After our 2001 wedding, Andrew and I did the usual combining of household items and marveled at the size of our our newly merged camping equipment collection. So how is it possible that we never touched a single tent pole or propane lantern until last weekend?
Okay, it’s my fault. For years, Andrew has repeatedly suggested that we simply toss a couple of sleeping bags and a tent into the back of the van and spend a leisurly night "at one" with nature but I dragged my feet because I know that camping with kids is anything but simple or leisurely. There’s a LOT of planning that goes into a successful camping trip if one is to hope to emerge from the experience with anything but mosquito bites and nervous twitches.
Certain questions have to be answered in advance: Where will we sleep? Will we be warm enough? What will the kids do at the campsite for fun? What will we eat and how will we prepare it? What about lights and lamps? What about bugs? What about rain? What about toilets and water and campfires and chairs and tarps and tent repair kits? So much to do before we shed those annoying constraints of civilization to make our home with the vicious creatures and wild beasts that inhabit the woods just outside the limits of all cities.
But we finally did it and here’s the photographic proof:
We arrived at our camp site (at Uvas Canyon County Park) and were immediately greeted by our closest camp-neighbors: three loudly barking dogs, six adults in various stages of early intoxication and two crying toddlers. After completely unpacking and setting up camp, we headed out for our first hike where we encountered some of our more civilized neighbors who were quick to offer their condolences after hearing which site we reserved. This inspired us to explore some alternatives so we were excited to see that there was a vacancy way down on the far end of the campground (closer to the creek and waterfall) so we hightailed it back to our van and loaded everything up and moved. We didn’t break down the tents though. Instead, Gwen and Maddy and Daddy and Mommy each grabbed a corner and we walked our erect tents down the long road to their new location.
All settled for the 2nd time, we got down to the business of having fun!
Above, Maddy and Gwen prepare for a potato-gun duel to the death. What’s a potato gun, you ask? It’s a surprisingly simple little toy that works like this:
First you load the gun by jabbing the barrel into a raw potato and gouging out a little spud-pellet that remains in the gun until it is eventually forced out at very low pressure when you pull the trigger. It’s about as dangerous as booger throwing and almost as much fun.
Our camp site was beautiful and well appointed with a fire ring, picnic table, large shade trees, flat surface for the tents and a medium sized creek and waterfall nearby. One enormous plus of this particular site is the blissful “white noise” of the waterfall that masks the other camp sounds at night and makes it easier for this mom to sleep. We went on several nature walks and found all sorts of interesting critters including a couple of yellow spotted millipedes (that Gwen insisted were caterpillars), the biggest banana slug we’ve ever seen, a really cool daddy-long-leg spider and even a small snake.
You may have guessed from the photo at the top of this post that Gwen and Maddy’s Daddy is somewhat excited about sharp shiny objects. I’m sure I saw him gently caress the cool steel surface of his camping axe before unsheathing it and commencing a brutal assault on a totally innocent log. It was too much for me so made a hasty retreat after taking a few pics (in case they were needed as evidence). A little while later, he showed up at the fire pit with beads of sweat on his brow, a twinkle in his eye, and two large handfuls of kindling and in no time at all, he created this handsome fire!
…. a very lovely fire where we lovingly placed our dinner of succulent sausages (packed full of sundried tomato and mozzarella) and almost immediately turned them into individual, foil-wrapped, servings of coal. Crud.
Fortunately, I’m all about the contingency plan so there was plenty of yummy cup-o-noodles for everyone!
And what camping trip would be complete without hot chocolate and smores? The girls loved toasting the marshmallows and building these fancy desserts but when it came time to actually eat them, they were mostly just interested in the sweet slab of Hershey’s chocolate in the middle. Oh, but Mommy loved that toasty marshmallow!! After several (not so) scary campfire stories, we finally settled down for the night. Here’s a photo of the half of our tent where Gwen and Maddy slept on their much loved aerobeds. And here’s a pic of our fresh-faced, well-rested girls the next morning! Yes, that’s a bottle of pediasure with a nipple on top (gasp!). I almost photoshopped it out to avoid grief from holier-than-thou commenters who might be unable to resist the urge to scold me for letting my 6 year old daughters consume their breakfast this way but I really don’t see how it’s that much different than a straw.
All things considered, the entire camping experience was positive but man am I sore and tired! Next time I think I’ll bring warmer blankets so I can sleep more than two hours and I think we need to buy a new tent that is tall enough to stand up in (it’s hard to make beds and prepare the inside of a tent when you have to do everything hunched over!). Camping in the summer might make a world of difference too since it was 47 degrees during the night and that’s pretty darn cold! Still, it was FUN FUN FUN and we’ll definitely do it again now that we know the perfect camp site!
Any local friends want to come with us?
Yesterday was Daddy's birthday. We started the day with snuggles and four or five enthusiastic rounds of The Birthday Song. Then Gwen told us how to make a birthday cake:
Maddy said Daddy was more than 30 but not 100.
This is a cool photo Daddy took of the Jewish contemporary museum and St Patrick's church, reflected in an adjacent window (Mommy did a little bit of post processing, perspective correction, cropping, etc).
Gwen is understandably skeptical about the extra feet and fingers on the "Shaking Man" but you really have to see the next photo to appreciate how Maddy felt about this bizarre statue...
We call this photo "Dancing in Bear/Bare Feet"
This heart (also in Yerba Buena Gardens) is really pretty. We wanted Gwen and Maddy to pose sweetly and this is what happened. Can't you just feel the love? This was one of many clues that our girls still can't really function without naps (they slept all the way home).
Minor skirmishes aside, this was a really fun day! For Dinner, we all went out to Krung Thai (Michael met us there). None of the girls in our family like Thai food but it's a favorite of the guys so it makes the Birthday Dinner list every year. No worries though - rice is always good! Happy Birthday, Daddy! We sure do love you!
39 years ago, in a beautiful country far away (smelling faintly of clotted cream and marmite), a little baby was born to two very wonderful people. It was their first child and he grew up to be my husband.
He's my best friend.
My deepest love.
Father of my children.
I feel extremely fortunate that he picked me as the person with whom he'd share all the rest of his birthdays (and all the days between).
On Andrew's birthday I'm forced to admit, once again, that I got the best present: I got Andrew.
PS: Gwen and Maddy picked the balloons. :)