All three kids are lined up, sitting in time out on the floor of the Walmart bottled water isle. The toddler had been throwing items from our basket like a little evil troll of some sort- triggered from sweet to evil by an insidious mixture of extra-tired and bribery sugar.
Of course I had picked the basket without the child restraints.
Of course I decided to go to Walmart at nap time, and during an unpredictable, heinous, Walmart-rush hour.
Of course I looked like the insane woman that I may be becoming- the kind that leaves their cart half full and runs out of Walmart, crying.
A lady stopped at the end of the isle and stared at me, as if asking if I was going to move my children out of the pathway. I stand my ground and make sure she notices my eye twitch; she left quickly. I do a self-pep talk. I had just gone through two hours of chasing a toddler and answering a million questions by 4&6 yr. olds at Les Schwab- I can handle this. Deep breaths- I am headed to the mountains later, it’s all worth it. If I can handle this, I can handle camping with all of them too…. (Or so I thought).
My husband rescues me and I make it through the checkout like a marathon runner busting through a banner. It’s amazing how Walmart during rush hour can be relaxing when the evil troll is taken out of the equation. I second guess our idea of camping, but decide its too late to back out now…
With our car teeming with camp necessities, we hit the road and head out for our 2.5 hour drive to the mountains to tent camp, without a site reserved. Out of the corner of my eye I notice fierce storm clouds looming in the distance. I’m sure my husband notices the clouds as well, but we don’t talk about it, because I have decided we’re going camping no matter what was in our way (I should get some sort of award for doing that).
Actually, don’t tell anyone this: I wasn’t taking my kids camping for their benefit, which most parents would be trying to do. It was a selfish act, disguised as being a loving parent… I had to get out of suburbia and be surrounded by trees, creeks, and faced with the possibility of exploring in every direction. [I’m a freak, but I am sure most of you know that already]. I think I may also be a glutton for punishment…I’m learning a lot about myself through these miss-adventures.
The evil troll has turned back into an adorable, cuddly toddler (yes, he is sleeping). We pass the first camp ground that has tent space, pause, and then decide to keep driving to get to the ‘most beautiful’ camping area, (that is over the mountains above us). An hour later down the dusty, switch back, road we regret our decision to pass up the serene sites below us; but it is too late and we literally can’t turn around.
The toddler is awake and the 5 year old is hungry. The 6 year old thinks she might throw up. We make it to the valley of ‘the most beautiful’ and its swarming with campers- the reservation type of campers. I look at my husband and ask him ‘why he let me do this’ and say things like:
“We never should have done this”, and “Why can’t this part be easy for us”.
The camp director suggests we look at a site that most people miss because you have to hike in. My husband, the hero, finds the spot and it’s empty. Glory, glory, halleluiah. We succeeded!
The celebration lasts a brief moment, as the realization of what we had to do next trampled the happy times out of its way. With each trip back and forth from the car, I look at my fly rod on the dash and then stare at the quaint creek moving 20 ft. from our tent. I’m not drooling, but I know once I get my chores done I will be in that creek; more than likely I’ll be pretending to be teaching someone to fish but secretly I am there for my own selfish desires. Don’t tell anyone that either.
We time the trips so that on my way in, my husband is walking back out. The toddler is running around, pushing his stroller. The kids are all playing ‘lost’ in the tall grass that encircles our tent area. But once the toddler gets bored, he thinks it’s funny to play a new game he named: “NO WAY”.
It entails the toddler running towards the road, and us yelling,
“Turn around! Red light! Do you want to go in time out?”
And him responding,
“NO WAY. NO WAY. NO WAY”,
Followed by a giggle… Followed by me, dropping dinner preparations and running down the road… Followed by the camp troll being restrained in his stroller, still yelling NO WAY!
Like in the movies where the person captures a wild animal, and then believes the animal will be docile and so they release it, I foolishly unlatched the stroller buckle. I give the camp troll some graham crackers to try to buy some time. The restraint process is repeated 5 times, until dinner is ready. I yell,
“Time to eat”, and he comes running to the table yelling back,
“EAT, EAT, EAT”. He likes to eat; it’s the camp troll’s kryptonite.
A dark cloud rises quickly over the mountain like a monster jumping out from behind a rock. My husband and I scramble to get the blankets in the tent. Lightning strikes in the distance and the thunder booms loudly. The kids start running around like scared chickens, yelling,
“We don’t know where to go. We don’t know where to go”!
The cloud rips open and the rain starts to fall relentlessly from the sky. We pile into the tent just in time. The kids are shaking out of fear and the toddler says, “Yikes”. I look up at the ceiling of the tent and water is pooling on the top and dropping down, onto our fresh pile of blankets. We hover in one side of the tent as the storm soaks our apparently non-water-proof tent. I look at my husband and he looks at me like he is saying ‘Don’t even say anything’. So I hold my tongue for once.
After the storm, we shake off the tent and use our only towels to dry it off. We gather the blankets that made it through the storm and hope they will be enough to keep us warm on this chilly night. The kids are ready for smores, camp fire stories and the camp queen of fun to make it the best night of their summer…but I’m ready for bed.
I drag myself back to the car to get pajamas for the kids and I see my fly rod, still sitting on the dashboard. My ideas of putting the kids to bed, and sneaking back to the stream, sounds divine. This has been the longest day of my life (drama much?)…I deserve to relax by the creek, be surrounded by nature, and worry only about the darkness taking away my time.
I check my phone and find out that I actually have cell service- so the ‘outdoorsy’ note I put on Facebook of “Going off the grid for camping” was actually a lie…I was very much on the grid, in a camp ground, thinking about Googling the nearest warm motel. I shake my head and leave my phone in the car as if I were burning up an ex’s picture in a fire. This phone doesn’t belong here in the woods!
I grab the pj’s and walk back to our tent site- trying not to acknowledge my neighbor camper who is frantically burying his garbage in a hole next to his tent…Ok- to each their own I guess?
Just when I was thinking about how peaceful the campground was in the evening with the crackle of fires and friendly chuckles of families relaxing together, I hear my two year old angel/sometimes camp troll screaming beyond the sounds of a general toddler fit. I run to the tent to find blood gushing out of his mouth and his tooth sticking out of the side of his lips! He has hit his head on my husband’s shoulder while jumping on the air mattress, when he was supposed to be laying down for bed time. No, No, No, No WAY! I want to scream. We just got our tent dried off for bedtime. We are 2.5 hours away from an ER!
I pause for a moment, hoping an adult or parent might show up and tell me what to do. While I was waiting for the parent to show up, we put the kids BACK in the car and started the long journey towards ‘back on the grid’ or to civilization, where we can’t seem to get away from.My other kids are crying along with the camp troll, because they want pancake breakfast with hot chocolate next to the camp fire in the morning and now we are driving home.
With my fly rod bouncing on the dashboard down the curvy mountain, I start to wonder why we even try to camp with kids in the mountains- this was the worst idea I have ever had. But most of all, I worry about my little mischievous camp troll, who has a tooth protruding from his bloody lips and possibly further damage than what we can see.
Finally, once all of the crying and mild bouts of road rage subsided, the children succumbed to sleep from Pandora’s lullaby music, and the gentle jostle of our SUV traveling down the dirt road…
#Longest day ever… #Miss-Adventures… #I need a fly fishing fix
To Be Continued…