Thursday, August 15, 2013

This One Time At ...Camp... Camp

My wife, after much thought and consideration (sangria) decided we were going camping for the first time with the entire family.  She informed the family on Tuesday, three days before we left, because it's not like our family requires time to transition or plan.

She immediately started packing and making ready all the supplies she felt we had (after consulting friends) and I scheduled a trip to REI to purchase the essentials we did not:  Gunpowder, ham hocks, and guitar strings. 

Let me back up...

My wife hosted a "girl's night" at our house one night when she knew I would be gone and wouldn't eff it up.  So they met and she hosted, and by the time I got there they were all half lit up and had convinced Leslie that camping with the entire family would be not only fun, but good for her.  And honestly, given the group they probably had the best shot at convincing her because all of them work with Lily on a day-to-day basis during the school year.  They were going...built in support...why NOT go?

And of all the thousand reasons I would ordinarily have been able to dream up, I came up with..."but the laundry" and ..."but grocery shopping..." and I was ignored and we were going camping and that was fine.  And the reason it was fine is the same reason that the group we were going with had the best shot at convincing Leslie.  It wasn't just going to be us.  We'd have built-in support.

Emma was, of course, beside herself with joy.  She has wanted to go REAL camping for as long as we've been going backyard camping, so for her, this was the realization of all her desires.  Fishing/camping out/s'mores...

Friday I got home five or ten minutes early.  Leslie had essentially packed everything, and as is typical for our pre-trip organization and packing, she was stressed to the gills and finding it extremely difficult (I assume) to reply to any questions in any sort of..."civil" tone.

A blogging friend sent me a Facebook message telling me to have fun and not to drive my wife insane. I replied, "I promise not to drive her crazy if she lives through the fucking drive...her stress manifests itself in the form of excessive shrewery."  

Leslie gets stressed before trips or parties and then bites everyone who comes within range.  Fine...bites me when I come in range.  She gets over it very quickly and is apologetic and sweet, but I find that her stress level ratchets up higher the closer we get to departure.  And then once we depart, like a rubber band snapping, so too does her stress.  Meanwhile though, we were in the final minutes...

The blogger then asked, "how does your stress manifest itself?"  

"I start saying fuck a lot."

But really what happens is I get super defensive and immediately bite back and make whoever bit at me as absolutely miserable as possible, which is the exact best combination for building to a fight.  

When we arrived we put up two tents because we didn't have a big one, and Leslie and Lily took one while Emma and I took the other.  And it's probably for the best because we verbally bit and scratched halfheartedly at each other until...maybe Saturday.  Because....

Once we were all together, and at the campsite with tents set up and children fed, the rain began to fall.  And we huddled together, our three groups, under a canopy, drinking beer and getting soaking wet from about 9:00 until we dispersed to our respective tents a shorter time later than perhaps we would all have preferred had the weather been different.

Leslie took Lily at her usual bedtime but the patter of the rain, or perhaps the barking of dogs or happy shrills of playing children (you never think about how loud kids are until you're in a tent with paper thin walls trying to put your 7 year old to sleep) kept her awake.  Or maybe she just had to go to the bathroom.  An hour or so after we put her to 'bed' (Dora sleeping bag) she asked to go to the bathroom...and we rigged our potty seat in the corner of the tent for privacy and Lily, after much sitting, went...and then fell asleep.  

I'm trying to gauge whether this was "the low point".  It's close.  But maybe wait a bit...

That night the rain fell almost constantly.  At one point it was dripping inside Leslie and Lily's tent and I realized the rain flap that covered the mesh "vent" at the top of their tent was on sideways and left an opening.  We fixed that and fixed most of the problem...

Over in my tent, I slept like crap for the most part.  But I slept.  And where there was some water, at least there was no point where rain was just falling directly from the sky and into the tent.  There was some periodic dripping that came tap, tap, tapping on my sleeping bag...but I'd rearrange the flap, or move my sleeping bag to one side or slap the water away or whatever and it would be fine until it would find some other ingress and start again a half hour later.

Emma and I both woke several times when the rain fell heaviest, and I think I woke once and for all around six in the morning when the roaming leak found its way directly into my ear hole, with me playing Hamlet's father to mother nature's Claudius.  But unlike King Hamlet I woke, batting away at God's own wet willy before sitting up and realizing that this was 1) as much sleep as I was bound to get and 2)  I realllllly had to pee.

Leslie too was awake, texting me when she heard the rustle of my sleeping back against the air mattress.  I got up and wandered to the bathroom, leaving a sleeping Emma behind before relieving Leslie so she could go.

We assessed the damages in Leslie and Lily's tent...

Where the air mattress raised the sleeping bags off the ground they remained dry, so that should have been most of it, but the backpacks with all the dry clothes?  Those remained on the tent floor where the rain puddled and ponded and saturated everything that should and must remain dry (unless you go without clothing) while they slept.

All of Lily's clothes were soaked.

The adults gathered into an impromptu counsel of war...should we stay?  Should we go?  There was no consensus, but I was leaning toward going.  This might have been our low point had one of the groups not attempted to start their truck only to find the battery completely dead.  Nobody else in the group could drive up the wet grass of the hill to jump the vehicle, and with the battery dead, they couldn't shift it into neutral in order to push it down the hill to us.

This then...this was the low point.  Car dead, soaked clothes, rain still falling, sad children...

And Lily slept on...maybe that's the candle flickering in the night...because Lily just kept on sleeping.  And when she woke and Leslie began feeding her, I was taking clothes and backpacks in dripping bundles down to the front offices laundromat.  Who knew??  Camping/laundromat!  Victory is mine!

And then the rain stopped and the sun came out.  And we pulled the sleeping bags from the tents and drained the water, draping them over our vehicles and letting the sun dry them out.  We got coffee from the office and finished drying out our clothes.  The kids rode their bikes down to the playground, the fire was rekindled, and a fellow camper drove his four wheel drive up the hill and jump started the truck.  And the consensus more night.

It's going to be hard to lay it all out for you because so much got jammed into that day, and I've already put off posting this for so long because there was so much...and there's only so much you all will read before you're like..."Wall of words!  Done!!"  So many things I want to write about that would stretch this post out...the half whimsical purchase of the camp knife and thoughts of whittling away at drift wood by a camp fire, the remembered packs of wild kids, peddling off into adventure and away from the parents' watchful eyes...maybe another post another time.

So let me try to sum up:

S'mores, mountain pies, swimming pool, campfire, charades, wading, fishing, bike riding, basketball, whittling, beer, and a cloudless day with a cool night under starry skies, Lily, in pajamas, sitting on our laps and gobbling roasted marshmallow from the point of a fire-blackened stick, and then again sleeping peacefully until morning.  She really was a good girl throughout the whole thing and LOVED the dog (Chesney) who came along with one of the families.  It feels like I'm doing the actual camping part a huge injustice since most of this is about the rain...but it felt nostalgic, like a trip from MY childhood.  The kids riding together in a big pack...getting on their bikes to peddle down to office to buy something, and then racing them back to play basketball...everyone included...everyone watching out for each other. 

And Emma offered this, "This was probably the best weekend of my whole life."  Almost like she had that father's day backyard camping trip so many years before.

And so we'll try again next year, and hope for a better first night.  As for "real" camping...maybe this is as "real" as it needs to be, with a pond stocked with fish, a laundromat "just in case", clean bathrooms and showers, a playground, basketball courts, and a swimming pool.  We'll take the Montana camping trip when we have this version down to a science.

Entrance to camp

Emma and my quarters

Just prior to rainfall...

Day 2...She's "king of the world" the playground

I am mauled by a bear and made its bitch.

Lake which worms died to bring us fish.

Blue gill...Emma caught it but refused to kiss it and turn it into a prince.

The great white whale that I pulled from the depths at great personal risk.

pretty in the foreground, pretty in the background, pretty all around.

She did this without prompting

The camping crew...

Chesney bids farewell to Lily...


  1. I'm not even kidding here: I think more families would be better off if people camped. We have done it for years, pre-boys, and continue to do so now (hello, cross-country move with camper in tow!). There is SOMETHING about the campfire. About getting out of your house, out of your rut. Yeah, even with our schedule-needing kids. Camping might save the world.

    Yay, You, for slogging on.


  2. Oh the joys of camping. An event that my wife and I also tried once when Jacob was young. Extreme heat, pouring rain, attacking raccoons and a giant tree root in my back. Two things i learned while camping. 1. Guys my size aren't meant to sleep on an air mattress. 2. My son loves camping. But like you guys we try to make the best out of tough situations, but unlike you guys, we'll never go camping again.

  3. Some people are better off with a pop up tent trailer, or even a travel trailer. I loved tenting when I was a kid, and trailering with MY kids . It's more about the " packs of kids" and the increased freedom to roam in a larger than normal area, and living in your bathing suit and campfires and such. Not so much the " roughing it" part, that makes the memories sweet.

    1. I'll buy that. If we end up doing it more...maybe pop up tent trailer is the way to go...

  4. Those ladies' nights are a hotbed of dangerous thought! That's what the NSA should be monitoring! (jk...good job Leslie)

  5. This made me cringey (I used to HATE camping when I was little - I could never sleep, I hate being dirty, the bathrooms skeeved me out) then turned around and made me SO HAPPY (because there were also awesome times - campfires and bike-riding and swimming in the lake.)

    We had a pop-up tent trailer, too. It was much better than the few times we tried just the tent (but we never had an air mattress, which would have helped - without an air mattress, there is ALWAYS one rock. Right under your back. No matter where you move. OUCH.)

    1. the air mattress is WAY better than the ground.

  6. This does sound like a perfect weekend. Glad it all worked out. This is the definite happy that I needed. Thanks for sharing!

  7. So glad you toughed it out for another night! Why no pictures of your fine whittling...I assumed there'd be an auction of some sort!

    1. Because Leslie said it looked like a penis.

  8. I loved this wall of words. And, I resemble your remarks about your wife's stress prior to trips. My husband would sadly concur.

    As a kid, my family camped ALL the time. My husband's family didn't. We have yet to try it with our kid, due I think to a genuine fear of bears and/or ground-sleeping on the part of my better half. I won't show him your rain story, but when you post more about the great parts, yeah, that'll work in my favor.

    1. well...staying at Bear Creek Campground might not be the place to go. Maybe Racoon Creek...

  9. This was so much fun to read. My husband and I love camping and couldn't wait to take Drew for the first time when he was younger. It did not go well. It took till the 3rd time before he would like camping. The first time we took him, he stayed in the car. For 3 days. Literally. He did not leave the car unless he was sleeping. He was gonna be the first one ready to go as soon as we said the word. :) But he came to love camping, and now we take him and James 3 times a year. And he would prefer even more. We have to borrow my in-law's little trailer for Dada and him to sleep in though. He will not go in a tent. He is all about glam camping. ;)

  10. We used to camp all the time as kids. Loved every minute of it.

    Is Fox Den Acres still open? It's about an hour and a half from Pgh, I think... we spent so many happy long weekends there.

    Glad you stuck it out!

  11. Rough weekend! Well, atleast it all turned out okay. I haven't attempted camping with the kiddos yet but it seems like you guys made the best of it.

  12. The bear picture is priceless! This reminds me of the time I went camping with my wife who practically begged me to go. I'm not really an outdoors kind of guy but I gave it a try for my sweetheart. In preparation for our trip, we were fortunate to find some affordable enclosed utility trailers for sale which really helped keep our things secure during our travels. My wife and I ended up enjoying ourselves, it was actually a romantic occasion getting back in tune with nature.

  13. Good location is also play an important role while investing in a property. When you plan to buy or rent a property, Camping and fishing