You'd think I'd be the type of person who goes camping all the time, right? With all the back-to-nature love-the-earth-goddess qualities I have, right?
Well, you'd be wrong. We (meaning Stuart and I) have always thought of ourselves as camping types, what with all the nature loving and all. But the few times we've actually been camping didn't go so well. At all. Way, way back in college when we had only been dating a few months, Stu and I took a 2-week road trip from my parents' house in Kentucky, up to South Dakota, through Wyoming, Utah, the Nevada desert and all the way to San Joaquin valley and Pacific coast in sunny So-Cal, then through Arizona, New Mexico, and the Oklahoma panhandle back to Kansas where we went to school. It was a memorable trip for many reasons:
One reason was that we were a part of two weddings for friends that are dear to us still, which was the whole reason for the trip in the first place, since we couldn't afford plane tickets.
Another reason was that, well, if you've been dating someone for only a few months and then spend no less than 15 days on a car trip with him and he doesn't start getting on your nerves until the last day of the drive, that might be an indication that the two of you have a future together.
Lastly, our ineptitude in the realm of outdoor skills was nothing short of remarkable. We managed to use the tent my dad lent us without ruining it, but it got wet and muddy on more than one occasion, and one night we finally bailed and found a cheap motel which was so dirty and horrid we might as well have slept outside in the rain anyway. We couldn't start a campfire to save our lives, and there is no way I'm going to reveal what we resorted to using that night in the Grand Tetons so we wouldn't have yet another dinner of cold hot dogs and peanut butter sandwiches.
Fast forward a few years to when we had our first child. Daniel was all of 3 months old, and someone had organized a group bike ride and campout at a state park near New Glarus over Memorial Day weekend. Stuart was excited about the bike ride, and for some reason we thought camping with a baby who nursed non-stop and never slept more than an hour or two at night would be fun. It wasn't fun. It was miserably hot, our tiny two-person tent was completely cramped, and someone nearby the campsite blasted country music at about 1000 decibels all night so no one got any sleep whatsoever. Except, that is, for Daniel, who slept peacefully all night long, which was unprecedented at that time, and he didn't repeat it for almost a year.
That didn't completely scare us away from trying again, though, and the next summer we bought a bigger tent and spent one night up at Devil's Lake. Toddler Daniel was more interested in playing in the car than exploring the campground, and I was pregnant with Anya and none too energetic, but on the whole the experience wasn't too bad.
For some reason, though, we didn't go camping again until last weekend. Why the six-year hiatus? No good reason, really. We kept meaning to make plans and then didn't make them. Last fall we actually made reservations someplace but there was a cold snap and we didn't want to spend the night in 30-degree weather so we stayed home and made soup instead.
But we did, finally, go camping this past weekend. It was only for one night, but that's all we really needed for our trial run. It was Anya's first time ever, and it might as well have been Daniel's, too, since he was too young to remember the other times. We went to Yellowstone Lake State Park, which is delightful. It's a beautiful park, a beautiful drive to get there, there's a lake with fishing and a beach, easy hiking trails and - best of all - no mosquitoes. I swear to you it's true. I didn't get a single mosquito bite the whole 24 hours we were there, thanks to the park's incredibly successful bat house program. When you've got 4000 bats who eat their weight in insects every night, it does make a difference!
So did anything go wrong this time? Was there any disaster, or glaring omission in the supplies we packed? No, not really. We remembered the tent:
We built a decent fire (good, dry firewood helps with that) and cooked dinner over it. It's kind of hard to screw up hot dogs and s'mores, plus I steamed corn in the husk over the coals. We brought swim suits and towels, but didn't think to bring a clothesline to hang them up on. We should have had collapsible stools to sit on and basins for water to clean up, but my friend Stephanie, who came to hang out with us Saturday evening, had some handy in the back of her truck. A tablecloth for the filthy picnic table wouldn't have hurt, either, but it wasn't the end of the world.
We had fun, the kids had fun. Everything was great. The only weird thing was that on Sunday morning, the lake was green:
Seriously, I didn't do anything to change that picture. It really looked like that, as if someone filled Yellowstone Lake with vivid, dark green poster paint. It was an algae bloom that had occurred overnight (we had gone to the beach Saturday afternoon, and at that time the lake was normal murky lake color, not this green), and it grossed everybody out at first. But there were swimmers out doing their thing, and eventually the kids got in the water (after many, many admonitions not to put their faces in the water) and the green slime didn't seem to bother them.
We can't wait to go camping again.