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?
This year, we spent Easter with my brother, Kevin, at his home near Los Angeles. The girls were worried about the Easter Bunny knowing where to deliver their baskets and since I forgot to bring the baskets (doh!), I had to tell them the truth about Ol’ Mr. EB. Luckily, the disappointment was mitigated by Aunt Cindy who hid eggs all over her backyard!
With the help afforded her after donning her pink super-hero cape, Gwen did pretty well for herself too!
Three dogs and one slimy green tennis ball sure can be fun!
Kevin, Cindy and Moi
My neice, Kaelee, with her sweet pup, Sophie.
This is Kay. I’ve called her Mom since she and my dad married (when I was somewhere around Gwen and Maddy’s age). She and Dad divorced when I was in my early 30’s and our relationship took a detour sometime around that time too. This weekend was the first time I’ve seen her in more than 15 years but I really hope it’s not the last. Oh, and the pretty dog is Lady. She barked her head off but her wildly wagging tail betrayed her intentions. She’s as harmless as she is photogenic!
Tonight, we’ll take Daddy to the airport so he can go back to work tomorrow and Gwen and Maddy and I will head down closer to Disneyland for the rest of our Spring Break.
So much to be grateful for this year! A beautiful white Thanksgiving holiday at my brother's house in Northern Idaho. We bundled up the girls in snow pants, fluffy jackets and insulated boots and gloves and they spent hours outside playing in the snow, sledding and building a snowman with their big brother, Michael.
Gwen quickly ducked outside (into the falling snow) so I could snap a quick photo of her without all of the overstuffed snow attire.
Maddy loved the way the soft snowflakes felt on her upturned hands! A few minutes later, we all pulled on our snow pants and fluffy coats and gloves and built a sled run! Then we played on that for the rest of the day!
Michael built this cool snowman. More about that later.
David and Barbara have this beautiful mural painted on the wall near the stairs to the master bedroom loft. A perfect backdrop for our handsome family! From the left: Barbara, Michael, Andrew, Gwenny, David and Madeline.
This is Maddy and Gwen with their Aunt Barbara. My brother had the good sense to marry this very special woman almost 23 years ago (he knew her his entire life). I never had a sister so it's incredibly cool to have a Sister-in-Law that is so easy to love!
When we weren't outside playing in the snow (or eating!), we were watching the Harry Potter series or playing "Angry Birds" on our iphones/ipod. We're big fans of H. Potter and A. Birds!
Here's a fun artsy "Hallmark Card" version of Michael's snowman creation. Uncle David tried to find some coal for his eyes but the coal sack was buried under several feet of snow so he offered up some big buttons to use as eyes instead. And what to use for buttons on his body? Well, Dibs ice-cream bites of course! In the 18 degree weather, they'll probably last until spring (if the deer don't decide to eat them first). The carrot nose froze quickly and was so heavy that it hardly stayed attached to the face! Who knew making a snowman was so challenging!? ;)
This is Gwen and Maddy with sweet playful Zorra. She's a hunny of a dog and a solid member of the family. My brother thinks she's a Rottweiler/Border Collie mix but I think she might be a Rottweiler/Labrador mix. What do you think?
I hope everyone had many blessings to count this Thanksgiving holiday!
Every day, while the girls are at school, I upload my favorite podcast onto my iphone and head to the park where I stick headphones in my ears and let myself relax into a nice 4 mph walking pace. And I keep that up for about an hour and a half. It's my 90 minutes of sweaty zen.
Today, I was totally into that happy place when I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up just in time to see a large white dog charging straight at me at full speed. In the time it took for my brain to register that I was about to be viciously attacked, the dog had closed much of the gap between us and was less than 3 feet away and looked to be about to lunge. With no time at all to react, all I could do was cover my neck with my hands and brace for the impact -- and scream. So that's what I did.
But instead of attacking me, the dog did something really weird... It caught a ball.
Relieved but bewildered, I watched the dog trot off with the ball in its mouth then heard a distant voice calling out an apology (several times). I found the source of the voice and all of the pieces quickly fell into place. Obviously, it was a guy throwing a ball for his dog and the ball and the dog and I just happened to arrive at the exact same place at exactly the same time. Of course, the dog always knew the ball was his target but my thumping heart was absolutely certain that the target was me. It doesn't matter if the threat is real or fake. If you believe it, then it's real to you! It took about 10 minutes for my heart rate to get back to normal!
After school, I brought the girls back to this park. We've had temps in the 100's this week and today was much more mild. It was an incredibly beautiful day and I got some really nice photos:
While the girls played in the sand, I looked up through the canopy of trees above us and saw this lovely sight. I've never tried to capture a sun flare on camera so this is my first attempt. It seems unnatural (and medically risky) to look directly into the sun -- even through the lens of the camera. Why doesn't it damage the camera or the photographer? Anyone know?
Ummm...... I'm still not sure what it is but they sure were proud of it!
Maddy loves to pose for me now. I have to work to keep the photo sessions genuinely interesting for her or she'll give me a really corny fake smile. This is a real smile though (above).
Gwen can fake a smile - or really ANY expression - better than anyone I know. The camera loves her almost as much as I do (and that's a lot!).
Here's Gwen climbing a rock wall.
Just behind her is the spot where I thought I was going to die this morning. What a strange - but happy! - turn of events!