Camping, Round II

Last year, summer was replaced by several months of late April. I recall one or two blessed moments of warmth, between rain storms, but the camping last year was heavy on tarps and light on swimming. This year, so far, the weather has been fantastic!

I recall last year, when Thane was a 9 month old patiently accompanying us in his stroller, thinking that this was the hardest camping would be — it would never be so hard again. HA! My youngest child, delight of my heart, is a fantastic sleeper with one caveat: only when he is at home in his own bed an his own circumstances. Given the novelty of a bed where moving around is possible, he took full advantage of his liberty in order to not sleep.

Howdy howdy howdy. I'm a cowboy.
Howdy howdy howdy. I'm a cowboy.

Example Scene:
-Thane is obviously tired: eye-rubbing, cranky and easily upset
-Mom reads Thane several books, lays him gently on the air mattress, gives him Puppy and says “night night”!
-Thane looks angelic, thumb in his mouth with his hand wrapped around Puppy’s ear. (Note: Puppy is a rabbit. Ours is not to question why….)
-Thane lets out a deep sigh of contentment and says, blissed out, “Puppy”
-Mom leaves the tent (nearly tripping) certain that Thane will now go to sleep like he would in his bed
-A voice emerges as she zips up, “Mama?”
-More insistent “Mama? Mama. Mama! MAMA!!!!!”
-A Thane-shape appears outlined in the green nylon of the tent “MAAAAMAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!”
-Mom returns to the tent. Tucks Thane in with puppy. He gives an angelic sigh and sucks his thumb…. rinse and repeat. For several hours.

On the fourth of July, he got up at around 5:45 and caught only about half an hour’s nap. He stayed up until after the fireworks… nearly 11 pm. This from a kid who usually wakes up around 6:15, takes a 2.5 hour nap between 1 – 3:30 and goes to bed at 7:15 sharp (or you pay for it).

But other than the complete and utter lack of sleeping children, we had an awesome time camping. We’ve gone with the boys five times now? At five times, your traditions start to feel like real traditions. You begin to be an old hand. There are ways you “usually do things”.

Camping boys
Camping boys

One of the neatest parts of this particular camping trip is that it marks the first time Grey has been part of a kid-herd. These phenomenon, a relic of simpler times, have more or less disappeared from suburban neighborhoods (at least mine). On either side of our campsite was a gaggle of children, roughly Grey’s age. Both gaggles invited him to tag along. So for hours at a time I could SEE him, but he was over there, playing with the other kids, swapping silly bands and playing those imaginative games I remember so fondly from my youth. It was wonderful to have him safe, making friends, and playing outside (while I attempted to keep Thane from launching head-first into the fire or eating the Cheerios he’d dropped on the ground).

We did a lot of swimming this last time, since the weather was perfect for it. It’s a nerve-wracking time. When *I* was 4 I knew how to swim, or at least well enough. I didn’t have swimming lessons until I was 9 or so, but I recall being perfectly happy in the water, even when my feet didn’t touch. Grey isn’t there – not at all. We did swimming lessons last summer, but we missed half of them because we were camping. (Ah! Irony!) So we figured this year we’d wait until fall. In the interim, though, we keep Grey very close. Thane, in his continuing quest to give us gray hair, loves the following water sports: flinging yourself backwards until your ears are under water, falling down in the water (forward – allows you to see if your arms are long enough to reach the ground AND keep your mouth above water), falling down in the water (backward – babies have no core strength and really can’t do a “situp”), eel-imitation, and sand-eating. Also, taking whatever toys are unguarded on the shore.

There were notably fewer calm and relaxing swims out to the bouys this time than there were last summer.

Our big “car walk” this trip was up to Mt. Washington. I would hereby like to apologize for all my snide Northwest superiority regarding our mountains. I have long felt that any mountain you could drive up was no mountain. Then I drove the road up Mt. Washington. Now, I’m an experienced mountain driver. I grew up on car-commercial roads. But the 16% grades and no guard rails… well. Actually, I’m not so sure that’s a new experience (I remember particularly vividly a trip we took up to some Lion rock or some such thing up a one-lane logging road that had recently had a washout…. and let’s not even discuss the state of the road last time I went up Llad pass), but it was a rather daunting one. And Mt. Washington is pretty extreme. We went on a very, very hot day — temperatures in the mid-80s to low 90s. At the windswept top of the mountain it was about 50. And there was snow. So I’ll admit it. It’s a real mountain.

Adam & the boys at the top of New England
Adam & the boys at the top of New England

On my way back down, pausing to cool the brakes, I had the momentary thought that maybe, just maybe, on this adventure so like my childhood adventures (see also: Llad Pass) I was the first Johnstone to do this very-Johnstoneish trip. I reveled in the thought that there was a crazy, mountainous adventure that I got to first. Then I called my parents, “Yeah, that’s quite a road isn’t it?”

I should’ve known better.

The boys and me at the same spot
The boys and me at the same spot - the hat does move around!

It was a wonderful time. I really like camping. I like being out in the woods. I like resetting my view of the world. I like the depth and breadth of time I spend with my family. And I like cooking everything in bacon grease. I would really like to find some “camping buddies” — folks who wanted to share those bacon-grease cooked eggs, or who can handle a s’more with the best of them. Ideally, perhaps, someone with a few kids so we could have a built-in gaggle. (Also because anyone without kids would likely be really annoyed at the stuff it’s hard to do while camping AND be a responsible parent of young children.)

And this is obviously the hardest time of life to go camping. Next year? Will definitely be easier.

Next year, just wait mom!
Next year, just wait mom!

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

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