Mom’s new camping checklist

boys_at_camp“Mom, when I’m at camp, what will you be doing?”

“Well … when I finally stop crying,” I said, “I’ll probably write a sonnet describing my love for you. Then I’ll call and leave you enough messages to fill up your entire voice mailbox. … And then I’ll find a picture of you and gaze lovingly at it, memorizing every strand of hair until it’s time to go to bed. … And then I’ll get up and do it all again the next day.”

Jack gave a little laugh that said he wasn’t sure if I was kidding. Clearly the kid needs to recalibrate his sarcas-o-meter.

Jack left for camp Monday, Colin will head up next week. Every year for six years, the night before the camp departure has consisted of the same exhausting routine: sorting, folding, and labeling clothes, shoes, and jackets, shoving teensy bottles of shampoo, sunscreen, and bug spray and blister packets of allergy pills into little baggies, filling another baggie with pens, paper and stamped postcards, and stowing the whole collection of way more than they’d ever need for the end of the world – much less a week at camp – into a couple of battered suitcases.

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There isn’t any ice cream in Death Valley

So, it’s the time of year we have this kind of action.

IMG_3126This is weather that inspires everybody to crank down the AC until it’s reminiscent of a Minnesota winter and we’re all wearing sweaters to meetings and complaining about the heat. Which I think, if you look it up, is the clinical definition of “cracked in the head.”

But I’m no doctor, so don’t take my word for it.

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Camping by the Numbers

lake_titleOne camping trip under our belt so far this year. Just the one.

One 3,783 foot increase in elevation from home to our camp site, 131 miles away.
One 12 degree difference in temperature.
One camp trailer that weighs as much as the Death Star.
One tent in addition to said trailer, because 2 boys will no longer sleep in the same space.
7 hands of poker while waiting for fireworks to start (after 5 hands, both parents are cleaned out and kids are demanding to play with real money).

One moderately smelly outhouse, which forces me to relearn I can’t hold my breath as long as it takes to pee.

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Camp food that won’t kill you

camp_food copySo… Camping this weekend. Fourth of July. Yippee… (fizzy half-firework in the distance … phhttt).

This will be our first camping trip of the season, and thus will have been preceded by at least a full two days of preparation: cleaning the trailer, packing, determining whether the sleeping bags ever got washed at the end of last season, and whether either kid has a decent pair of flip flops for the beach, deciding between mountain bikes, hiking shoes, or fishing gear (then throwing our hands up and agreeing to all three).

Then there’s the camping menu. That’s totally my baby.

As per my meal planning modus operandi, I will come up with half a dozen ideas that are elegant, nutritious, satisfying … and completely impractical for the situation.

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A Tale of Two Failed Trips


Ready to go as soon as everybody gets their lazy butts out of bed
Ready to go as soon as everybody gets their lazy butts out of bed

Saturday, mom woke me up by calling at some ungodly hour to ask if we were ready to hit the road.

“Nope,” I said, maybe piling on the sleepy voice a little thick, “still in bed.”

“Oh, I thought you were going to hit the road early.”

Actually that was the plan the night before, until the kids realized our destination was a four-hour drive to a trailhead and a one-hour hike into Baker Lake for a one-night stay. I could see why they balked.

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King of the campsite


From time to time this weekend, I noticed the couple in the campsite across from us. They would get up early, go for a run, come back for breakfast, jump on their bikes, disappear again, come back late for dinner. They were fabulously unencumbered by kids and pets and all their accouterments, ready to flee at a moment’s notice. I was jealous.

Somewhere along the line our camp style has been wrenched from more of a minimalist approach to where we find ourselves today. We used to be able to stow all our gear in two large-ish Rubbermaid bins in the garage, which we could toss into the truck with a cooler, sleeping bags and a change of clothing whenever we wanted to hit the road. We might have an approximate destination in mind, but if not, we could wander from campground to campground until we found something we liked. We didn’t always need a campground, we could just take some dirt road into the mountains and happen upon a wide spot in the trees and set up our tent at dusk.

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