Friday, June 27, 2008

The Great Outdoors

by Susan Seyfarth

So, we took the kids camping this weekend.

Now my husband & I, we used to camp quite a bit. My husband loves Minnesota's fabled Boundary Waters the way some men love hot cars & fast computers & will jump at any excuse to throw the canoe on the car & head north. I'm more of a backpacker myself. I fell in love with hiking during what my father still refers to as my camp counselor days. (For the sake of accuracy, I would like to point out that I was not a camp counselor. I was an outdoor educator. It a REAL JOB, dad. Sheesh.)

Suffice it to say, we considered ourselves the outdoorsy types, my husband & I. We spent our honeymoon camping in Alaska, after all. For our first anniversary, we spent a few days on the Superior Hiking trail (an awesome wilderness trail that stretches from Duluth to the Canadian border), then got in the car & puttered our way into Canada where we hit all the provincial parks surrounding Lake Superior. Canada has some amazing parks, by the way. One of our camp sites in Lake Superior Provincial Park was a gorgeous little island. Not just on an island, mind you. The actual island. The whole thing. Sadly, it turned out to be somewhat less, um, isolated than a couple celebrating their first anniversary might be inclined to hope, but that's a different story altogether. One I will not be getting into on a public blog.


Where was I?

Oh yes. We were inveterate outdoorsmen/women. We had the skills, we had the experience, we had the equipment.

Then we had children.

I can now report that we have an entirely new understanding of what roughing it actually entails.

Roughing it is not going without indoor plumbing.

Roughing it is standing around at 3 a.m. dangling your bare-bottomed, just-potty-trained 3 year old over some shrubbery that you pray to the good lord isn't poison ivy, trying to explain why it's okay just this once to pee on the ground.

Roughing it is not sleeping in a tiny, two-person tent small enough to fit in a backpack.

Roughing it is sharing a cavernous Coleman 6-man tent that barely fits in the back of your station wagon with a 5 year old that somebody fed s'mores until she was ping-ponging off the walls like a demented, DEET-scented monkey.

Roughing it is not sleeping on the ground in twenty degree weather.

Roughing it is sleeping on the ground in a stifling tent in 85 degree heat with your 18 month old (aka The Heater) draped over your crotch because that's where she finally fell asleep & you would rather die of heat stroke than deal with her if she wakes up.

That said, we had a great weekend. It took us approximately 8 hours to prep for 16 hours in the Great Outdoors, & my eldest daughter's mosquito bites are now the stuff of family legend (how does one kid slathered in DEET get thirty bites on one leg??) but the kids are already asking when we get to go again.

We're thinking canoes this time.

May god have mercy on us.

How about you? Are you a camper or does the thought of sleeping outdoors give you hives? What was your most memorable family vacation? When was the last time you truly felt like you were roughing it?


p226 said...


p226 said...

And the rooster returns for training. This week, it's demo training. Fun with C4 and shaped charges.

But as for the camping thing, I totally get that. The wife and I used to go out over the weekends here. Just into the hills. I'd take a topo map, a compass, and we'd just go. I can navigate just fine with those two items.

Anything we needed, we carried (meaning mostly I carried) with us in our packs. We'd get way back in the hills, just completely isolated from everything. No cell phones. Nothing. And we'd hack out a camp-site, build a fire, and if we were near a river, we'd fish for our dinners. If not, we'd eat what we carried in.

Now, it's more like "car camping." "Roughing it" is a thing of the past.

One of these days, I should take my boy out there. Show him what it's all about. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm a bit surprised that I haven't yet.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, P226! About time that chook got some discipline! You show him what for! He's got dangerously soft around the middle in recent weeks.

Hmm, Susan, I had to laugh! My idea of roughing it is having to share a bathroom. Sorry. Nuh. Uh-uh. Outdoors stuff? Not for this little black duck. I do love to LOOK at the outdoors. It's very pretty. I however like to sleep in a nice comfortable bed and have a hot shower! What can I say? I've confessed to my wimpdom here before. It shouldn't be news!

Donna MacMeans said...

Susan - Your blog brings back memories. I remember one camping vacation when I was in my teens in the Smokies. A black bear wandered into our camp in pursuit of a piece of bread Mom had left in a collapsable table. (it's a table that folds back in on itself until it resembles a metal box about a foot square.) The bear couldn't open that box, even when he bounced it off a tree. He leaned on one of the dining tent poles bending that thing in two. We could only stay in the sleeping fold-out camper and keep flashlights trained on him. There was one way out of the camper and that was blocked by bear. The bear eventually wandered off. Dad packed us up early the next morning and we were gone.

My husband is NOT a camper, won't even try. I've camped with my daughter's girl scout troop. I've taken both kids out canoeing, but that's about the extent of my outdoor experiences - and will continue to be the extent of my outdoor experiences *g*

flchen1 said...

Woo! Congrats on the GR, p226! I'm sure you'll have him back in line in no time!

Susan, I'm SO not a camper! We never went when I was a kid, and I'm just not big on bugs, dirt, and roughing it ;) So I don't mind reading about camping, which can sound really beautiful and fun, but the actual camping, not so much. I'll be in the suite next door to Anna ;)

Helen said...

I am with Anna p226 he does need a little toughening up

Great post Susan what a fun weekend and no I like walking in the great outdoors and going away to lots of different places but I like a bed a hot shower.

When I was a kid my grandparents had a small hobby farm on the central coast we used to go and stay there, there were two sheds on the land at the time one shed only had 3 sides that was what we called the kitchen the other one had a door and 2 double beds a wardrobe and chest of drawers we cooked over an open fire and we washed in a big tub of hot water heated over the outdoor fire.We always had lots of fun but only stayed a about a week living on tinned food and milk, my grandfather then built a house and we had electricity and it was a great place to go.
I always enjoyed going to "The Farm" as we called it but I really appreciate my creature comforts.

Have Fun

Cassondra said...

Okay, when I stop laughing and dry out the keyboard I'll be back to post a real comment.


Natalie Hatch said...

p226 if the GR starts twitching when you go past a toy store, just ignore it... the twins didn't do anything to him that he didn't agree to.
As for camping... we have a few problems here, there are some great campsites, but we have invasive creatures such as crocodiles that tend to try and stake out areas...
And with three kids 3 and under, well camping is just a nightmare of trying to keep them from throwing themselves or other interesting things in the fire... not to mention tenting it with sandflies... I like camping out in a resort, where the kids go to a day care and I get to lie back and be pampered....

Anna Campbell said...

Fedora, you bring the Margaritas. I'll bring the Tim Tams. Hey, Helen, you sound like a similar softy to us. Wanna have a pajama party?

Helen said...

Anna I am all for a pyjama party you name the place and I'll be happy to add to the drinks and nibblies. I am sure there will be a few others that would ike to join us

have Fun

Jane said...

Wtg, P226.

I've never been camping in my life. Never got to do in the summer as a kid. I would love to try it. I don't know how much wilderness I can handle, but I'm willing to give it a go especially if Anna is going to bring the Tim Tams. I vote yes for the pajama party.

Eva S said...

Here's another one for the pajama party! We used to go camping with our kids LONG ago, nowadays I can't think of sleeping outdoors or not having a hot shower. I love long walks in the forrest but that's enough for me!

Christine Wells said...

Yes, Fo, the closest you've come to roughing it in recent times was staying at my house.LOL

Great post, Susan. I had to laugh. I've been camping a few times on sand islands off the coast of Australia. Enjoyed it and the scenery and the peace is spectacular, but I must admit I'm always very glad to get back to civilization and a decent hot shower. And you always have to worry about poisonous snakes and spiders and (ugh) goannas in the Australian outback. (sorry, goannas aren't poisonous, they're just a personal phobia)

I so admire you for have the sheer audacity to brave the wild with two young children. Canoeing? Oh, saints preserve you, indeed!

Anna Lucia said...

Ah, I love camping! Don't get to do nearly enough of it these days. But I think camping and kids are natural companions - all my best childhood memories involve a tent!

I have, however, discovered the secret of comfortable camping:

Take. The Duvet.

Joan said...

Nope, I'm with Anna and the girls resting on a nice divan OVERLOOKING a scenic view of nature. (Pass the nibbles, would ya?)

I was marked after that brief 2 day stint at Day Girl Scout camp at age 10. There was DIRT in that little municipal forest! And ok, it is not natural to go to the bathroom and find a dozen Daddy Long Leg spiders WATCHING you!

And snake skin shed on the trail? Ya can't fool me. That means the REST OF THE SNAKE is out there...probably watching me too!

And then there is the sight of the easily 500 pound camp counselor named...I kid you not..."Tiny" swinging like a loon from a grapevine.

Fo, pass the air conditioning.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Uh, I will go to the PJ Party myself. When I was a kid my dad would get a wild hair and I would end up in the back seat with a cooler, a pillow, and a blanket. That's it. A cooler, a pillow and blanket. We would go fishing, well dad would fish, mom would fish, I would explore and get very dirty with no way to get clean. Mom would have a wash cloth and a mason jar of water. Did I mention that I absolutely hate anything with more than 4 legs but the little critters seem to adore me? (as lunch)I have scars from bug bites, the most memorable being a mosquito bite on my wrist. Second husband took me squirrel hunting on our honeymoon, severe case of poison ivy on my tush.
I will bring the vodka to the PJ party.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Oh, congrat on the GR P226, I want to see you get the binky away from him.

PJ said...

LMAO! OMG, Susan, that was hysterical and brought back sooo many memories! Several years back the hubby and I bought six acres in the country, 15 miles from town. We had planned to eventually build a house on the site but for the first two years it was our own private campground. We cleared a site for the tent, dug a fire pit to cook over and most every weekend abandoned the cozy, comfort-filled confines of our condo and headed out to camp. Our first tent was a two-person pup tent that lasted about a week (hubby was 6'2" and 220 lbs). That was quickly followed by a Coleman 6-person tent that seemed really huge in the store but shrunk to the size of a matchbox when shared with my wiggly four year old brother. :)

I remember one night when we first started camping out there I was awakened in the middle of the night with one of those "can't wait" urges to pee. I quietly crept out of the tent and found the most secluded area away from the tent that I could find. There was a full moon and I wanted to make sure NOBODY could see me. As I stood there getting lost in the gorgeous star filled night and absolute silence I felt something tap my shoulder. You know, you really can stop mid-stream. lol! I swung around prepared to defend my life from the hook-armed murderer I was sure was standing there (too many stories around Girl Scout campfires) and came face to face with my would-be attacker...a sweet-faced cow who had ambled over to say howdy. I laughed and laughed and laughed...and convinced the hubby that he needed to build us a port-a-potty. Stat!

PJ said...

P226, congrats on grabbing the GR!

Buffie said...

I have never been much of an outdoors kind of gal, with the exception of the beach and the pool with a nice hot shower in reach. But my oldest son has been in the Cub Scouts for a few years now and last year, the dh and he ganged up on me to go camping with them. So the four of us went. It was just overnight, but I was worried. See I don't like bugs. No, let me rephrase. I really HATE bugs. And don't get me started on ticks. I have a real fear about ticks. Really, I do. So we went with the Scout Pack and camped out. And in all honesty, I really enjoyed myself. The campfire cooking was fun. The stories at dark was fun. Even walking through the woods to see what we could see was fun. My boys were excited that Mom actually slept in a tent with them and have been begging for me to go again. Maybe I will, if it is just overnight. I don't know that I could handle more than that. See I'm a gal who needs to feel warm water cascading down her body every SINGLE morning. That's just me :)

Tiffany Kenzie said...

I love camping--in the summer months only, it gets really cold in north country up here from September-May in the evenings. Anyone that knows me is rolling their eyes because I'm very girly, but I can rough it. Did I mention that I wanted to go into ornithology? Camping is kinda part of the bird watching/studying experience...but then I wanted to study the kiwi down under...long story.

It's been years since we went camping... last time was before my son was born (8 years) And we took our two ferrets and dog that time...

We are thinking of taking the kids to Algonquin, but my daughter is more girly ewwy than me... I have a very severe fear of spiders. Like shaking, nauseated, crying (yes real tears) kinda fear :) My daughter is worse :)

And your eldest has sweet blood like me. Bugs eat me alive! Bug spray does nadda! And I would have rather died of heat stroke too, in fear of moving the finally sleeping babe!

Buffie said...

Way to go p226!!!! The GR probably really needs some guy time.

Gannon Carr said...

Hilarious blog, Susan! And, PJ, your "interruption" by the cow.... ROFLMAO!!!!

The last time I went camping was when I was 14 years old. I was on a month long trip in the UK with several other teenagers and our chaperone. We camped for a few days in Scotland. It wasn't bad because it was pretty cold, and there no snakes or bugs. But now that I'm older, I have no interest sleeping in a tent. I'm all for hiking and enjoying nature, but come bedtime I want a real bed.

I subscribe to Al Roker's belief about camping. He said that his idea of roughing it is staying at the Holiday Inn...with no cable!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, P226! Why am I not surprised that you snagged the GR on an outdoorsy blog? :-)

Go easy on him, huh? I'm pretty sure he's just had a pedicure.

As for camping with kids, boy do I hear you. I never mastered orienting well enough to camp by topo map, but I was darn comfortable trail camper. Comfortable enough to take other people's kids backpacking by the handfuls. I just assumed I would OF COURSE take my kids out every chance I got.

Then I realized that a significant number of years have to pass before the kids are ready to appreciate the wonder of camping. And for me to appreciate them appreciating it. I think we're right on the edge with a 1.5 & a 5 y.o. I'll keep you all posted on the canoe trip...

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh Anna, you had me giggling at the idea of sharing a bathroom as roughing it. I didn't have a bedroom to myself until I was 22, I'm pretty sure I've never had bathroom of my own. You know what makes me feel deprived? Sharing a computer. :-) Our youngest bunked down in the office for the first year or so, which meant that after we put her down for the night, our desktop computer was off limits. Which meant my husband & I had to share the laptop. It made me *very cranky*. Who knew? Here I thought I was such an easy going soul. Ha.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Donna, what a great story! I had an incident with a raccoon while camping that didn't put me off camping but it did put me off sleeping outdoors without the benefit of a tent. I'll have to share that sometime.

But as for your bear, wow. I've never run into a bear in the wild but that's my favorite thing to worry about. I once arrived at a campsite in the dark, threw my tent up, ran my backpack up a tree & collapsed into bed, confident I'd done everything to avoid bear attacks.

I woke up, stuck my head out of the the tent & realized I'd pitched my camp in the middle of a wild blueberry patch. So basically in the middle of The Bear Diner. I moved my tent. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

flchen1--Enjoy that suite! We campers will be sure to swing by for a hot shower every now & then. We like the outdoors but there's nothing better than that first hot shower...

Susan Seyfarth said...

Helen, your grandparents' farm sounds amazing. What wonderful memories. And you're right--after about a week, the charm of camping has worn off for me, too. I'm ready for a shower & a fresh vegetable. You can only eat powdered/dried/smushed for so long, you know?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Natalie--you are so right about kids under three being a hazard to themselves in the great outdoors. I went backpacking in West Texas several years ago, & before we hit the trail we noticed a sign that mentioned the presence of mountain lions, & how you really ought to keep your dogs & children close as they like the small ones. Now I can't see a leashed dog on the hiking trail without thinking, "Snack on the string."

Susan Seyfarth said...

Awww, the hotel girls are having tim tams? Okay, we're having s'mores. With a crackling fire at our feet & a starry sky spread out above us, righteous in the knowledge that we worked off all the s'mores we might eat dragging ourselves & all our equipment into this gorgeous place. :-)

Beth said...

Great post, Susan! I'll happily admit I'm not a camper. I enjoy a hike in the woods (and believe me, where I live we are surrounded by woods) but only with my husband or son but I like indoor plumbing and my own comfy bed way too much to sleep outside *g*

Mostly though, I'm a big chicken. (No offense, GR) We have bears, coyotes and even bobcats where I live. I always imagine if I camp out I'll wake up to find one (or all) of those creatures standing over me, complete with a napkin tied around their neck and a knife and fork in their paws (yes, I watched way too many cartoons as child)

Hey, Anna, have room for one more at the Inn?? I'll bring the margaritas.

terrio said...

I'm afraid I'm with the PJ crew. No camping for me unless it's staying in a nicely decked out cabin complete with hot water and shower. I too must have my shower every day.

My ex was all about deer hunting and last Thanksgiving I found out he planned on taking our 8 yr old into the woods while he had her for the holiday. I considered throwing a fit, but knew it would get me nowhere. So, I just explained to my 8 yr old exactly what roughing it would mean. She staunchly refused to go. LOL! Crisis averted.

Oh, and I'd say I'm roughing it this weekend. Writer's retreat with NO INTERNET for 48 hours. I'm gonna be a hot mess come Sunday.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Jane, definitely give camping a try. It's so satisfying to know that you can get by for days with nothing but what you can carry on your back. It's such a great way to see the country, to really be IN the country. And, okay, maybe this is going to reveal my granola, hippy-girl side, but it's the best way I know to really get in touch with the natural order of things. Where we as people fit into the natural world, what we owe it (much), what it owes us (not so much). It encourages me to remember my place & that makes me feel grateful & lucky & careful. So I recommend it. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Eva--long walks in the forest are wonderful, too. And yeah, there's something to be said for washing off the trail grime. ;)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hi, Christine! Good for you for braving the poisonous beasties! I remember the first time I went camping in the desert. (Keep in mind, I'm from the upper midwest--tall trees, clear cold water, poison ivy the worst threat the forest has to offer.) I looked around the desert, saw all the thorns & spines & poisonous creatures & total lack of water/shelter/shade & thought, "This place is trying to kill me." Unforgiving place, the desert. But oh, the sunsets. And that vast sweep of starry sky. And the coyotes singing into it...

Susan Seyfarth said...

Anna Lucia--YES on the duvet!! Especially with kids. You cannot make those kids too soft a nest, especially when YOUR sleep is on the line. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Joanie, girl scout camp. That's a whole different kettle of fish than camping, believe me. I went to girl scout camp & didn't venture into the wilderness again until college. And what *is* it about GS camp that has them giving their counselors ironic nicknames? I had the most severely depressed, anorexic counselor of all time, & they called her, I kid you not, Sunshine. I'm all for getting kids into the outdoors, but based on this scientific sample of two (you & me so far) I'm going to say maybe the girl scouts isn't the way to go. :-)

Beth said...

LOL on sleeping in the middle of a Bear Diner, Susan. We have blueberry bushes in our backyard and are surrounded by blackberry bushes so there's always a good chance we'll run into a bear. Which happened a few years ago on Halloween two houses up from our house *g*

And while my husband tried to tell me that bear was more afraid of us than we were of him/her, I think he's full of it. Then again, this is a man who says if you're with someone and get chased by a bear, you don't have to worry about running faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than the person you're with :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hrdwrkngmom--okay, wait a sec. Squirrel hunting?? On your HONEYMOON? Oh. My. Goodness. That's just...wrong. I *like* camping & I'd have killed my new husband for that kind of behavior. And then to get poison ivy on your TUSH? I hope you used that excuse for years. "Boy, I'd sure like to, sweetie, but my tush is have FLASHBACKS."

Christie Kelley said...

Susan, you're a brave woman to take children that young camping. I experienced the great outdoors as a girl scout in upstate NY. It was not the fun time people talk about. Every time we went, it rained. EVERY TIME. No kidding. Once it rained so hard that the leaders had to take all of our sleeping bags into town to put them in the dryers.

Doesn't that tell you how I feel about camping. I love a nice long hike that entails hopping back into the car at the end to head to the hotel for the night.

My dh took the boys to the Shenandoah mountains last weekend to hike Old Rag Mt. with a couple of his friends. They had a blast and I had a weekend alone. It was wonderful.

Last year we went to Yellowstone and the Grand Titons. That was the best vacation we've had with the boys. We stayed in the cabins onsite at the parks and loved it. I'd go there again in a minute.

Louisa Cornell said...

Are you sure you need to teach that bird how to use C4? The 4th of July IS just a few days away!

I have laughed my head off at all of the camping stories. Susan, you are a hoot. And PJ, as my property backs up to a cattle farm I especially loved the cow story. They really are very friendly and curious creatures!

Some people think I am roughing it because I don't have cable or DSL internet! I do live in the middle of nowhere and on occasion have to use the front door rather than the back because a copperhead is sunning himself on the back porch.

However, I think I will just go out the front door and join the ladies at the hotel with the nice natural view. Did the cabana boys and gladiators show up yet. What DOES a cabana boy wear to a pajama party?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh my gosh, PJ, I'm still giggling. How lovely, that your private campground came with such a friendly cow. :-) If you hadn't already been peeing, you'd probably have wet your pants.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Buffie--that's a wonderful sacrifice you made for your boys. And I bet they'll never forget it. You get the good mom award. :-)

Claudia Dain said...

Susan, fellow honeymoon camper! Yes, DH and I camped in Sequoia/King's Canyon Nat'l Park for our honeymoon. Do you get the strange, what planet did you fall out of, looks that I do when I share that we honeymoon camped?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Tiffany--I totally sympathize with the spider fear. I have been working for years on my snake phobia. Luckily, I've never run across one while camping. It would be tough to sleep with one eye open & my head inside my sleeping bag. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Gannon--LOL about Holiday Inns without cable being roughing it! And I totally agree about that hot shower at the end of the trail being a magical thing. One of our favorite things to do is book a whirlpool room in our favorite resort that happens to sit right on a hub of one of our favorite trails. We can spend three stinky days on the trail then march right into the lobby of the resort with our backs still on our packs & say, "we'd like our whirlpool room please." :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Beth, I'm still chuckling at the image of a bobcat with a knife, fork & napkin, squatting patiently outside your tent flap. Very civilized. :-) "Good morning, prey. Are you ready to be eaten or do you require a moment to perform your toilette?" Ha.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Terrio--I'll forego the showers. I'll skip the hot meals. I'll sleep on the ground. But go without the INTERNET?? I feel faint. Hot mess, indeed. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Beth, that's true. The best way to survive a bear attack is to always hike with somebody slow & fat. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Christie--as much as I love camping, I have to admit that I, too, am living for the day my husband takes off into the local state park with the girls & I get some writing time. :-) Boy, I hope that day comes sooner rather than later...

Susan Seyfarth said...

Louisa--wait, cabana boys are coming to the pajama party? Awww. You guys are going to make me regret choosing camping, aren't you? :-)

But I totally hear you on choosing the alternate route due to snake infestation. I worked outdoors in texas for a number of years & often had to refigure my plans due to the presence of some poisonous thing or other in the trail.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Claudia--my fellow honeymoon camper! Yeah, I get some odd looks on that one. But then I tell the skeptics about camping next to a gorgeous glacial pool with the actual glacier creeping into it, & hearing ice bergs calving off in the night. I tell them about taking naps in our own private alpine meadow & being zipped to the trail head in a water taxi. Everybody isn't necessarily on board after that, but they seem to understand a little better. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Okay girls (and boy), I'm off for the morning. I'll be back to see what you're all up to around nap time. Pull up a log & have a s'more while I'm away. :-)

Trish Milburn said...

I feel your child's mosquito bite pain. I think I could bathe in bug spray and still get bitten. My husband can be standing right next to me, and he gets nada. I don't get it. Must be a body chemical thing.

I'm so jealous that you went camping/hiking in Alaska for your honeymoon.

Joan, LOL on the "rest of the snake" comment. I love the outdoors, but I'd definitely enjoy it more without snakes and mosquitoes.

Several of you mentioned bears, but honestly you typically don't have to worry about them unless you're in grizzly country. Black bears tend to stay away from humans for the most part unless they're starving after a bad berry/normal bear food season or you get between a mama and her cub. Grizzlies, however, will snack on a human now and then. But then, I don't plan on sleeping anywhere a grizzly might think I look like dinner. :)

Trish Milburn said...

Christie, isn't Yellowstone wonderful? It's one of my absolute favorite places.

limecello said...

Heh - I haven't been camping in a looong time. I joke with friends that my idea of "camping" is a luxury "cabin" in the woods with all the amenities, or a 5-star lodge. (The fact that I can't afford this doesn't matter, because as stated, I don't go camping.) It's just not something my family ever did. But, I have fond memories of "camping" in the back yard and having sleep over there. Once we screamed the tent down b/c of a spider and my dad came running from the house (yeah, he heard us) thinking we were were being killed or something. Yay, a tent full of 6 girls. That was possibly also one of the last times we had a tent sleepover.

Pat Cochran said...

I'm not a camping aficionado, most
especially after the one camping trip taken when our kids were in band. Some of the parents actually set up a weekend trip for the students and the band director. The boys had one cabin, the girls had the second one, and the chaperone/parents got to tend
the fire in between. Special features of the trip: getting to cook meals for dozens of people (including teenage boys!),a miles
long hike, and a director who
started out canoeing but ended up
swimming! Did I mention that the
trip was taken during late fall?
And that the water was cold? I
will have to end this tale, just
thinking about camping is giving
me hives!

Pat Cochran

Cassondra said...

Okay I can camp. I can. I swear. Not without shelter--I don't sleep on the ground without a tent complete with no-see-um netting. Nothing with more (or fewer) than two legs is allowed to crawl on me while I'm sleeping.

I own good gear. I have those survival skills--I can use a topo map and compass to find my way around. I've trained to carry enough gear on my back to keep me and my search victim alive for a night in case I get to the victim and the team can't get in there until daylight to carry him out. Three ways to make fire. More than one light source. First aid. Food. That pack is always in my car.

BUT, all that said....I don't like it. I know. I SHOULD like it. I have the skills. I have the mentality. But I don't like it. I subscribed to Backpacker magazine for years. I've backpacked. I love backpacking. I love sitting by a fire. I love the outdoors more than most people, and know more about it that a lot of folks do. But then it's time to sleep, and the ground is hard, and I don't have a pillow, and I'm scrungy sweaty, and I don't sleep, and here's the problem....then I turn into a MONSTER. A miserable monster. It's the no sleep thing.

Here's how it went the first time my husband and I were headed to Fall Creek Falls--and this was CAR camping.... (this was before we were married, BTW.)

"Oh, Steve, I forgot my pillow. There's a K-Mart at the next exit. Stop and I'll grab one."

"Pillow???? What do you need a pillow for? We're CAMPING. You don't need a pillow."

"Stop and let me buy a pillow, or take me home. Now."

We'd been married two years when our lease was up and we had to move out of our apartment, but the little house we were gonna rent wasn't vacant, so we camped, literally, in state parks and campgrounds, for a month. With pillows of course, and an air mattress. And a shower available in the camp restrooms.

So, I've figured out that what I want--it's a compromise. I live in the country, surrounded by fields and wildlife and cows, and every night I can I build a fire out back and sit for a while and listen to the frogs on the pond, watch the bats catch bugs, and hear the coyotes in the woods behind the house. And I have a good cabernet in a real glass, maybe some cheese, and a bathroom a hundred yards away--AND a warm bubble bath--AND a soft place to sleep--waiting for me.

I know it's lame. But it's true.

Fo, move over, hand me a pillow and somebody pour me a drink.

Cassondra said...

Trish said:

Christie, isn't Yellowstone wonderful? It's one of my absolute favorite places.

Trish, I camped on the continental divide--this WAS our actual substitute honeymoon. We didn't have one when we married, so five years later we went to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and took a horse pack trip up onto the continental divide.

Grizzly country. The grizzlies and the horses use the same trails.

Not. A. Wink. Of. Sleep.

I was awake all night listening. Miserable.

M. said...

Ha ha! I LOVE this list! I had a shorter variation, not about roughing but about definitions of luxurious self-indulgence:
Before kids: taking a long hot bubble bath with a box of bonbons and the latest bestseller with softly playing music,lovely smells, and perhaps, your husband making dinner to serve you once you're done.
After kids: Being able to throw up in peace without a toddler clinging to your legs and a baby dandled over your shoulder.

jo robertson said...

Hilarious post, Susan!

P226, great news. The rooster was due for some intensive training.

Ah, camping, the stuff of legends. I married into a dyed-in-the-wool camping family much to my chagrin. Hunting, fishing, camping -- all major horrors for this city-bred gal.

I remember the "cow pies." Stomping over brushland with a babe strapped to my chest and looking at those strange circular, flat chips on the ground, asking what they were, being told they were "cow pies" and assuming they were firewood starters. How's a city gal to know??!!

I lived the next several decades under the phrase, "Don't send Jo for the firewood," to the tune of hilarious cackling from my in-laws.

I got my revenge by studying the pioneers and learning that "buffalo chips," smaller and more pellet-like, were, indeed, used as firewood by those sturdy men and women who crossed the plains.

In case, ya'll are all confused, I'm talking about cow and buffalo feces.

"Don't send Jo for the firewood."

jo robertson said...

Uh, and BTW, camping in my dictionary reads, "five-star hotel."

Esri Rose said...

I've camped. I've camped from a backpack. It was never my favorite thing to do and I can't sleep in a tent, but I did it. Now my idea of camping is a cabin or a yurt with actual beds. A bottle of port and some s'mores, some light hiking and canoing followed by bratwursts over the firepit, and I'm a happy camper. If there's a cute town with window shopping nearby, so much the better.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Trish--Good info on black bears vs. grizzly bears. When we spent that time in Alaska, we stayed our first couple days at a B & B, just to recover from our wedding before we headed into the woods. Every time we mentioned our plans to hike, people inevitable asked what kind of firearms we were bringing in with us. Because apparently when you go into grizzly country, you ought to be armed.

We're lucky to be alive, I guess. BEcause we went in with nothing stronger than DEET.

And let me just spend a moment in sympathy with you for being the one who keeps getting eaten while everybody around her is fine. That's my job, too. Maybe we ought to stand next to each other next time we're in the woods. Maybe we can split the difference. Or maybe we'd just disappear in the subsequent feeding frenzy. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

limoncello--I love the idea of a backyard camp out! My two nieces are spending a week with us this summer & I'm totally going to pitch our giant tent in the backyard & let them sleep outside. their parents aren't big campers & this might be as close as they get to camping. At the very least in twenty years they'll be telling their friends about their crazy aunt who kicked them out into the yard for the night when their parents abandoned them with her while taking themselves a fabulous vacation. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Pat. I'm so sorry about that camping experience. But on the up side, now you can start conversations with, "This one time? At band camp?" (Sorry, it's a reference from the American Pie movies--the only funny one, I think.)

But somebody owes you big time for cooking for all those kids & supervising a co-ed camp out. God bless you. :-)

Trish Milburn said...

Cassondra, I'd love to hike the Yellowstone backcountry, but I couldn't camp there. My sister has though. But she's more adventurous than I am. :)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Cassondra--This is simultaneously the most eloquent defense of & argument against camping I've ever heard. :-) Yeah, that no sleep thing is tough to overcome. I never sleep the first night in a new place anyway, & it's worse when I'm listening for something that might want to eat me. But this last camping trip, we took our kids to Interstate State park, so named because it spans the St. Croix River between MN & WI. Or so I thought. then I tried to sleep there & realized it could also have been named so because of the freakin' INTERSTATE HIGHWAY running twenty yard from the camp site with big rigs roaring past all night long. It was the most urban camping experience I've ever had. If I'm going to be that close to exhaust fumes, then I'm with you. Give me the pillow & the wine & the hot shower. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

M, I SO identify with this list. I had the Dreaded Barfing Illness three separate times between Christmas & Easter this year. THREE TIMES. At one point my husband was away on business & I was hunched over the toilet in abject misery with one kid unrolling all the toilet paper & the other kid clipping everythig she could find into my hair. I finally said, "Okay kids, everybody out. Mommy has to barf now." They gave me three minutes. I'm sure it seemed like an eternity to them on the other side of the bathroom door, but I could've used a couple more minutes. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Jo, please tell me used this "don't send Jo for firewood" thing to your advantage! Every time the woodpile got low I hope you shrugged in mild confusion & brought back a couple handfuls of cow poop until they figured maybe you ought to just...take it easy. Feed the baby. Put your feet up. Not handle anything strenuous, like putting tents, cooking meals, washing up, stringing bear bags. Just toast your marshmallows like the sly fox you turned out to be. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Esri--They have beds in yurts? I guess I've never yurt camped. Though I did meet a woman once who lived in a teepee every summer. I always wondered where she stored it in the window. Those teepees are darn big & unweildy.

Now as for me, I draw the line at winter camping. Digging myself a shelter in the snow, crawling inside & sleeping there? On the ice? Nuh-uh. No thanks. I'll play in the snow but I don't sleep there. I'll be back at the lodge, toasting my toes by the fire, drinking hot chocolate & admiring y'all for freezing your patooties off out there. :-)

Suzanne Welsh said...

oh p226, who better to snag the bird during an roughing it in the outdoors blog than you, dude? Congrats. (Don't get nervous if the bird jumps when a big-dog barks or sniffs too close...there was the Rocky and the pool incident while he was in TX!)

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, You crack me up, girl!! If you aren't writing comedy, could you please take it up? I swear you could revive the dormant state of the subgenre all on your own!!

My hubby does not do camping or fishing. Imagine his angst when our then 3 year-old son announced he wanted his dad to take him fishing so they could catch a fish and cook it.

Son did learn to camp and fish, but because his aunt, (my sister) and uncle loved to do this. He learned to fish, (there's a whole story about him learning the bait worms had to die for this to happen), along with one of his sisters. One was a bit too prissy for outdoor plumbing. So although I didn't have to sleep on the ground more than a couple of times, I can just see how your weekend went! God bless you...and seriously reconsider the canoes until they're both old enough to help paddle!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Susan, I'll have s'mores as long as I get a fold-out camper and a good sleeping bag. Oh and someone to put the worm on the fishing pole.

Cassondra said...

Okay, as a follow up, let me say that I think everyone SHOULD go camping at least a few times. Everybody should have those skills cuz someday (like when my lease was up and my house wasn't ready) you might need them.

But winter camping? Uh...NO!

I actually did winter camping. In FREAKING JUNE in Wyoming. June 25 my fifth anniversary, I was camped right beside the Snake river at the base of the Tetons, in a nice tent, with a decent sleeping bag----haha!---not DECENT ENOUGH!!!! It was freaking fifteen degrees that night!!!!!

I put on every piece of clothing I had with me, then put on every piece of clothing Steve had with him, snuggled up against the heater that is my husband, and shivered the entire night while he snored happily half out from under our zip-together bags..

Once again, Not. A. Wink. Of. Sleep.

I have discovered that if I camp, I need, 1) A big honking air mattress--the kind that needs a hair dryer to blow up--which necessitates get the picture...

2) A pillow--and not one of those weenie sized "camp" pillows either.

3) The ability to be warm at night. Can't sleep when I'm cold. Just can't. (I have, since the Snake River experience, purchased a North Face Cat's Meow zero degree bag).

4) A tight, weatherproof tent. (We had that. We rode out a tornado in Kansas in this tent.) But here's the key....One BIG enough for the queen sized air mattress. So, my husband and I have a four person Eureka tent. Nice tent. HEAVY tent.

So by the time you load all that gear in the car--along with the Coleman Stove and the Coleman fuel, and you haul all that stuff out there to a campsite that's right beside your car and fifteen feet from the next car (and the next tent) I'm like, what's the point here?

I think backpacking/back country camping is worth the trouble. It's expensive to do it well, and it's not something you could do with little kids easily (you'd have to carry them I guess, and their gear). And you can see places that can't be seen by people unwilling to leave their cars.

But car camping? Unless you're using it as a cheap way to travel (which works) I just don't see the point. :0/ I know. Party pooper.

Cassondra said...

Suz said:

(there's a whole story about him learning the bait worms had to die for this to happen),

I have two words for him.

Artificial bait.

It's what I had to do as a child. Have to do it now too. I love to fish, but I can't dig up worms from their happy earthen home and impale them on hooks. Can't. My heart won't take it. I love red earthworms. They make my soil better for my gardens and this is how I would say thank you? No.

And I can't bait a hook with those big white grubs. They deserve to die, spawn from hell that they are, but I can't stand to touch them to bait the hook.


Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Susan, I am ROFLMAO. You are too funny. OMGosh about the Alaska trip. We went tent camping on our honeymoon too, in Kenya. Now, before anyone goes "ooooh, isn't SHE brave" please note that this involved real beds w/ real carpets and upholstered chairs, someone else gathering the firewood and making the bonfire and what were, pretty much, five star meals made on a 55 gallon drum stove/oven. It was amazing. I cannot rave enough about how much fun we had watching game at 6 a.m., having a hot shower in the camp shower under the open sky and a fab full breakfast when we returned, only to nap, chat up the other safari folks and do it again at dinner time. And you've not see stars until you've seen them from the dark of the Masai Mara. It's one of those "Oh, the Wonders the Lord Hath Made" moments.

Other kinds of camping? Harrrumpf. I do not think so. Hiking? Yes. Backpacking? Certainly. No pillow? Nope. I'm with Cassondra on that one. I could DO it...I'd rather have the bonfire in the back yard.

So there you go. I'm with the pajama party gals. Grins.

My boyz enjoy it though, so I'll go sometimes, I'm sure. I've done a right good bit of it and know how, which seems to amaze them, but Susan, I ain't doin' it w/ a three year old, much less and 18 month old! Yikes.

P226, when you mentioned shaped charges, all I could think of was Caddyshack and Bill Murray's little c4 animals. Snork!

Cassondra said...

Jeanne said:

Other kinds of camping? Harrrumpf. I do not think so. Hiking? Yes. Backpacking? Certainly. No pillow? Nope. I'm with Cassondra on that one. I could DO it...I'd rather have the bonfire in the back yard.

So there you go. I'm with the pajama party gals. Grins.

I am, frankly, surprised by this. Hmmmm. The evil twin phenomenon continues....

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

You bet, Cassondra. Right down to not wanting to dig out and sacrifice my garden-gracing earthworms, nor impale the disgusting wasp or other vile larval worms. (They do indeed deserve to die, but they don't get to make me feel ooogey in the process. That would give them too much dignity.) Bwah-ha-ha!

Susan Seyfarth said...

Suzanne--I'd love to write comedy, I'm just not good at it. My life just conspires to make people laugh. :-) But trying to write it on purpose? Always falls flat.

But I'm still giggling about the look that must've been on your husband's face when your son announced his desire for some father/son bonding over fish guts. Heheheh.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Jeanne, is oogey a word?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Cassondra--yep, I hear you on the winter camping. Why on earth people think it's fun to freeze themselves half to death, I'll never know.

But kids are easily entertained, & they don't seem to mind the fact that they're ten feet from the neighboring tent. To them, holy cow, they're sleeping OUTSIDE! I figure it sets the stage for introducing them to better camping once they're big enough to carry their own gear. Because when my 19 month old woke up & realized where she was, you should've seen her face. first confusion, then wonder, then a big old belly laugh. Like, "hey, dig it, we're in the TENT!" I'd hardly slept & I couldn't help but laugh with her. :-)

Cassondra said...

Esri said:

Now my idea of camping is a cabin or a yurt with actual beds. A bottle of port and some s'mores, some light hiking and canoing followed by bratwursts over the firepit, and I'm a happy camper.

Oh, Esri! We are ONE in this matter! And the little town nearby makes it even better cuz whatever you forgot (like your absurdly expensive but tiny tube of toothpaste)can be had. The outdoors AND fresh breath and a good night's sleep! And PORT! Indeed. THIS could work.

BTW, I got Bound To Love Her at the Bowling Green, KY Kroger last week. It's next on the TBR list! (happy grin at the thought of hawt elves) They had two more.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Oh, Jeanne, I wanna go camping with YOU!! Carpet? Beds? Somebody else cooking 5 star meals? in KENYA?

Yes, please. :-)

Cassondra said...

Susan said:

Why on earth people think it's fun to freeze themselves half to death, I'll never know.

This from a woman who chooses to live nearly on the Canadian border!

Move south girlfriend.

Then again, I'm sweating on the porch at Panera as we speak....

Nancy said...

p226, congratulations on the bird! Just please try not let him lose too many feathers.

Susan, my folks weren't campers, and the dh isn't either. Aside from a regrettable fortnight at Girl Scout Camp (sleeping in cabins), I have almost no camping experience. Except that my senior year in high school, one of my friends' father volunteered to chaperone a group of us to camp at a state park. We had tents, which we used to change clothes in, and he had their family camper. The group of us, most of us having known each other so long we couldn't remember when we didn't, slept at the other campsite, across the road.

I cherish those memories of watching the stars come out from a watchtower (not as nice as the Numenoreans' Amon Sul but with trusted company) on the mountaintop and then painstakingly making ur way down in the dark with just two (two! obviously, none of us had experience walking in the woods at night) flashlights for 7 people. Sleeping around a campfire and watching smoke curl up toward the tops of pine trees that were silhouetted against a starry sky. Playing chess by the fire with David, who taught me the game when we were both in a study hall where quiet was the prime requirement, and--for the first and only time--winning.

We graduated a week later and gradually grew apart, not really staying in touch very well. Those 4 days were lovely, though.

Susan, I'm not sure I'd be so great with sleeping on the ground now, but I'd be willing to have a go if I could take an air mattress.

Great post, BTW. Parent-think pervades it, of course, but it was very funny!

Joan said...

Oh, congrat on the GR P226, I want to see you get the binky away from him.


Joan said...

I have been working for years on my snake phobia. Luckily, I've never run across one while camping.

That's because they're in the the brush....WATCHING YOU!

ROTFL PJ about your cow encounter (LOL, stopping mid stream)

And Jo, I saw these nice round dark stones on the hillside leading up to a castle in Ireland. I stepped OVER them and when I got to the castle to find cows watching me realized "Dang, I'm glad I didn't step on those rocks"

And pillows. Dear Lord, were any of you at the RWA conference three years ago in Dallas? The one where they ran out of pillows???

A 4 piece box of Godiva did NOT make up for me not having my pillows!

Joanie T whose best idea for camping is booking a room at The Wilderness Lodge in Disneyworld! Hah!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Suz, I'm not sure oogey's a word, but it makes a great sound when spoken. Very evocative. Mwah-ha-ah!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Amen Joanie on chocolate NOT making up for no pillows in Dallas. It also didn't make up for living with a leaking toilet for four days. The fact that I was pregnant with my youngest at the time and the one-elevator-working-with-a-million-women-in-the-hotel made a "quick run to the bathroom" impossible as well as making me even grumpier about the heat, the lack of extra anything (hangers, towels, etc.) and the poor response of the hotel. Urg.

Wow, can you tell I'm still annoyed? Adams Mark, face my wrath.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Gotta say though that fall/winter camping is much preferable to high summer sweat buckets camping. I'm just sayin' can always put more clothes ON.

Cassondra said...

JOanie said:

A 4 piece box of Godiva did NOT make up for me not having my pillows!

You got Godivas?????

I had not enough pillows and NO Godivas. (frowny face)

I think the Adams Mark STILL has not gotten our bill correct, to this day. I think they finally just gave up and ate some of it because they simply could not get it right. Humph.

I want my apology Godivas dangit.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Cassondra--But the Minnesota cold is so civilized. And as Jeanne so astutely pointed out, "You can always put on more clothes."

Not that anything about that makes me want to build myself an igloo & snuggle up. I lived in TX for a couple years, & to this day I'm still amazed that people plumb their houses with PVC pipe. On the OUTSIDE. I can't fathom houses without basements. I just don't get it. I mean, I get the physical realities of building in different place & I understand why they don't have them, I just don't understand how to live in a house without one. I mean, where do you put your extra, over-sized stuff? Like ping pong tables & guest beds & old dressers?

Susan Seyfarth said...

Hey, Nancy, that's a beautiful story about camping with your oldest girlfriends. Now that I think of it, I've shared a campfire with about every last one of the favorite people on this earth. It's a good thing.

And, yeah, I'm sorry to say it but my life is a bit parent-centric right now. I look forward with great anticipation to the day when figuring out what to do with my children in every circumstance isn't my top priority. I understand that they develop a certain degree of self-sufficiency at some point. Or is that just a rumor? :-)

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Frankly, I'm looking forward to having RWA National conference in a place that isn't sweltering, aren't y'all? After Dallas and Atlanta and Dallas...urk...can you say hot? SF should be a nice change unless they continue with thier unsavory heat wave!

Susan, I can't live w/o a basement either. Where do you go when there's a tornado or a hurricane? (You don't get those in Minnesota, do you?)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Joanie--Wait, the GR has a binky? How did I miss that??

And LOL on the cowpie/rocks in Ireland. Nature does have a way of sneaking up on you. Like those darn, watchful snakes...

And I missed Dallas (my youngest was like 7 mths old or something) but it sounds like I was better off at home with my pillows & all the chocolates I wanted. :-)

Susan Seyfarth said...

Jeanne--I canNOT imagine trying to make my pregnant bladder understand that whole one-elevator-many-women scenario. You're a star for putting up with that. I hope you got a whole LOT of Godivas. And extra pillows, 'cause lord knows the pregnant ladies deserve 'em.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said... The Adams Mark in '04 was NOT the hotel of choice for grumpy preggers Romance Writers. No pillows. No elevators. No damn chocolates for me either, Cassondra.

They just liked Joanie T. Either that or they felt totally threatened by the entourage of heavily muscled, sword bearing gladiators standing behind her as she sweetly asked for extra pillows.

Joan said...

Oh, yeah Cassondra. They passed out these tiny boxes of Godiva's with an apology note.

4 roommates. 4 chocolates and no blankty-blank pillows!
And uh, no....I did not ask sweetly. Even Demetrius was shaken.

The Hilton last year was SO much nicer!

I'm really looking forward to SF though my summer outfits/shoes aren't very warm. It's difficult trying to find clothes that will reflect both seasons.

And yes on the basement. I have a feeling in about 1 hour I'll be visiting mine. Severe storms with 80 plus winds and spawning tornados are headed this way. So much for a relaxing evening at home....

Now, where did I put Toto????

Susan Seyfarth said...

Joan--I sincerely hope you don't have to visit your cellar tonight. But in case you do, yay for houses that have them in the first place! Hope those storms blow over & past. Keep us posted...

Caren Crane said...

Susan, I'm so sorry I missed this one! We were on the road coming back from Hilton Head. I'm not sure it's legal to "rough it" on Hilton Head. Someone would probably come poke you with a stick, load you into a Beemer and take you to a hotel. *g*

I feel like Cassondra. I have good gear and decent survival skills. I can find my way out of the woods and use a compass (I own a nice one). But I don't care for it. After a couple of days, I really just want a hair dryer and some perfume. I can and have roughed it, but why would you if you can afford the Red Roof Inn?

My theory is that camping is for the young and penniless. Once you have enough money to pay for a hotel with a bed, air conditioning and flush-by-God toilets, why would you go without?!

The only caveat is doing it somewhere like Yellowstone that you simply can't see without doing that. I would sacrifice to see natural wonders. *g*