Saturday, August 22, 2009

Marshmallow goo, yellow jacket swarms, and other camping mayhem.

We just survived (and thoroughly enjoyed, actually) our very first whole family camping trip. Woo hoo! (I'm not counting backyard camping, which we've done a couple of times as a "warm-up" for the real thing. I highly recommend that, actually, as a way to see if your kids are really ready. It's a nice gauge of whether or not your kids are going to be the type that all of your camping neighbors detest, because they cry all night in the tent without a night light. Also, it gives you a chance to teach your little ones how to roast marshmallows without setting them -- or themselves, the dogs, or their brother's shirt -- on fire in the process.) So, last week, we packed waaaaaayyyyy more stuff than we needed (I'm one of those anal-retentive types who tries to think of absolutely every single scenario that could happen and packs accordingly, resulting in comments like, "Honey, do you really, really think we need to bring rain coats, rain boots and the waterproof matches? It's supposed to be 89 degrees all week." Whatever, babe. "It rides for free", as my dear ol' Dad always says, and you'll be thanking me when it starts pouring. Which it didn't, by the way...), added one four-year-old-boy, one five-year-old-boy, two big, slobbery, extremely excited mutts, and took off for our campsite, roughly 3 hours away. About 4 1/2 hours later, we arrived at our campsite --After one lunch break, two potty stops, and one stop just so Mommy and Daddy could get a coffee, get the hell out of the car, take a deep breath, and stop themselves from screaming, "If we have to tell you ONE MORE TIME to stop fighting, we are turning this car around and going home!!!" (Something that's very risky to say, because then you have to follow through with your threat, y'know? And we really, really wanted to camp.) Thanks to my overly thorough packing, my boys had tons of toys to keep them occupied while John and I set up camp. Of course, it took them no time at all to abandon their toys and find sticks they could use to hit every stump, rock, and tree trunk in the near vicinity. Whatever. They kept themselves occupied with minimal parental attention and only a few time-outs for hitting each other, rather than an inanimate object. And then the fun began...Actually, the fun didn't begin for me until after I found a bathroom, which you could only get to by winding around a road to the right, taking another right at the next stopsign, then a left, and finally heading past an orange cone, up a little driveway between two campsites. Meanwhile, the boys (all 3 of them) just pee'd by a tree behind our tent. There just wasn't quite enough bush/tree coverage for me to be comfortable doing the same. One of the disadvantages of being female, I guess. I made that bathroom trek, all alone, many, many, many times over the course of our camping trip. SIGH.

My trip highlights: Swimming and playing frisbee with the boys in the icy cold, crystal-clear lake. It was take-your-breath-away-cold at first, but, once you were submerged, it was glorious. Watching my 12-year-old dog, Cosmo, act like a puppy again. I know the old guy won't be around much longer, so it was wonderful to see him having so much fun with our other dog, Lucy -- frolicking and digging and splashing in the water. Roasting marshmallows by the campfire. The boys were so excited and covered with marshmallow goo. Reading bedtime stories and singing songs in the tent, by lantern light, with one giggly little boy snuggled up on each side. Sitting by the fire with my head in my sweetie's lap, watching shooting stars and just talking. No distractions. No electronics. Just the two of us, reconnecting and remembering why we fell in love in the first place. Awesome. Making the hike to the bathroom in the pitch dark, with Spencer holding the flashlight and repeating over and over and over again, "I'm not scared of anything, Mommy. I'm not scared of anything..." Chipmunks that were so tame they'd come right up to you, look you in the eye, and basically demand that you feed them, or else fearlessly jump in your car to rummage through your garbage. Dodging yellow jackets. OK, it's not exactly a highlight, but it was a fact of this trip, and it bears noting (and remembering, for future camping trips). Bee season. Yellow jackets everywhere. One thing I hadn't actually prepared for at all (yellow jackets don't mind citronella candles -- I think they actually like them), so we spent the entire trip hoping no one would be stung. Amazingly, no one was. Speaking of yellow jackets, another highlight was eating a picnic-on-the-floor breakfast in the tent on our last morning to avoid attracting them. We had a bunch of those mini boxes of sugary cereal that come in all different flavors -- A tradition from camping with my family when I was a kid. The boys were over-the-moon to be able to eat the kind of cereal we almost never eat at home. And, I had forgotten how yummy Honey Smacks and Fruit Loops really are. There's a reason kids like 'em. Frankly, they're delicious! Stopping for a picnic lunch on the way home at a closed-up ski resort on the mountain, and then stopping again just to play by a beautiful mountain river at the base of a waterfall. Watching my hubby and boys throwing sticks ("boats") into the little rapids and crawling all over the rocks and boulders, my dogs happily digging in the sand, and just soaking up the beauty of the whole scene. Oh, and there was enough coverage for me to pee in the woods without risk of being seen, so I truly had the entire nature experience!

We came home thoroughly exhausted, totally filthy, covered with unexplained scratches and bruises, and completely happy. We are SO camping again next summer! Cheers!

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