Wednesday, July 10, 2013

All the Animals that Didn't Eat Us

We went camping and didn't get eaten by bears! Mission accomplished!

Granted, we were camping in a park in an urban area with no bears within a hundred miles, but I'll take credit for even dubious achievements. We didn't get eaten by possums, either, and I bet there some were some of THOSE things hanging around.

We camped in a small pocket park about half an hour from home, still in the Madison metropolitan area. The park was right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so the whole experience wasn't exactly Into the Wild. (Still, the possums, if there were any, were probably vicious.) I chose a location not far from home because it seemed to me that if we wanted to get eaten alive by mosquitoes and have a sleepless night from trying to get rest inside a boiling hot tent, we may as well do that half an hour from home instead of 3 hours from home, since the kids don't know the difference. That's just smart parenting.

Mosquito fodder

Just me and the kids went on this trip, and David stayed home. We almost never have family vacations with David, mostly because David has been on this weird schedule his whole life where he sleeps until noon. That is a hard schedule to accommodate while on vacation, so David usually just stays home. The kids always ask where Daddy is, and I'm not sure what to tell them -- that few things are more important to David than being able to sleep in? -- and so I just tell them that Daddy is a vampire. Then everybody is happy.

The kids had a blast, mostly centered around (a) being in the tent, and (b) eating s'mores. I had forgotten the matches, so we couldn't light the campstove or build a fire, but that didn't matter because the kids were just as happy to eat the s'mores uncooked. Stella demonstrated a technique (below) for making marshmallow "taffy" that I swear to god she said she learned in science class. I'm glad schools are finally getting back to the basics of science education. Now maybe we'll finally catch up to China.

Kids in China learn to make marshmallow taffy insi
I did a few scientific experiments of my own, trying to develop alternatives to s'mores (see pictures below). Since I am a slave to the scientific method, I had to gather many data points to determine that the marshmallow/pretzel sandwich had a small but statistically significant taste advantage compared to the chocolate/pretzel sandwich. The results of my experiment will be published in The Journal of Camping Cuisine, after peer review is completed.

Alternative A
Alternative B. The winner.
We got a bunch of mosquito bites, naturally. The mosquitoes think of my kids as my kids think of s'mores: Rare delicacies that should be taken full advantage of whenever offered.

The nice thing is that even though the weather has been very rainy, the mosquitoes weren't awful. We have had a lot of rain, and I thought that all the standing water would mean lots of places for the mosquitoes to breed. But I read in the paper that the abundance of rain has flooded out the places where the mosquitoes like to breed, keeping populations down. So let's see...rain leads to mosquitoes, but LOTS of rain leads to fewer mosquitoes? This sounds a little suspicious to me, sort of like the argument that the best way to combat gun violence is to make sure more people have guns.

Anyway, now we're back, and it's amazing how just one night, spent less than an hour away, can still leave you tuckered out, dirty, with a bunch of bug bites. The kids had a blast, and I'm pretty proud that I managed to pull off the trip by myself and get everybody back home happy and safe, and that we didn't get eaten by chipmunks. Those things can be nasty.

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