Monday, July 24, 2006

"Let's Go Camping!"

These were the brilliant words spoken by me recently, when planning a mini family getaway. We had to pick up our 8-year old daughter from her two weeks at sleepaway camp, two hours away. My husband suggested we (we being me, my husband and our 5-year old daughter) find a place nearby to spend a night, explore the area a little. I said "camping."

I went to Triple A, got the Campbook, found a state park, made reservations. State parks apparently don't make Saturday-only reservations so we decided to go up the night before, spend Friday night, pick up our daughter Saturday morning and spend Saturday night as well.

I reserved a campsite with no site on one side of us, partly shaded and...oh, did I mention we brought the dog? Yeah. So we had a "Pets allowed" site. But there were two lakes in this park, a beach, you could rent boats, they even had activities for kids throughout the day! We brought bathing suits.

We were worried about space, since we had all our camping stuff PLUS our daughter's 2 bags, laundry basket, pillow & sleeping bag from camp when we picked her up. In an attempt at packing light, we decided to bag the foamy things we use under the sleeping bags on the floor of the tent. We figured we'd be fine.

So we get to the site Friday evening, with about 2 hours of daylight to go. We looked for a place to put the tent among the rocks, rocks Found a relatively flat space with only SMALL rocks, put down the ground cover and pulled out the tent. The wrong tent. We had left home the 3-room tent which sleeps 6 comfortably and brought the 4-person tent, which everybody knows sleeps maybe 3 people comfortably. Whatever, we thought. We'll make it work. I ran out to buy wood, came back with a trunk full of damp wood and we finally managed to get a very smoky fire going. We cooked hot dogs, baked beans and ate some of the yummy fruits and veggies I had lovingly prepared ahead of time.

NB: Soy hot dogs bubble in a creepy way when cooked over an open fire.

Luna (our dog) spent a lot of time running around, looking for critters and meeting all the other dogs in nearby campsites. We finally tied her up at our site; we got tired of running after her. She's very friendly but a little too enthusiastic sometimes. She drank a lot of water but absolutely refused to touch the leftover veggie baked beans we poured over her food.

Oh, and the mosquitos - GOOD GOD, the mosquitos! They were everywhere, swarming. They seemed to like all THREE of the bug sprays we brought with us. Or if they didn't like them, the spray sure didn't slow them down any. In no time, we were all covered with bites.

We went to use the bathroom which was unspeakably horrible. No light, no running water, no flushing, lots of creepy get the picture. We filled an empty water jug with some rusty wet stuff (I hesitate to call it water) and washed our faces and brushed our teeth at the camp site. Got in the tent and I thought - there is no way in hell I'm going to get any sleep tonight.

Every time a dog barked, Luna wanted to respond. She was in the tent with us. The ground was - literally - rock hard. Not only hard, but I had to position myself in a way that my hip avoided this rock, that little rock went between a couple of ribs and avoid - at all costs - the boob crusher. It was hot, so we were all on top of our sleeping bags, thankful for that extra layer of cushioning.

Some time around midnight (I'm guessing) it started to rain. The rain didn't stop the other dogs from barking and making Luna jump up every time a car drove past or a dog made a noise, but we finally got her settled in. Our 5-year old is terrified of thunder, so we had to console her a lot. Plus, in our surprise at the SMALLNESS of the tent we had brought, we neglected to properly fit the ground cover under the tent.

So it sat out at least 6 inches all around the tent, collected every drop of rain from above or the fly of the tent and ran it right underneath our tent. I woke up after one particularly good span of maybe 2 minutes' sleep to the dog lapping up a puddle right next to my ear. I shoved her head out of the way, making her move over to my husband's side of the tent where he woke up being dripped on by the dog. "That dog is PEEING on me!" he shouted. "No, she's just wet from the puddles in here," I informed him.

So went the rest of the night. Dogs barked, cars drove by, some asshole I swear was setting off firecrackers, dog continued lapping up puddles or just licking herself (This now ranks way up there on my list of most annoying sounds - ever).

Finally the rain stopped, the sun came up and we got out of the tent. We were wet, the sleeping bags and pillows were wet, the dog was wet, the wood was wet. We ate rolls with hard-boiled eggs for breakfast and went to pick up our daugher from camp. We managed to find a bathroom with toilets that flush and running water. Things were looking up.

The pickup went fine, the sun was shining, the bugs were happy. Really damn happy. We got back to the camp, wondering how we were all going to fit in this 4-person tent, now wet, with the dog and if the wood would dry out enough for us to make a fire. Despite the problems of the night before, we were determined to make it work. We pulled into the campsite and the skies opened up again, dumping tons of rain on us. We sat in the car for an hour and ate peanut butter sandwiches.

When it slowed down to just a torrential downpour, I decided I'd had enough of breathing everybody else's breath in the car (we couldn't open the windows with the rain and the bugs) , said to my hisband "I'm in Hell" and went to go sit in the tent for a bit. Thought maybe I'd figure out how we'd manage the rest of our stay.

By now though, the fly of the tent had completely given up, so not only was the floor of the tent and everything in it soaked, I sat in the tent being dripped on from above. My daughters came to sit with me in the tent and we ate some granola bars and looked around. I said to my 8-year old "Go tell Daddy we're leaving."

It took us about an hour or so to jam everything back into the car and hit the road.

Earlier today my husband said to me "We'll have some time at the end of August, we should think about getting away somewhere." I said "Wanna go camping?"


Blogger WriterChick said...

Oh Ruth. Forsooth. You'da had better luck in Deluth. When I stopped laughing, I logged in. Three words:
BIG A** TARP. The kind that you rig up to trees with rope and bungee cords so the rain drips into OTHER people's campsites. Leave the dog at home (she'll thank you), find a park with hot showers and flushing toilets and electricity (yes, i have been known to blow dry my hair camping), and always, ALWAYS make sure there is a cheap hotel nearby with a pool ;)

5:50 PM, July 24, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

What you described really IS my version of hell. Were you kidding about wanting to go again, or do you really love camping, even when your last experience sucked? (No criticism, just curious. Some people really do crave it, even when they have to suffer through it.)

10:28 AM, July 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with Writerchick - pup must stay home next time. Nature is no place for animals.


12:39 PM, July 27, 2006  
Blogger Lisa said...

This sounds exactly like some of my camping experiences. Another tip...use the bug spray with deet. It works much better.

10:14 AM, July 28, 2006  
Blogger cjblue said...

WW, I would go camping again now that we have some experience under our belts and remember what we need and know more about what we're looking for. I wouldn't mind having a GOOD camping experience, especially with the kids. Lots of good advice here, thanks everyone!

Lisa, I'm just not crazy about using Deet on kids. Happy to use it on myself though ;-)

3:53 PM, July 29, 2006  
Blogger PFG said...

Oh this is why I am not the outdoorsy type, even before the Lyme disease. I continue to think about the sound of one dog lapping...

11:21 PM, July 30, 2006  
Blogger Trina said...

Gee... this sounds so... fun. I wouldn't have even *tried* for another night - you are more woman than I!


11:29 PM, August 24, 2006  

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