A father-and-son hike discovers nature and freeze-dried dinner

An eight-mile hike into the wilderness near June Lake tests dad's tent-assembly skills and tolerance for awful food.

Oy, camping!

My backpack is the size of a Honda Fit. It has 54 pockets, 27 zippers and a functioning spleen. It weighs as much as a 9-by-12 rug with a dead Soprano rolled up inside. To shed it at the end of a long hike is the sweetest thing imaginable.

We have backpacked eight miles into the wilderness, no world record but nothing to sneeze at either, eight miles straight up a broken escalator. Eight miles from the nearest bucket of ice or cheeseburger, medium rare. Me, I get too far from cheeseburgers and I start to panic a little, my breath coming in short, troubled bursts.

This isn't a vacation, it's a John Denver song.

I hate John Denver.

And now we're at this remote campsite, the most perfect spot you could ever imagine.

The ponderosa pine? God's whiskers. The trout in a nearby stream? So wild, so refreshingly stupid, they'll almost jump in your pocket.

I was just asking myself, "Could this possibly get any better?" when it starts to rain. Hello, front desk? Please send up a hotel room.

Oh, and then I find out I have to dig my own latrine.

Oy, camping!

But after the first day, we see no one, and when isn't that a blessing? Time slows. Smartphones go dumb. We chop firewood. Burn firewood. Chop some more.

Chopping wood warms you twice, someone once said. When you cut it, again when it burns.

Love this time of year. The way beer caps ting around my pants pockets with the car keys. The way dusk goes on and on and on.

And this backpacking trip is summer amplified, a five-hour hike straight up into the sky near June Lake, north of Mammoth.

By the time we arrive, there is a heat in my hips that I have never experienced, and my hamstrings are barking to go out.

And then I get to set up the two-person rental tent.

To see me set up a two-person rental tent for the first time is to witness a type of performance art rarely experienced outside New York or London. It's like watching a drunk get kicking mad at his $7 beach chair.

"There, that's it," I finally say.

"Dad, don't think so," says my son.

I try again. This time, a pirate ship.