Monday, August 6, 2012



The last time we went camping was back in '09, in the Loire Valley of France.  It was magic, and I was mostly along for the ride.  We couldn't go camping in '10 because we had a new, itty, bitty baby.  We couldn't go camping back in '11 because I was pregnant, and I had a very hard time getting up off the ground and bending over-- two activities that are necessary for camping.  Finally, now that it is summer of '12, the babies are no longer itty bitty and I can elevate myself from the ground with ease.  The camping impediments had fallen away.

I love planning for camping.  When I was a kid, this all happened behind the scenes.  I had no idea what my mother did, or even where she put her lists.  It all happened by magic.  The tent.  The cans of chili. The wood for the fire. The ice.  The s'more supplies. The sleeping bags. All I knew was that we were outdoors, that it was cold at night and it was heaven.  Why heaven?  We were outside-- we could be as loud and rowdy as we wanted.  The ceiling was el cielo, the stars spangled the heavens.  The trees were big and the jays were mean and loud.  And tents are so cool!  Just like making a blanket fort in the living room, except way better.

Now that I am an adult, I can appreciate the elaborate lists and special shopping that goes into camping.  I spent hours going over menus and supplies. I visualized what I wanted to eat the most.  I wrote it down.  I made a special list for Dutch to take to Costco and Safeway. I dusted off supplies lovingly gathered at IKEA, Asian restaurant supplies, and military surplus stores (bought when I was single, and didn't camp that much, but somehow it seemed wrong not to have the supplies around).  I made pages of notes.  I tried to categorize things.  Camping with the Littles is a bit more complicated than just plain ol' adults.  They need their special blankies, potties and sippy cups.  And jars of baby food and yogurt. Both Spike and Lulu are old enough not to need everything sterilized, so keeping things ultra-clean wouldn't be a problem.  A little dirt would even be beneficial.  Still, forgetting the wrong thing could be a disaster.

Dutch and I spent about 2 hours packing.  We stuck the kids in front of the TV while we spelunked in the garage. I made a huge pile in front of Big Red and Dutch somehow shoe-horned everything into the back.  Dutch is a master packer.  God touched him with the Packing Gift.  He passed me over.

Once we got to the site we realized that in spite of all the lists I had forgotten to pack some important things.

Things I forgot
can opener (we made do with a triangle can opener- what a pain!)
broom (but I remembered the dust pan)
skillet (its TRUE!)
oven mitt
Dutch's flip flops

Things that got packed, then lost, then rediscovered upon coming home.
The All-Purpose Condiment
Coffee (sorry Dutch!  Fortunately, I packed a Thermos of coffee that we managed to make last the two mornings we were there).

Unnecessary things I managed to remember
-- actually nothing-- (besides the useless dust pan)
Lump charcoal-- while useless for the dutch oven, made a very nice fire.

Things I didn't know we'd actually need (mostly for making the dutch oven work).
A tripod (our fire pit was just that-- no place to put the DO).
lid lifter (that thing gets hot!)
A flat surface to set up the briquettes we didn't have (I have no idea how I'd work this in the future-- would we have to bring our own bricks?)

I burned everything I tried to cook in the dutch oven.  I even managed to burn, but not cook the hash browns (I even pre-microwaved them-- obviously not enough).  I can't believe those potatoes didn't cook.  They were in the DO for nearly 40 minutes.  I had to throw those crunchy bastards away.

Burn List
Texas Chili (the cornbread was a lovely consolation).
Permanently Raw Hashbrowns

Somehow, through spit and ingenuity (and the camp store down the street) we made it through. We bought matches.  We bought fire wood. We even accidentally banked the fire one night, it was so delightful to get it going by throwing paper at it the next morning.


We took LuLu to the crik. It was about 6 inches deep, but sported lots of wide, sandy banks and plenty of critters.  She loved it.  We skipped stones and watched the water go by. We let her go nearly naked.  She is a very happy, naked toddler.  But what toddler likes clothes, anyways?

Steller Jays.  When those birds rifle through your things at night, it sounds like Sasquach himself is making a visit to your camp.

Squirrels.  They were actually shy (!)

Raccoons.  We didn't see them, but we found their paw prints on everything in the morning.

Toddlers. Toddlers are not indoor creatures.  They love screaming, running, spinning in circles, stalking bugs, streaking,  throwing dirt, eating dirt (there is not enough dirt indoors), peeing au natural, jumping, hopping and climbing on things. LuLu is not allowed to climb on Dutch's bookcases, but there were plenty of  monster 19th cent. stumps and fallen trees to keep her occupied for days. By the time we went home, her little legs were covered with bug bites and scratches.

Infants. Spike, at ten months, doesn't crawl yet, but when I set him on the ground (usually on a bunch of blankets) the first thing he'd do was pull the blankets away, to find the dirt-- which he would proceed to stuff into his mouth by the handful.  I let him do it for as long as I could stand it. He had the most magnificent dirt mustaches and beards. Every once in a while, I'd sweep his mouth to get the big chunks out.  So far he hasn't come down with any diseases. He weeped and fussed when I picked him up. He was so happy to be sitting in all that dirt.  Just seeing the look of pure glee on his dirty face made it all worthwhile.

Good-bye Internets.  Our camp does not have any cell reception.  For the desperate there are a few pay phones.  It was so nice to pack the phone away and forget about it.  I dug it out the last day to make sure we didn't miss the check out deadline, and then I promptly broke it.  Whoops. I still haven't gotten around to getting it replaced.  Facebook can live without me for a few more days.  I didn't have to listen to anyone talking too loudly on their phone, either (our Evil Neighbors are semi-deaf and constantly yelling into their phones outside our window). Heaven. I took the KB to a pay phone to call our uncle, and it was the first time she had ever used one!  Kids these days.

I want to camp again, before the rains come to California.  Does anyone else want to come with me?  I promise to bring matches.


H said...

I still remember our trip to the Santa Cruz Mtns in 2006 where we bogarted the "mystical, magical" camping spot from that annoying family at Sam McDonald(?)Park. Both of us were kvetching about loser boys. Goood times. My parents had no qualms about taking me camping, and I'm pretty sure I ate plenty of dirt and survived.

Camille Offenbach said...

Was that really 6 years ago! Thems were good times! I think it was Memorial Park-- since there isn't overnighting at Sam.

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