Monday, July 5, 2010

Time Out for Camping

On a workday in May when I dreamt of time away from work, I booked a campsite for us in the mountains, with the first night away coinciding with my first day off.

So into the mountains we drove last Thursday, dog and kids and Way Too Much Stuff in tow.

The camping trip was everything we hoped for: friends joining us in the site adjacent to ours; marshmallows in hair; tent pitched on surface sloped just enough for us all to wake up downhill together in a heap; deer, bullfrog, and assortment of wild rodent sightings; roasted weenies; raucous games of telephone around the campfire; mosquito bites forming constellations on exposed body parts; dirty dirt dirtying up everybody quite dirtily.

And by dirty, I mean especially the dog.

But there were a few low points; I won't lie.

Husband loves to fish and I chose our campsite based on this premise. On our first day he had the good luck of fishing in a pond that is normally stocked with 250 pounds of fish but which on This Particular Day was overstocked because the Stocking Machine got stuck or something and what do you know, there were 400 pounds of trout and my husband was celebrating what he characterized as shooting fish in a barrel.

The girls got to help him catch and clean five trout. I recalled the last time I was involved in cooking fresh trout; it was in the Aberdares of Kenya. My aunt caught, cleaned, and then steamed the fish in tin foil over a fire. So we did the same, the second night, after we found and then paid a pretty penny for tin foil and a lemon. Not to mention the $17 six-pack of beer, which tasted almost as good as $13.

But freshly squeezed lemon did not mask the Marinade de Pond, which was the distinguishing flavor of our fresh trout. Indeed, husband caught the trout and kept the fish in the pond on a rope so they would be even more freshly pondish: a technique that worked! We were all amazed when our friends' daughter chowed down on that trout like pondishness was going out of style.

On the second day, we went for a hike. It was a most pleasant foray into the woods, through a meadow, and along a stream. But our four-year-old failed to recognize the virtues of said excursion, and wailed for the duration like our own natural Mountain Lion Deterrent. It was annoying for the first twenty minutes, and then the moans became part of the landscape, like the grasses swaying in the breeze and the incredible cedar trees.

My husband's tolerance for the white noise of whining is lower than mine, so he would occasionally threaten to put our daughter on Time Out in the car upon our return. Assuming, of course, which our daughter did not, that we would actually return from this interminable walk. He added his famous five-minute increments with each shriek she let loose when a bug dared to fly in her face.

Miraculously, all duress ended abruptly when the terrain around the pond grew familiar and the rocks Little Sis liked climbing were in view. The hike ended happily.

On the evening of our last night on the mountain, a family with an indeterminate number of children rolled up to the neighboring campsite and unloaded their gear, thus beginning a Long Night of Loudness. At first it was all just boisterous fun, with kids shouting and giggling and running around the campsite. At 10 PM as we lay in our tents exhausted and listened to repeat episodes of tent zipping and unzipping and children misbehaving and parents' recriminations, I tried to convince Big Sis this was better than watching TV. By 2 AM I wanted to put Little Eli and Charlotte and also Rachel on Time Out along with their dad, who repeatedly threatened spankings and helpfully bellowed across the valley, "People are trying to sleep!!" every ten minutes or so.

On the bright side, this family's ruckus kept the skunks away from our site that night and we eventually fell asleep.

Only to wake up to the sound of our dog puking in the tent.

Nevertheless, nothing could tarnish the glow of campfires, family time, pine trees, and night skies full of stars.

We can't wait to do it again.


me said...

Sign us up for the next installment. We loved our time with you all!!!

Ms. F said...

I love the image of mosquito bites as constellations and kids' whining as white noise! Beautiful!

I love camping, but Danny claims that he is "city folk" and, thus, a non-camper. I haven't helped to rid him of this self-conception because every time I've forced him camping, it's been 20 degrees. :)