filled with regret. My mustache and beard are essentially coated in a protective marshmallow coating. Enter: baby wipes, the life saving cloth of the future.
Time to Hit the “Hay”
Bed time. Sweet, sweet slumber. Head to the tent, be sure not to zip beard into tent (again), and zip up that sleeping bag (avoid the zipper on that one, too). If I don’t prepare for sleep before retiring for the evening, I’ll regret it in the morning. Have you ever woken up with bed head? Try bed face. There is almost no way to remedy this once it has happened, aside from dumping a gallon of water on my head.
There are really only two words that will save you from most of these beard problems: “Beard Braid.” If I always live by those two words when out in the the great outdoors, everything will be just fine.