camping adventures

Gah, that new picture on the blog header is huge. I mean, my kids are cute and everything (even with all those teeth missing) but that really jumps out at you, doesn't it? Blogger is really annoying for fixing stuff like that, though, so I'm leaving it for now.

Anyway, we went camping over the weekend. Camping is something we want to get better at and do more often. It's fun to build a fire and make s'mores and sleep in a tent. Plus, something always goes wrong so there's usually a good story to tell.

We were at Yellowstone Lake State Park, an under appreciated gem of a place near Blanchardville, WI.  One of the nice things about it is that it's possible to make a camping reservation at the last minute, i.e. when you have a pretty good idea of whether it's going to rain or not. It's a beautiful drive through the Driftless Area to get there. They have bat houses that host thousands of bats, ergo very low mosquito population. There is a small, very inexpensive restaurant that would make a vegan cry; the menu consists of ice cream, delicious local burgers and some fried stuff, all of which tastes extra-good when you've just come back from a canoe ride. Have I sold you on this place yet?

My good friend Stephanie lives very nearby so she comes over to the campsite to hang out with us all evening when we camp there. We roast hot dogs and s'mores, get the kids settled in the tent, and chat as it gets dark and the fire dwindles. Stuart leaves to brush his teeth and change, and as he is walking back to the fire pit, he startles a raccoon that had come to investigate a bag of chips on the picnic table we hadn't yet put away. Sneaky raccoons are a little spooky (I'm working on my persona as the tough outdoorsy type; right now I'm still a little squeamish around wild nocturnal types). Better put that bag of chips in the car straight away, we decide.

Stuart walks to the car. Doors are locked. Trunk is locked. He feels in his right pocket. No key. He feels in his left pocket. No key. Uh oh. He tries the doors again (as if they will magically unlock themselves), curses a little bit, and then the three of us - me, Stuart and Stephanie - contemplate what to do when it's 11:00 at night and you're in the boonies and you lock your keys in the car.

Stuart tries calling roadside assistance (we have this with our auto insurance) using Stephanie's phone (because our phones are LOCKED IN THE CAR) but after navigating an automated answering service and waiting on hold for 10 minutes, the call drops. We decide to wait until morning. Stephanie leaves to go home, we feel the wind change and we can tell it's going to rain. "I hope it doesn't rain too much on you!" she says as she gets into her truck.

We get in the tent. My mouth feels gritty and sour (because my toothbrush is LOCKED IN THE CAR). It starts to rain. The wind is gusting. Lightening flashes. Thunder rumbles. Anya is thrashing in her sleep and keeps kicking me in the head. I can't sleep, thinking about the locked car and listening to the rain and counting the seconds between lightening and thunder and dodging the fidgety feet of my restless daughter. I feel something move by the tent and I kick at it, sure it's the same damn raccoon come back to look for those chips.

Very, very early the next morning, we get up. I have had, at most, three hours of sleep. I go to the bathroom, hoping to find someone with a cell phone that works so we can call the roadside assistance number again. No luck. When I come back, it starts raining again just as we pack up the tent. We can't eat breakfast (because all the food is LOCKED IN THE CAR), the park office doesn't open for over an hour, but we decide to walk anyway, for lack of anything better to do.

When we pass a group campsite, Stuart flags down a guy who happens to have a working cell phone he's willing to lend us. The people camping there is a large group of Muslims. I feel awkward in my tank top and shorts. My head and shoulders are bare, and I don't know if any of them really care, but when one middle-aged gentleman dressed in a long linen tunic kindly offers us some crackers, I say "No thanks," and he replies, "No, not you. The kids." A few minutes later, a woman offers me some tea and it is delicious.

Eventually, Stuart gets a hold of a local towing service. They send a guy to our campsite. It takes him 3 minutes to pry open the door of the car just enough to slip a cable inside and open the door. This sets off the car alarm, so as the horn blares through the campsite, we scramble to find a set of keys to make it shut up.

The rest of the morning is delightful. The rain stops. Now that the car is unlocked, we scarf down some breakfast. We guzzle coffee-tinted water from the restaurant. We take a canoe ride (first one ever for both kids, and possibly Stuart), then hang out at the beach, and eat some cheap, delicious burgers and ice cream before heading home.

I can't wait to see what happens next time.


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