Sunday, June 1, 2008

Confessions of a Camping Virgin

I have major anxiety about wild animals, weirdoes with guns, and being outside in the dark and getting lost. So much so that every time anyone asked us to go camping, I always had many excuses not to go. A friend of ours invited us to go camping with a bunch of other families this past weekend. We had been kayaking and fishing the weekend before which segued beautifully into our first family camping trip.

The State Park we camped at is about 1/2 an hour away so it is perfect for newbies who might want to go home in the middle of the night. There is a lake with a beach and concession stand and bathrooms. The lake water was brainfreeze cold, but Collin went in all the way anyway. The kids played water tag, caught minnows and periwinkles and built sandcastles. At night we had a potluck and everyone brought great food: pasta salad, rice salad, filled chicken and shrimp, crackers with pesto and tomatoes, pita with melted cheese and onions cooked on a skillet, hummus and veggies. I brought pasta salad and rhubarb muffins. 

We all sat around the fire and some of us sang and played the guitar and made s'mores. (BTW, Marshmallow Peeps make the best toasted marshmallows because the sugar on the outside caramelizes similar to the top of creme brulee.) One of the dads is a local singer. During once of his songs one of my roasted marshmallows caught on fire. Like a true greenhorn I started shaking my stick to put out the flames and one of the marshmallows flew through the air and landed on my sleeve still flaming. Surprisingly, no one panicked, not even me. I blew it out and ate it off my slightly singed sleeve. The singer, a true pro, finished his song without a pause and thanked me for supplying the pyrotechnics.

I did a little Mythbusters Camping Edition. Did you know you can make biscuits in a campfire using a stick and Bisquick mixed with water? Did you know you can boil water in a paper cup? The only thing I didn't get to try was frying an egg in a paper lunch sack with two pieces of bacon, but I am not going to let the grass grow under my feet. I think I will go camping again when my mom and sister are visiting this month.

I also got to eat mountain pies which are made using a cast iron pie iron, bread and canned pie filling. That was a thrill since I had read all about mountain pies the week before. Collin says I can't have a pie iron until I go camping 6 times. With all the campfire cookery I tried, I neglected to make a single tinfoil dinner. I will definitely try it next time. I didn't want to run before I figured out if I could walk the camping walk.

I did have a couple camping mishaps that interfered with my newfound camping lurv: I thought Emma was lost and had a heart pounding 15 minutes running around trying to find her and at the same time not scream her name and demand that everyone allow me to search their campers (she was at the beach playground with all the other kids and dads, I knew she was going with them, but didn't actually see her go). On our way back from the beach, Aidan took us on a short cut which turned out to be a long un-scenic trek through the woods in the dark. I was carrying Ian on my back and holding Emma's hand  while she thought she saw burglars, bears, and wolves. We walked past our campsite and made a 20 minute loop in the dark before we finally found it after stumbling over rocks and roots (yes, this unseasoned Camping Virgin forgot to carry a flashlight). My final and most potentially embarrassing mishap was when I woke up in the middle of the night because my bladder was ready to burst. I couldn't find a flashlight and was too scared to try and find my way to the bathroom in the dark so I went pee a little ways from our tent out in the open with tons of other tents full of people I had met close by. Luckily I think they were all asleep, but the whole time I was peeing I kept picturing bears, wolves and weirdoes sneaking up on me.

Aidan loved burning sticks, leaves and pine needles and managed to start an unauthorized fire with another kid while our backs were turned. Ian's definition of camping: when you get to sleep in your clothes in a tent and you don't need pajamas. Emma loved catching minnows and eating marshmallow after gooey marshmallow.

Our family was slightly out of place in terms of granola-ness. We were probably the least crunchy family there. I think I was one of the few women wearing a bra and I'm almost positive I was the only one who shaves her legs and armpits. I think our kids were some of the only non-homeschoolers too. But with kayaking and fishing one weekend and camping the next, I think we are well on our way to crunchiness. I did actually make and bring my own toffee granola which was as big a hit as the camping itself. 


Grammy A said...

Excellent commentary, Tara! I felt like I was there. I could almost smell the campfire! It sounds like you all had a great time! I'm with you with the scary stuff. I don't worry as much about the wild animals, though... just the weirdos! I have etched into my brain the stories I've heard of campers being murdered by mountain men, escaped convicts, or just plain ol' psychopaths. That's why your camping experience sounds good--it's all about safety in numbers! I would definitely want to sleep in a camper (or motor home) that locked if it was just my family! I also like to camp in campsites with lots of other people. I'm not a wilderness camper! Anyway... I'm glad you're all back safe and sound! Congratulations on being deflowered!

The Gomes Family said...

I am with you, I am not an avid camper, my honey is. He is all mountain/dairy man. He and I went mountain camping last year while I was pregnant. In the middle of the night I had to so go relieve my bladder and I knew where the flashlight was and the bathrooms, but it didn't help when the camp grounds ranger came to us 5 minutes before we were getting ready to go to sleep and let us know that we need to lock up all the food and fragrance products because the night prior a bear came down and ripped open and igloo chest and ate all the campers food right where we were camping. So I am like wide eyed and nervous trying to sleep worrying if the bear could smell my little on in my belly (weird I know). So I snuck out and ran over to the bathroom and was relieved and ran back. It was not good. I can camp at Pismo or on a beach with no problems. I think all the nasty bugs and dirt and bears freak me out a bit. I say bravo, you did great!

amber said...

A tip for next time: We had the most amazing smores last week ( we go camping regularly). You layer gramcracker with toasted mashmallow then big Reese's peanutbutter cup another toasted marshmallow (the heat melts the chocolate of the cup) and then top with other gram cracker. It is sooo good when you eat it but laster in your tent you feel sugar sick :) That's the best!

knitaholic310 said...

Ambular, I actually tried something similar with a dark chocolate peanut butter candy from a local candy store. I liked it, but Emma didn't. I bet it would taste better with Reese's. Thanks. Don't you and Jordan go camping all the time?

amber said...

yep. I love it, love it, love it. Hey you never emailed me back from the diet email I sent you last month, what gives? I love the video of boiling water because I haven't heard your voice in like years.

knitaholic310 said...

which email? I'll check right now.

Robyn said...

Tara, you are a wonder woman! I loath camping and luckily so does my husband. I can barely stand to sleep at a cheap motel. It sounds like you had a pretty good time, though. I'm just glad it wasn't me!