Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Camp Adventure Recap PART ONE

[This is Part One of a post I started and have been meaning to complete since returning from this camping trip IN APRIL. I'm very busy.]

Well, here I am...post my very first tent camping experience...alive and well having survived a multitude of wilderness horrors.

Challenge #1, the weather, was evident long before we loaded up our 10,000 lbs of camping gear and headed to LBL. Both the regional and national weather service(s) were calling for a weather event of potentially Biblical proportions in the run up to and including Friday. Our local weather guru and go-to meteorologist on Facebook,
Beau Dodson, had been warning of impending potential weather doom for days. Personal texts and Facebook comments ranged from (at best) "Good Luck" to (at worst) an unceasing chorus of, "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE OUT THERE".

To be honest, we never really considered calling the thing off, having planned it for well over a month. We wouldn't be denied just because of a lil' old tornado, or golf ball sized hail, or high winds, or severe thunderstorms. Or, you know, ALL FOUR at the same time. Which is what was ultimately called for.

We hustled to the campsite just as soon as we could tear ourselves away from a solid two weeks of frenzied packing which, even in the 11th hour before we drove away, showed no sign of abating. In the end, we didn't so much finish packing as just force ourselves to stop. And this only because the vehicle, a roomy SUV with an additional carry-all in the hitch, threatened to become inadequate to hold our constantly evolving list of "bare necessities". We arrived at the camp site at 1:00 pm, under menacing skies and constant threat of WEATHER and set about the important business of beer drinking and erecting the Grizzly Den .

Perhaps not surprisingly, the former would prove much less complicated than the latter.

Because the tent was new, it meant neither of us had experience pitching it and so were forced to, on occasion, resort to the indignity of instruction reading. This was usually closely followed by increasingly inventive and inspired cursing. Complicating matters was the state of the soil which was wet, soft, and pliable and not at all inclined to grasp our tent stakes which, once "set", took to springing out of the ground with alarming regularity. In addition, the area at the site designated for tent pitching, while really roomy looking when not accommodating an 8-person tent, we soon discovered was actually smaller than the tent's intended footprint. So, stay with me here: weather, soft soil, inexperience, an area of inadequate size=annoying. Eventually, we hit on the idea of covering the tent spikes with heavy rocks we hunted and lugged over from a spot some yards away.

Despite the challenges, after a few tedious and exhausting hours, the tent was up. Not only up, but covered with the rain fly and sprayed with silicon for additional
waterproofing in anticipation of the rain. It seemed very iffy at the time as to whether the rock covered spikes would hold. (They did. For three damn days. It was a miracle.)

Not too long after the successful tent pitching, Campers #3 and #4 arrived. And, in fairly short order, 4 out of 4 girl campers agreed: regardless of the weather, we'd be staying at camp for the duration, thankyouverymuch. That settled, we soon turned our attention to the important business of: dinner. For all of you picturing us huddled around a fire simmering a lone miserable can of pork and beans, think again. It's not for nothing we watch the Cooking Channel 24/7.

We fired up the gas burner and had soon boiled up a pot of lemony Old Bay seasoned goodness: shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, and kielbasa. For dessert, we lit our first campfire and enjoyed the obligatory 'smores--but with a choice of Hershey chocolate OR Reese cup. Exciting, no?

As if on cue, just as we polished off the last of the melted marshmallowy goodness, the rain began to fall. We had enough time to tuck away our foodstuffs in the coolers before ducking into the tent and hunkering down for what we hoped would be a not TOO eventful first night. When I say we hunkered down, I mean we continued the steady infusion of beer whilst perched on our inflatable mattresses wrapped in our sleeping bags; the four of us all dressed for winter complete with sock caps (it was freezing cold by my standards, temperature in the upper forties).

(View from the tent just before the rain hit.)

As the rain pelted the tent with increasing regularity, darkness fell, and the wind began to howl, we broke out what may have, arguably, been the MVP of the metric ton of camping equipment we'd brought along: flashlights for our heads. And by that I mean battery operated lights on an electric strap that we fitted around our sock-capped heads, and adjusted until the light rested just above our foreheads. I've just Googled and found the proper term for these things: head torches. And, no I do not have a photo of ANY of us wearing one. Because we looked positively ridiculous, a fact we noted pretty immediately as the four of us enthusiastically donned our new head gear. The lights had a constantly "on" setting or a "blink" setting. I'm sure the "blink" setting has a practical (perhaps emergency) purpose, but in our case, it was cause for a disproportionate amount of hilarity, having drank a little too much beer and finding ourselves in a tent in the woods in a near-deserted campground about to be engulfed in a monstrously large storm system.

As all four head torches blinked merrily away, giving a decidedly disco effect, we amused ourselves queuing up songs we deemed appropriate to the situation on our iPhones. Big winners: trance music: The Chemical Brothers, "Galvanize" and, less groovy but much more topically, REO, "Riding the Storm Out".

Despite the danger, the unceasing noise of the howling wind and rain, the beer, and the hilarity, we would all fall unexpectedly (and maybe inexplicably) into what we would later agree was an unusually deep sleep. I doubt it had anything to do with the sleeping pills we'd uniformly ingested earlier. This would last until the wee hours of the morning when we would unceremoniously awaken to a new challenge....

(To be continued.)


keena said...

hilarious. always pitch a new tent BEFORE you go out. I really want to see you all in head torches. and, how did you manage all that peeing the beer must have caused? you dont really have to answer that, it is just on my mind because the very act of entering tent, zipping sleeping bag, causes me an urgent need to pee. it's a curse.

Brenda said...

A choice of Hershey chocolate or Reese Cup for your 'smores AND lights for your heads??? I'm very impressed!

Suzanne said...

Yes, Keena, now that you mention it, the sound of a zipper DOES immediately have the effect of making me have to pee! ;) I was planning to cover the proximatey to the bathroom in my next installment. Considering our drinking habits, we made sure the bathroom was nearby, I'd say maybe 30 feet away. We were CONSTANTLY trekking to the bathroom in the dark. Which is when we realized just how brillant an idea head torches really are!!!

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