"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Have a Memorable Camping Trip

This past weekend, we decided to join some friends (and some of their friends, and some of their friends) on a big group camping trip.  We picked a beautiful spot in the mountains - not a campground - and were looking forward to a weekend of family, friends, food, and re-connecting with nature.   It was everything we'd hoped it be... and more.  The following little primer is for those who're interested in camping and want to learn how to do it McGrail style.

1. Pick the windiest weekend of the year.

2. Dress for the occasion.

3. Forget to turn your camera off after taking picture of your little nudist, ensuring that you arrive at your destination with a dead battery and can't take any more pictures.

4. Choose a vehicle with low horse power and add more weight by pulling a trailer packed with camping gear. You'll only be able to go 30 mph (in a 65 mph zone) up the winding mountain freeway, and you'll have a line of no less than a dozen other holiday weekend adventure seekers queued up behind you.

5. Pick a location that has no cell service, leave your phone in the car all weekend, and relish in the break.

6. Enjoy watching your kids be kids... covered in dirt, playing in the woods, running around with new friends, and gathering kindling for the fire.

7. Make the most of using the forest as a bathroom by pretending you're Bear Grylls or a contestant on Survivor instead of what you really are - a regular old person squatting behind a tree.

7. Pause every few minutes to appreciate the sounds of nature.... your crackling fire, the crickets, the wind in the trees, and the crunching of pine cones under your feet.  

8. Take your family on what is described to you as a "short but steep" hike down in to a canyon. Don't turn back when you realize that it's both less short and more steep than you envisioned. Take a painstakingly long time getting your three year old down safely, while your older kids all blaze ahead with the rest of the people in your party. Admit it was absolutely worth the hike when you get to the cool water, and the beautiful view, at the bottom. Wish you had a camera.

9. Burst with pride for said three year old who climbs almost the entire way back up herself, with just a guiding hand behind her.  And for your fourteen year old too, who made the hike just a few days after dislocating his shoulder, and never complained.  Compare scrapes, bumps, and bruises when you get back to camp.

10. Park your car right next to your tent on the second night so that your husband can get up in the middle of the night and tie another anchor from the tent to the side view mirror to help prevent your humble little abode from blowing away during the gale-force winds.

11. Lay awake all night listening to the wind rip through the trees, your tent, and everything else in its path, and wonder if the next gust is going to be another one that bends the walls down onto your face. 

12. Decide unanimously to cut the trip by an entire day, and try to ignore the fact that you're really not feeling well, and have a two hour drive ahead of you.

13.  Lose your transmission halfway home, and be very, very thankful that 1) you took a major highway home instead of the route you took on your way there, 2) that you had cell service to call AAA, and 3) that you  were very close to your parents' house (and that they were home and able to come rescue you)

14.  Get back on the road a windy 60 minutes later... family, gear, and dog all split up between your parents' two vehicles.  Watch as the tow truck carrying your Land Cruiser weaves and blows all over the place in the wind on the highway, and envision your truck just falling off completely.

15.  Admit to yourself that you caught a touch of the stomach bug from the person of questionable judgment very nice gentleman and his family who came camping with you even though he was sick, and will yourself to make it home as soon as possible.

16.  Thoroughly enjoy a real bed, a real shower, and a real toilet when you get home.   Try not to think about the pricey car repair.  Or the unpacking.  Or the washing of all the smoke-filled blankets and clothes.

17.  Make plans to do it all over again as soon as possible.

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