Sunday, September 19, 2010

Happy Campers

We are not particularly big campers. Hubby's idea of roughing it involves having to call to the front desk for an iron. (I admit to a slight exaggeration for illustrative purposes.) My father, bless his heart, took my family camping quite a bit when we were youngsters and I have backpacked and horsepacked enough to know that car camping is not really roughing it. But I'm getting lazy and soft in my old age and my daily comfort requirements are greater. What I will tolerate as roughing it is getting correspondingly less and less primitive. There is a broad range of comfort levels with a mobile home on one end (and I recognize there is a whole subset of levels there) and rolling out a blanket on the ground on the other. The differences along the scale between the two seems to be mostly a differentiation of camping equipment.

Getting the equipment for comfortable camping gets to be a substantial commitment of finances and storage space. My father accumulated a basement collection of tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and various and sundry other items necessary to the outdoor explorer. As his own comfort needs climb higher and camping becomes less appealing he has started to purge his camping equipment and find homes for it with me and my sister. So I do have access to some decent camping equipment without the expenditure. But this equipment requires gathering, checking, remembering, and loading in the car. That's before we even pull out of the garage. That's before we even start unloading and setting up, and long before we start breaking down, loading, and driving home so we can then unload and wash and put away. On my childhood camping trips my mom and mostly my dad did the bulk of the work. Since Hubby is out of town and is working right up until the moment he climbs in the car to drive, I'll be doing all the prep work that both my parents used to do. My ideas of what are preferable leisure activities are climbing farther and farther away from the pit toilet. That luxury condo Hubby mentioned looks better and better... But the girls get so freaking excited about the whole woodsy thing. Combine this with the annual church group camp-out on Friday and there is just no avoiding some sort of outdoor experience.

About four years ago when my kids got old enough to find the idea of camping romantic and they stopped having so much baby related equipment required for an overnight stay, I gave in and started trying to fulfill their fantasy of waking up in the woods. An easy platform to do this is the church camp-out. So much is arranged for you. The activities committee finds the spot and provides the fees for the campground, they only stay one night which eliminates the question of staying on longer, and there are a bunch of well equipped veteran campers on hand who can usually loan you whatever you forget. So they are making it easy, but it's still no picnic. As I have bemoaned to my mother how much of a pain in the neck the preparations are she has exuberantly expressed her respect and admiration for the herculean effort I go to to get the girls in the woods, because she certainly wouldn't have done it without the driving force of my father. It's nice to have my own cheering section, even if she's on the other side of the phone and not actually helping me load the car.

The first year the girls and I went on the church camp-out Hubby wasn't coming in until late that night so the girls and I (actually just I) set up camp by myself. That year we borrowed one of my dad's old (and wonderful) Spring Bar tents and his old (and inadequate) sleeping bags with the flannel deer on the inside. Hubby came up the following morning to join us for breakfast and to listen to the girls tell how cold they were all night and how fun it was when we all three ended up in one big sleeping bag together.

Hubby was in town and camped with us the next year, the year I didn't borrow my father's heavy but reliable Spring Bar tent but bought a nifty easy-to-put-up nylon tent for us instead, and bought new sleeping bags for everyone. The sleeping bags were great, but the tent was a complete disaster. The zippers on our new tent popped open or wouldn't budge at all, and climbing across our battery-inflated air mattress to get through what should have been the back window of the tent (because the door was sealed shut) popped the mattress and Hubby and I slept on the ground that night. We returned the tent the next day.

The next year we didn't stay over night, just went up for dinner and then slept in our own beds. Which brings us to this year, when I thought we might be able to get away with the much less strenuous dinner-only option, but eventually just couldn't deny the excitement of the girls. We found someone to stay with the dog and didn't have any other excuses not to go, so we again borrowed one of Papa's old Spring Bar tents (my sister and I rotate storage for some of the bigger items) and we camped over. Hubby was in town, and though he didn't really have time to devote to a night in the hills, he went anyway to be with his girls.

All in all it was a good trip. We got out of town late because Hubby was working up until I practically backed the car out of the driveway without him. So we were one of the last of the group to get there, and certainly the last to set up their tent. My father's Spring Bar is wonderful, he has several smaller sizes but we borrowed the 5 man, which I can stand up in with nearly a foot of headroom. By the time we set up our tent, before we even blew up the mattresses and unpacked the sleeping bags, it was nearly full dark. We went through the dinner line just one step ahead of the clean up crew, and I went back and finished setting up the rest during the campfire songs.

Not many people camped this year, most just came up for dinner, so breakfast the next morning was pretty quiet. In fact had I known it was going to be as quiet and unplanned as it was I would have brought a gallon of milk and a box of cereal or something. The breakfast provided was a rather gourmet affair of hot chocolate and boiled crawdads in butter or cocktail sauce. Thing 1 was horrified and wouldn't come near them, but Thing 2 found them a delicacy and gobbled them up as fast as anyone would peel them for her. When we came down from the canyon we stopped at IHOP because only Thing 2 had eaten enough to consider herself fully breakfasted, and then we came home where I set about unloading the car, and Hubby went to work and ended up having to pull a nearly all-nighter in order to get ready for his flight this morning.

The girls really enjoyed it. I come home dirty and tired; no matter how comfortable the air mattress and warm the sleeping bag, there is a certain amount of tossing and turning and waking and shifting and waking and listening to the woods and making sure the girls are covered and waking up trying to ignore my bladder and finally getting up to shiver to the latrines and blundering back into the tent and getting Hubby to roll over because if one of us rolls over in the double sleeping bag, the other has to too. It's absolutely exhausting. I apologize for my major whine rant.

This Friday the girls have the day off of school. Hubby went to great lengths to rearrange a client so he could be here and we can do something together. What do the girls want to do? Go camping.


  1. So who did you get to stay with Kelso? I so wish I could have come with you. I like camping and would help you set up the tent!!!

  2. Katherine came up late Friday and left before we got home on Saturday, bless her heart. I don't know what I'm going to do when she graduates.


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