Saturday, September 5, 2009

Camp at your own risk

When the kids were not quite one-and-a-half we went on a family camping trip to Mt. Lassen with my dad and brother. I also happened to be writing about it for Sunset. The trip was an unmitigated disaster from the filth-encrusted toddlers smearing their own excrement around the tent, to my normally low-key dad telling my brother to go "f**k himself." I cried all the way down from the summit, but not half as loudly as the kid I was carrying on my back.

Mt. Lassen, 2007 (total b.s.)

We haven't spent a night in a tent since. But on Thursday, we decided to give it another go. One night. Close to home. We were scarred, but ready to heal.
I'm not sure why it is so important to us that we camp with the kids. I don't even like it that much. I like the idea of it. I wish I liked it. But really it seems like a whole lot of work topped off with a terrible night's sleep. I prefer a nice day hike followed by a good meal, a warm bath, and a soft bed. My step-dad calls me "Mrs. Davey Crockett." It's ironic, in case you didn't get that part.

But I do like the outdoors and who am I to instill in my offspring my prissy dislike of dirt? So off we went, to China Camp State Park. Camping.

A word of advice: unless you have the types of three-year-olds who will run off to poke things with sticks and explore creek beds without you, don't take them camping for a while. You will be busy setting up the tent-Mahal you borrowed from your friend, and trying to start a fire, and dropping your pillow in the dirt, and blowing up the effing inflatable mattress. All the while your demanding preschoolers will be whining for food you did not bring along, peeing in their pants, tracking dust into the tent, absconding with the pocket knife, and asking if it is time to go home. You will fight with your spouse and yell at your kids and your feet will be cold once the sun goes down. You will deeply regret not bringing alcohol.

Sure, the campground is lovely, set as it is among the Bay Laurels on a bluff overlooking the Bay. And, yes, there were those pleasant 10 minutes when you got to point out the raccoon tracks and the flattened grass where the deer sleep.

But I recommend you think hard and you think long about whether all the work, the resulting loads of laundry, and the massive and unprecedented post-trip meltdowns were worth it. Because I suspect they are not.
Then again, maybe you don't have twins.


krista said...

this is why i don't camp. i feel other people's pain enough, i don't need to feel my own.

Up Mama's Wall said...

The mister read this and said I should have mentioned a few of the good moments, so here they are: roasting marshmallows (or, making them "marshed" as the kids said), watching the full moon rise and set our tent aglow, the smell of laurel trees, playing bunny with Maggie, letting the kids eat chocolate for breakfast. It wasn't all bad, but it was work and it was DIRTY.

travelingmama said...

Your kids are SOOO cute! And isn't getting dirty the charm in camping? I have to admit that I avoid it like the PLAGUE so I applaud you for the second (and much more successful) attempt! Our best friends here in Morocco are an American couple with twin boys, which are now 5 and a three year old little girl. It is not for the faint of heart to move overseas with little ones, but other than missing my built in babysitters (grandparents!) it really isn't so different from living in the States. Well,minus a few conveniences too, but we love it and wouldn't trade it!

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