Saturday, May 09, 2009

a good sport

I don't know why I hesitated. Now that I have a fat old school canvas and flannel sleeping bag (no more of this light-as-air slicky slippy nylon nonsense I've been enduring all these years), camping is cake. And it shouldn't have given me pause when the husband and daughter declared that the next camping trip would be off grid. I grew up wilderness camping with my grandparents. So why have I done so little of it with my own little family? Maybe it's just the spooky What Ifs and such. Because, really, if you don't mind some sap on your pants and flippy morning hair that sticks around all day, it's a sweet way to spend a couple of days.

I was inexplicably reluctant (it had been so wet and muddy here last week, maybe that's it, or maybe I've just been something of a stick-in-the, rain or no.) but I'm not too prideful to turn around and admit that we had a really great time.

Even as I talked up my self-appointed A.F.T.R. (along. for. the. ride.) position (as opposed to, say, the husband's P.I.C. -person in charge- role, which, conveniently, let me off the hook for decisions like what to eat and gave me ample sit-and-read time) I was really, truthfully (shh! maybe this is better kept secret!) there for my own self and had fun. I know my way around a squat, though I prefer, and always look for, a private tree. So that's no problem there. (and, we all know what a lot of campground bathrooms are like, it's usually an in and out affair as it is, no loss there). I spend most of my time in campgrounds snarking about the other people in campgrounds. So not only did we not see *anyone* else (or hear anyone, save for a few distant vehicle drones) for two days, but no one had to hear us either. No quieting the children. Which is such a grumble of mine anyway. Camping kids should be loud kids, if ever ther was a reason for kids to be loud. And, yet, when we've had camping "neighbors" twenty feet away, I find myself shushing the children and reminding them that we're not alone. But, my friends, we were alone. The dog could bark. Though, she didn't. She can be barky at campgrounds, but no wonder, what with the leash and all the other dogs and all. But off leash in the mountains for two days? My old dog didn't bark once. She ran herself into the ground, though, and kept up on all of our hikes and now, I suspect, won't move again for three days.

I admit to having a hard time getting to sleep: all that quiet. I found myself on the first night restlessly tossing in the tent, midst three snoring Timmy Willys, the lone Johnny Town Mouse in the bunch. We were camped next to what is called a Creek but runs like a small river, deep and swift. During the day, with our busyness as distraction, the stream was faint background noise -is that water rushing? can you hear? But sometime between the last birdsongs and the rising moon, those very dark and bottomless hours, the water sound amplified and, I swear, became mechanical and supernaturally spooky. Maybe that's just me. Good thing I brought along my ipod. No joke.

Not any of us would have wanted to, not really, meet up with a bear, but we did find fresh bear scat not fifty yards from our pillows. And non-campground camping insists, says the ten year old resident Tom Brown, that words like "poop" stay home. She takes her words and her knives very seriously.

My girl (the P.I.C.I.T., she's not in charge yet, but she'll get there) whittled the bark off of a thick birch branch for me, a staff in waiting for our next trip. She's already growing handier with a blade than her mama is, and can ID more plants than most people I know. It was just the sort of little trip a girl like mine can dig into and adore and, well, that sort of thrill and gladness spreads around.

We finished up on the way home with a hike to a hidden waterfall. We parked our car down in a mucky gully off the side of the road, hopefully unnoticed while we hiked. It was obvious, as we walked, that the trails had been usurped by off-road trucks. We said we hoped some halfwit mudboggers wouldn't charge around the corner and mow us all down. The trail to the falls sharply declines and narrows, it's hard for single file people to traverse it, let alone 4x4s. We made our way down and sat in the waterfall spray and under the haze of this sweet family time. We climbed (and I mean climb, hand over hand with a rope someone smartly, generously, left behind) up and out and started back down the muddy hill to our car. And we were nearly ran over! By halfwit mudboggers! Plowing around the corner! It seems while we were having our lovely waterfall experience, the mountain above had been overtaken with so many trucks. We walked down the road (the only way to walk down) and they had to stop their mud splashing and nature destroying for us. I heard someone mumble, "where did *they* come from?" and I noticed others, watching, incredulously, at our little family scene, dad, mama, daughter, son, dog. But not incredulously, no. That conjures up a certain righteous tsk-tsking and I mean to paint something more pissed-off punk in a pick-up truck. So maybe a synonym a little more on the slackjawed side. Anyway, we walked right down through the middle of them, a whole lot of them ten or so mudcaked trucks and a slew of muddy young men, and down into our little gully, down to where we'd parked way out of the way, out of site. And can you picture how funny it was to me (but not to them, surely.) when we roared up out of that gully and onto the road in our growly, old Range Rover?! Rawr! I laughed and laughed.

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