Wednesday, September 25, 2013

In Which We Prove Our Lack of Survival Skilz

My dear hubby and I have kicked around the idea of camping for a long time.
Eight years to be exact.  
About as long as we have talked about getting bikes, which also has never happened.  But I digress.

Ever since last summer, when I wrote about the way DJ responded to a week in the great outdoors, (you can read about it here) I have nagged encouraged my hubby to plan a camping trip.  A tent camping trip, to be exact!   We hemmed, we hawed, we procrastinated, and finally decided it would happen this Fall after the heat of Summer had passed.

Because we may be adventurous, but we are not into sweaty sleeping.

So here we are at Autumn's arrival.  The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are turning, and the time has last!  We joined up with friends, Mr. & Mrs. P, who were also novice campers and planned the "great inaugural campout of 2013."

Only one little problem.  The forecast called for rain.  We watched the weather religiously, prepared to postpone the trip if necessary, but the chances of rain continued to drop as the day of departure neared.  

"Even if it rains during the night, that will be no biggie," we reasoned.  

Famous. Last. Words.

Friday arrived.  We loaded up the SUV, the trailer, and the car...apparently you need a lot of stuff to survive overnight and we were prepared for anything, or so we thought.  I picked up Katie's friend who would be her buffer against all the boys on the trip and we hit the road.  Daddy was still at work and would meet up with us a couple of hours later.

We were so excited, and confident, and clueless.

Winding roads greeted us, pristine farmlands and huge bales of hay filled our view as the hills of Tennessee took my breath away.  I love road trips.  At last we arrived at Fall Creek Falls State Park.  I checked in at the office and drove to the campsite.   I got out of the car and breathed in the fresh air, feeling a bit "Clark Griswold-ish" as I surveyed our surroundings.  The kids climbed over one another in excitement, running into the woods and screaming like a bunch of banshees.  I'm not exaggerating, we are a loud crew.  My apologies to the neighbors!    DJ and I got out the tent and prepared for setup.

No problem-o.  We are SO outdoorsy, and how hard can this be?

We unpacked the tent and poles and suddenly I had a moment of panic.  Dang, there are a lot of poles.  And they are all different colors.  And, durn, this tent is big...where do I start?  

Where are the instructions??

But I didn't let on to my boy.  At 13, he is at the age where he is convinced that mama is clueless about half the time.  This...this was my chance to prove my skills, to show my boy that his mom can be rugged and useful in the wild.  I was going to set up that tent if it killed me and my teenager was going to be all "Wow, my mom is the bomb!

Or something like that.

I chose a random pole, found the matching color-coded pocket, and began assembly.  
Oh yeah, I've got this.  
Start with the stakes, of course.  But we had a problem...I had not brought a tool with which to hammer in said stakes.


What to do, what to do?  Thankfully there was a brick on the ground (no idea why a BRICK was at a campsite, but I was grateful!) and we used it to pound the stakes.  Not easy on bare hands, let me tell you!
Then we started putting poles in pockets.  2 poles in, and I went for the third.  But no matter how much I pulled (pinching the heck out of my thumb in the process) I could NOT get ends of the poles to insert into the little pockets that were supposed to hold them.  I ventured back to the tent bag.  Instructions HAD to be there, right?  

Finally I realized the giant tags sewn inside the tent bag were what I was looking for.  Whew!  After studying them for a few minutes it became clear that there is an order to this process:  I can't just randomly stick poles into pockets, it had to be in the exact order for the assembly to be successful.  After much wrangling and breaking a sweat my boy and I high-fived as we stood before our perfectly put-together tent!  Woo hoo!  

I continued unpacking and organizing while the kids played and, the next thing I knew, my hubby had arrived.  He was so impressed with our tent assembly, even though I asked him to finish pounding the stakes into the ground because they were kinda sticking up.  Just a little.  
Ok, a lot.

Our friends arrived a couple of hours later and the men proceeded to put the secondtent together while the mama's prepared for the mother of all cookouts.  Brats, dogs, and burgers awaited and this group was gonna eat well this weekend!  Diet, shmiet!

We grilled and grilled and grilled some more...

We ate and ate and it was all healthy and organic, I assure you.  
(Pay no attention to the bags of chips...we never touched 'em.  
Except when eating my homemade salsa, cans of cheese dip, and jalapeno dip.
Oh, sweet deliciousness.)

We cleaned up the mess and Mr. P broke out the candy.  Yes, he brought bags of it...Oreos, too.  
I might have eaten some.

Then it started to sprinkle.  We sat in lawn chairs and laughed as the moon rose.  Kids cooked s'mores over the campfire and played and yelled (more apologies to the neighbors, we really are so loud.)  

The sprinkle eventually turned into a drizzle.  The campfire started to smoke.  We started to get damp.  It was time to turn in for the night.  

Daddy and I tucked in the littles and settled onto our air mattress.  Pardon, I mean our airless mattress.
It seems the boys had been using the air mattress as a trampoline and the sucker had POPPED, y'all!  Our air mattress had NO AIR.  Not even a tiny bit!

To say we slept would be a gross overstatement.  But it was all worth it when DJ laid his sweet head down and said contentedly, "This is so much fun."

Yes, my boy, it is.  

We dozed off and on until morning, awakened by pouring rain, aching muscles, and rocks digging into bones and I hauled my creaky body to the community bathroom.  The air smelled wonderful, clean with a hint of last night's campfires still lingering.  One by one our group roused and we realized that the planned breakfast cookout was not going to be possible.  We ended up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because the only alternative was last night's cold leftovers!  But I will say those sandwiches tasted pretty darn good!  

The rain continued.  

We checked the forecast on our cell phones (thank goodness I had a signal!) and it looked like things should clear out by lunch.  We decided to drive the scenic routes through the park and do some sightseeing.  
THAT was a great decision.  
Except our car battery was dead.
I'm not even kidding.
Thank goodness the hubs has mad jumper cable skills, because I do not!

Finally we drove out and beheld the beautiful sights of Fall Creek Falls.  These pictures don't do justice to the majesty of this place.  It was incredible.

Oh, the beauty of God's creation!  We were awestruck at the wonder of the waterfalls, the deer, the rivers, the turning leaves.  My cup was filled and my heart bursting with praise as I looked upon the handiwork of our endlessly creative Father.  It was absolutely amazing.

After a couple of hours of sightseeing little tummies began to rumble.  We decided to do what any camper worth their salt would do when lunch was eaten for breakfast...go to a restaurant!  A buffet, to be the State Park's hotel!  Fried fish, fried chicken, steak fries, fried hushpuppies (see a pattern here?) and veggies (to undo all the fried stuff) filled our bellies and we suddenly got very, very tired.  It was the kind of tired you experience after Thanksgiving dinner, otherwise known as a food coma.  We dragged our fatigued behinds back to camp and were heartened by the fact that the rain had stopped.  Finally!
So, the men decided to go fishing.  The mamas lit a fresh fire and proceeded to organize our soggy homestead, hoping for a chance to do some hiking when the guys got back.

But oh no, the rain wasn't gone.  It began again, growing heavier by the minute.  The guys returned and we realized that it was time to concede defeat.  Boo.  We packed up our wet, muddy gear and got into our cars with happy hearts because even though it was wet and miserable we really had so much fun.

Just think about it:  the kids got to be filthy all weekend.  We had no need for schedules or even meal plans and we had countless bursts of laughter and new smile lines from all the grinning.  It was wonderfully challenging and we made sweet memories.  My hubby said it best:  "If we had this much fun when it was rainy and miserable, just imagine how much fun we'll have when the weather is nice!"

Yes indeed, camping trip #2 is already in the works!  Now we are veterans!  We have endured adversity and conquered it!  I have already purchased more gear and we have it all stowed in plastic bins, ready to be thrown into the car at a moment's notice!  We have caught the bug and we can hardly wait to do it again...
as soon as our chigger bites stop itching.  

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