Monday, August 22, 2011

Camping

Our camping trip was cut short, with us hurriedly stuffing the tent and other belongings into our car before peeling out of the campsite at maximum speed. So while our trip ended poorly and we came back a day early -- more on that in a little bit -- we did have some fun.

We had never taken the kids camping before, so even little things like setting up the tent were novel. Baby W was his usual helpful self:

After setting up camp, we ate, and of course after eating we had to roast marshmallows. Here's Stella when she heard we were breaking out the marshmallows:



Roasting marshmallows is the driving focus of Stella's life. And for this trip, we didn't just bring marshmallows -- we brought some fruit-flavored marshmallows that Stella had seen in the store. Apparently regular old marshmallows just aren't artificial enough, so somebody came up with the great idea of adding even more artificial flavors to them. I didn't know that was even possible. 

One side effect of adding artificial fruit flavor to the marshmallows is that they became too disgusting for even me to eat. I didn't know that was possible either.

After the campfire, we bedded down for the night. We were surprisingly comfortable considering that I had forgotten to pack the air mattress that we were all supposed to sleep on. Oops.

At about 10 PM I woke up because somebody was playing music, loudly. And not just any music -- they were playing really bad 80s stadium rock. "Dammit," I thought, "Where's the park ranger? Isn't he supposed to be making sure that everyone is quiet? Or at least not playing Journey any more than is absolutely necessary?" But David later told me that the music was coming from a concert a mile or two away, meaning the ranger wouldn't have any control over the volume of the music. Let alone the taste.

In the morning we had breakfast, played at the playground, and fed the mosquitoes. There was quite a crop of skeeters at the park, and they definitely had our number, even though I had given everyone a generous spray-down with bug juice. There were a lot of bat houses stationed around the park, each labeled with a little sign explaining that bats eat mosquitoes. Not only were we feeding mosquitoes by getting bitten within an inch of our lives --  in a way we were feeding the bats, since the bats eat the mosquitoes. I know some species of bats are endangered, so I was glad that I played some small part in insuring their survival, as creepy as it may be. This was our family's Sierra Club moment, our contribution to the delicate balance of the forest. Then we went back to camp and let our Hummer idle with the air conditioner running.

No, but we did go back and check the weather forecast using David's phone, because there was a ominous rumbling sound and occasional flashes of lightening in the sky. David read the forecast aloud to me: "Violent thunderstorms...50 mph winds...cloud to ground lightening....nickel-sized hail....stay away from trees....fasten down small objects that may blow away...due in our area in 12 minutes." Small objects, as in the children? The forecast couldn't have been more specific unless it said, "Hey, you in campsite #54, for god's sake blow this joint! On the double!"

So we did. We shoved all our belongings into the car and drove off just as the storm hit. As we were driving out of the park exit, the rain started pouring down and the trees were bent nearly double with the wind. The car was shuddering from the force of the gusts, and we could barely see out the windshield. The storm cleared fast, though; thirty minutes later the day turned absolutely gorgeous, with the sky a beautiful shade of blue with only an occasional cloud. Cool and crisp, it was the kind of day that positively demands that you go camping -- unless of course you had just packed up the entire campsite extremely quickly, in which case it was the kind of day that demands that you go home.

So our trip was much shorter than we had originally intended. We only spent about 16 hours camping, which was pretty brief considering that I spent approximately 427 hours packing for the trip. (It would have been 428 hours had I packed the air mattress.)

But at least it was a taste of camping, and it was enough of a taste to know that our family could have fun with this mode of vacationing. I think we're going to try to schedule another camping weekend this fall, maybe something in late September or October. Next time, we'll try a different park, and I'll let David do most of the packing. Also, next time I would like as little Journey as is absolutely necessary.

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