Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Retro Camping

I feel like I'm a bad parent if I don't take the kids camping at least once a year. And yet with the start of school just around the corner, we hadn't yet trekked to the woods to make the annual ritual offering of our bodies to the mosquitoes. So I packed up the car a few days ago and we headed out to nature.

Speaking of packing the car, look how crowded it is with everything jammed in there! Keep in mind this was only a one night camping trip.

All that stuff packed in there, and yet I feel like I'm forgetting something. Oh yes! The kids!

I would just like to take a moment to draw your attention to the the giant sleeping bag rolled up and stuffed between the kids. That is David's sleeping bag, and it dates back to when he was the Boy Scouts, in approximately 1923. I think it's made out of cotton -- since they didn't have man-made fibers back then -- weighs about 20 pounds, and sucks up water like a sponge if it rains or is damp, or is even just kind of humid out. The bag also sports a charming variety of stains. This is definitely a piece of camping equipment you don't want to leave home without.

We had hoped to camp at a nearby state park near the Wisconsin Dells, but all the camping sites were full. So instead we went to a private campground, chosen more or less at random, where I put up the tent. I PUT UP THE TENT! Successfully, with no swearing at all. Sure, it's an easy-to-assembly pop up tent, but I have the spatial intelligence of an inebriated duckling, so I am pretty proud of myself.

Man, my kids love a tent like a golden retriever loves a tennis ball. Before I even had it halfway up, they had scurried inside and were pretending to be mice, in their little hole.

The campground we were at was like a slice of old Wisconsin life, frozen in time. There was a tiny swimming pool, a playground that hadn't been updated since -- well, since about the time David was a Boy Scout, and lots of ashtrays. There was a grumpy old guy manning the front desk. You just know that people were drinking brandy old fashioneds somewhere on site. The campground had very little to recommend it, and yet it was perfect for us.

The playground alone was a big draw for the kids, especially because it included a teeter totter. Nowadays, playgrounds don't have teeter totters, and after I got over my wave of nostalgia, I understood why. Both kids were crying from teeter totter-induced injuries within three minutes. And after we returned home, one person in our party discovered a good-sized splinter in a very sensitive part of his or her body, inflicted by the unpainted wood of the teeter totter. Basically, it was a menace all around and so of course that's mostly what the kids wanted to play on.

(Note the metal slide in the background of this picture -- the kind that heats up to the point where you can cook an egg on it in the hot sun -- and the world's simplest monkey bars. It's like a museum of ancient playground equipment.)

We rotated between the playground, the tiny swimming pool, and playing cards in the tent. We also ate the occasional s'more. The kids love s'mores but they find it stressful to actually roast them, what with the possibility of the marshmallows catching on fire. So I roast them, and if they catch on fire, then I get to bite out the burnt part of the marshmallow, to "fix" it for the kids. Of course I love the burnt part, but make sure to act like I'm doing the kids a big favor.

That stuff you have to eat before you get a s'more
After 24 hours of camping fun, which included about 3 hours of sleeping, we headed back to town. Walter fell asleep in the car as soon I turned the engine on, and I think Stella napped too, with her head on the vintage sleeping bag that took up the whole back seat. I knew that sleeping bag was good for something.


  1. good lord- that playground DOES look like every playground i ever visited in my youth. did you get the splinter out with tweezers or is it "working it's way out naturally'?

  2. The owner of the splinter screamed when I got anywhere near it with tweezers, so I slapped a bandaid on it and hoped it would take care of itself.