In the bleakest days of the bleakest winter of my life, I look to the summer as a beacon of hope. Vaccines would arrive. The weather would warm. Even under pandemic restrictions, I could seek solace in the forest and the trees, with my boys on the banks of the Mad River.
When the Memorial Day camping trip fell to bone-chilling (near record) cold and miserable drizzling rains, I consoled myself. 4th of July is as close as New England gets to guaranteed good weather. We had five full days set aside for hammocks, hiking, tubing and white water river rafting. There would be a balm for my chapped soul.
Two days before the trip began, the sky was a metal welkin as a record number of 90 degree days in June steamed the countryside. I fanned myself and contemplated the cooling breeze that ran as an unseen river just above the noisy banks of the Mad River, where I would be shortly.
We got the tent up. We got the tarps pitched – almost all of them, given the weather. We hung hammocks draped in rain flies. And the temperature dropped 40 degrees and the rain began – the heavy, soaking, life-giving rains that April is supposed to command. The rains that fill aquifers and nourish plants and wash the world clean. And there we were, in tents, trapped and cold and so very, very humid.
This might be enough to cement the trip as a lousy one. When we bugged out after 4 days, we agreed this was the worst SUSTAINED weather we’ve ever had. I mean, we’ve camped through hurricanes, cold, blowing winds, flash floods. Heck during the Memorial Day trip it snowed in the mountains. But this one, took the cake for non-camping weather. But that was only part of our calamities.
As we packed up to go, with the kids headed to Camp Wilmot right behind this, I was on their case to get their laundry done. We have two laundry setups – a small European washer/dryer combo in the second floor and a more “parent of children” separate set of units in the basement. The second floor unit takes about 5 hours a (small) load. Finally, my procrastinating children got the better of me and I put a load in the basement to make sure that SOME clothes would be clean. But when it came time to pull them from the dryer, I discovered that the dryer was no longer working. (A fact which is only ever learned when you have a pile of wet clothing.) I couldn’t even dry them outside as I might have the day before due to temperature drop/rain starting. At best, a working dryer would be available in the middle of the following week. These things happen, but the timing could hardly have been worse.
As we got our campsite set up and I was just preparing dinner, I pulled out the new knife I’d gotten for the glamorous task of 1) cutting the bacon I was making for the hamburgers 2) opening a package of hot dogs. On that second unsheathing, the knife got stuck. As I pulled it free, it slid across my left index finger right at the bottom knuckle. I am very lucky – there was no tendon or nerve damage. But it was deep. And bleedy. So we had to go (starving) to the local ER and spend some quality time getting some lovely blue stitches put in.
Thursday also our camping companions texted to say they were going to be a little late – one of them had woken with a swollen eye and they were trying to figure out why. So no hanging around the campfire or gaming tonight. And the planned tubing for the next day was already cancelled due to rain, so didn’t need to be cancelled due to finger-can’t-be-submerged or eye-swollen-shut.
A friend texted to ask whether I was camping, due to her looking at the forecast and it’s dismal aspect.
Friday we went to a local old-timey arcade (which was actually open and fun). We planned lunch in Plymouth, which had a cute downtown with some nice restaurants, a gaming store, a book store and an art store. Not a bad place to pass a rainy afternoon. But just as we arrived and went in to the diner we were hoping to eat at, word came down there had been a water main break on Main Street. Every single one of those places could not prepare food (no water for handwashing) so Every. Single. One. was unavailable for lunch. Also no bathrooms.
I found a diner far enough away to have water and near enough to feed the hungry. It was just closing when we got there. There was a brew pub not far away. It wasn’t open for another hour. We ended up at this “saloon” which specialized in mediocrity and western decor. It was bad, but it was food, I guess.
That morning, we heard our camping companion, on his birthday, had shingles in his eye. Stabby pain. No camping for him. Happy birthday Kevin.
The next day, the boys went swimming in the Mad River anyway, in the rain and cold. Because they are nuts. And the rain came down without ceasing. Everything was damp. The tent started seeping. The air itself was so moist that nothing was truly dry. The sheets on our bed are flannel, and I am here to tell you that few things in life are as unpleasant as clammy flannel. It’s just the worst. We resolved that we had enough of this crap, and we were going to head home Sunday assuming a long enough break in the rain to pack up. We just climbed into our clammy bed with the periodic drips promising a damp night when Grey called out in increasingly alarmed tones. He was in his own tent, and discovered that what he thought was some tracked in dirt was actually a hatch of tiny mites – millions of them. Over everything in his entire tent. An entire mat of mites. He slept in the car that night, and we threw away everything in that tent the next morning.
We were able to pack up in a dry spell, although the clouds opened again that day. And we brought home all the damp, dirty clothing and bedding to a house with no dryer. I spent the rest of the 4th of July in the laundromat, spending a shocking number of quarters to wash and dry every stitch of fabric we took on that trip.
Given our luck I feel fortunate that the injuries were minor and we all survived. But it does raise the question of why I like camping. I might even review the forecast before doing the Labor Day trip!