Saturday, April 25, 2009

I (do not) HEART CAMPING

I could be classified as a "non-camper".  

Dove an indoor girl.

Over our years with cub scout involvement, I have tried my hand at tents and coleman stoves with limited success.  In perfect weather, on level ground, with the proper air mattress, camping has potential for enjoyment.  Sometimes.  

We're not "seasoned" campers by any stretch, which means that in addition to lacking proper motivation and survival skills, we also lack adequate equipment.  This being the case, each time an opportunity rolls around for camping with our troop, we end up making two or twelve last minute dashes to Walmart to stock up on food, paper goods, tent stakes, lantern batteries, and big items like sleeping bags or tents to replace ones that we've somehow lost or that the mice have found and chewed to pieces.  We splurge on the "luxury items" that are supposed to make camping easy and enjoyable, but we end up spending what we would have for a room at the Marriott with a free continental breakfast.  Sure, we spend the same, but we get fewer amenities.  Like no actual room, and no continental breakfast.  Instead, we get a dose of the great outdoors and the pleasure of living off the land.  (And by "off the land" I mean out of a cooler.)

This weekend it is time once again for our troop's family campout.  This is a special weekend for Max because he will cross over from cub scouts to boys scouts.  As a boy scout, Max will begin to work on the goal of experiencing 100 nights of camping.  Yesterday, we set out for the illustrious "cross over" camp out.  Here's the ten step process....

1.  I head to Walmart on Thursday to gather necessary supplies.  I use one hand to steer the cart and the other to pat myself on the back for planning ahead.

2.  Friday morning I wake up and decide to "keep it simple" this trip.  No need to rush around amassing piles of gear.  We're going to streamline and simplify this campout, so there is no need to get in a hurry and start making rash decisions about what to pack, or how much of it to pack, or where to pack it all.  Instead, I set out in search of a sweatshirt in the boys' closet and while I'm there, decide I may as well go ahead and pack away their winter clothes, get out their summer clothes, make piles for goodwill, and organize the sock and underwear drawers.  I'm now in a groove, on a mission, and completely out of my mind, so I thunder into my own closet and do the same thing to my clothes.  Three hours later, in an all out fit of OCD, I tear through Emma's closet too.  I now have 122 piles of discarded clothing crowding all available floor space and realize that time, it is a wasting.  So I feed my kids lunch (at 3:30) and start to take notice of the fact that I may need to pull together a few necessities, like a tent and a pillow.

3.  I'm back at Walmart by 4:00 because we need a second tent and some tarps.  And more food.

4.  Buzzard is home and we start loading the van by 6:00.  We don't seem to have proper receptacles for gear, so we just set bits and pieces of things loose in the van.  They will rattle and roll everywhere while we drive to the campground, but we'll deal with the challenge of unpacking it all later.

5.  No tent stakes?  Seriously?  But we buy new ones for every trip.  The new tent I just bought at Walmart doesn't come with tent stakes.  How could I possibly be expected to notice that while I am standing in the camping isle at Walmart, next to all the tent stakes?  We stop at Academy Sports to buy tent stakes.  The kids and I wait in the car, in our summer clothes that just came from our very tidy closets.

6.  After two trips to the Walmart one might assume we have enough food in the cooler to constitute dinner.  We have snack foods, desserts for the cross over ceremony, and breakfast items for Sunday morning worship.   We pull into KFC and order a bucket of chicken, which will take five minutes to cook.  To thank us for our patience, we get four free large drinks.  The bucket of chicken is between my feet, the drinks are on my lap, and 17 small camping gadgets have rolled up and settled around my ankles.  We are off to the campground.  Emma is crying loudly, I think aloud that she has had nothing to drink since morning and is probably thirsty, then remember I have no sippy cup.  I have four large drinks and a screaming baby who doesn't know how to use a straw.  Onward.

7.  Buzzard announces, as we pull into the campground shortly after 8:00, that he has forgotten something very important at home and he needs to drive back.  Gates close at 10, and he won't have time to get back before then, so Buzz will help set up camp then will go home to spend the night.

8.  There is wind.  WIND.  Wind that could blow Dorothy from Kansas to Oz faster than a suburban housewife could rattle off ten reasons why she hates camping in inclement weather.  Wind so strong that as we open the back of the van our (many and extensive) loose articles take flight and scatter in sixteen directions.  Wind that transforms our tent into a parachute and renders our tent stakes useless.  We don't need tent stakes.  We need the anchor from the Titanic.  Wind that blows a cover of pitch darkness our way.  Wind that brings entire colonies of bugs to visit the lantern I am holding while Buzzard tries to figure out why the rain fly is causing our tent to collapse.  Is it the rain fly, or the 70 mph gale?  Really, it is so hard to tell.  We shout at the boys to find the tools necessary to help us as we are spread eagle on the tent like teenagers playing a game of Twister.  They shout back that they can't find a single thing in the van because everything has shifted and rolled and it is extremely dark.  At least I think that's what they are saying.  The wind is carrying their voices away.  What I am able to decipher are the cries of my baby who is dying of thirst and is being held by my merciful friend Erin, who I am now greatly and deeply indebted to.

9.  At approximately 9:18 I lift my head to the wind and let the words "I'M GOING HOME!!!" scatter in sixteen directions.  We sit on the curb, crowded around the lantern and with a host of beetles and moths as guests, and distribute cold chicken from a cardboard bucket.  It was healthy chicken, because every morsel of extra crispy coating blew away long before the chicken could reach our mouth. We have no napkins and no trash bag.  Perhaps a third trip to Walmart would have been in order.

10.  We abandon the partially collapsed tent, all our bedding, the playpen, and who knows how many other items that escaped from the van and drive home to nestle in our beds and question the fate of our gear.  It's cold by now.  Dang cold.  And we don't have a dang sweatshirt to our name, any of us.  Because someone packed away all the dang warm clothes and hung nothing but summer stuff in all the closets.  On camping day.  When she should have been planning ahead.

On the bright side, we have one hour and eighteen minutes of camping securely under our belt to proudly and officially apply toward our 100 days.  

We have a baseball game, then we're headed back to the campground, in broad daylight and with every single sippy cup I can find.  The forecast for tonight is wind.

Honestly, I'm what you call a "non-camper", and getting more so every single day.

1 comment:

SmallWorld at Home said...

WOW! Definitely not the optimum camping experience--but memorable!