April 10, 2010

Camping: Disaster, Devastation & Delight

Camping was just what I needed. I could imagine no better way to spend a birthday week than with my family far from civilization. (Though I do exaggerate just a bit. The state park is not exactly "far from civilization." One is not "far from civilization" if she has easy access to a toilet, a hot shower, a washer and dryer, a soda machine, and free park-wide WiFi.)

I might be able to honestly declare the camping trip "perfect" if it weren't for the thunderstorm that barreled in on us our last night there.  The final two photos taken (of "taco soup at sunset" and the wonderfully bright campfire) give no indication anything threatening is approaching.  The wind kicked up a bit, and the certain fragrance of rain was in the air.  But we had no idea we were in for it.

At dusk on Wednesday, I trekked to the Comfort Station to wash a small load of clothes. I patiently knitted while waiting for the clothes to dry.  That's when I overheard a park ranger talking to a couple just outside.  "You better tie down your tents and take shelter here for a while.  The storm is gonna be pretty bad, but it won't last long."

Fifteen minutes later, my clothes were dry, so I stepped outside right into a sudden downpour.  (Yes, I wasted a dollar on that stinkin' dryer.)  By the time I made it to the trail leading back to our camp, lightening was breaking apart across the sky.  I took two steps down the trail and ran right into the rest of the family rushing back toward the van.

We piled inside the vehicle, soaked and shivering (with some of the younger ones in frightful tears).  It took a few moments to calm everyone.  Then, someone asked, "Where's the dog?"


In his rush to get the kids to safety, Miner left the dog zipped up in the tent, alone.  "I'll get him," he growled, then he disappeared down the trail, into the dark and deluge.  Two minutes later, he deposited a wet and grateful pooch into the back of the van with everyone else.

"He might have been better off in the tent, you know," Miner said.  "He was huddled in a corner, dry as a bone."

And there in the van we stayed.  After our dinner of Pringles, Fritos, honey roasted peanuts, and peanut butter & honey sandwiches, we slept, curled or contorted into whatever position of near-comfort we could manage.

In the morning, Miner and I returned to the campsite to find a disaster.  The kitchen shelter (pictured behind the picnic table) had collapsed and broken off halfway down the legs.  All the clothes from the line were strewn and scattered from one end of the clearing to the other.  Our main blue tent flagged in the wind, blown open and flooded in an inch of water.  The walls had torn, rendering the tent useless. All our belongings inside -- including the camcorder, kids' journals, plush toys, and all the sleeping bags -- were saturated.

With the girls still sleeping in the van, Miner, Rocky and I set about recovery.  The unpleasant task was made even more unpleasant by the cutting wind still scraping in from the lake.  The wind-chill must've been at least forty degrees.  It robbed me of a lot of my motivation and most of my fine motor skills. 

There really wasn't much we could do but throw all the wet clothes and bedding in large trash bags.  Everything else, we hauled back to the vehicles and loaded up as-is to sort through and repair when we got home.  The kitchen shelter and main tent went right to the trash bin.

Eventually, I had to take a break to sit in the van and let my fingers thaw so they'd work again.  My cell phone alerted me to text message from Mom:  "Chicken & dumplin's for lunch. Call me when you get into town. Love you!"

I could've cried!  The thought of hot, soupy chicken & dumplin's just waiting for us back at Mom's house!  After all the trauma we'd endured!  Comfort food at its very best!

That's all I needed to boost my morale.  I told everyone the good news, and we were out of the woods and on our way in half an hour.  And let me tell you...those were the BEST chicken & dumplin's my stepdad has ever, ever made!

Back at home today and reflecting over the past week, I realized I lost my temper only once the whole trip.  Depending on who you ask, that one time might have been the equivalent of several lesser losses of temper throughout the week, but still, I think I'd rather blow up once and get it all over with for a while than chronically bubble and steam.

I'm refreshed, calmed, rejuvenated, readied for whatever comes next.


  1. Epic family adventures. They make great stories for around the dinner table years from now. Thanks for sharing.

  2. :) Thanks for patiently enduring that awful story. lol! Yes, in the middle of our clean-up efforts, my son said, "Just think, Mom. Someday, we're going to laugh about all this." I was not amused. :)

  3. Well, at least you didn't get any skunks coming into your tents like we did once. Yikes!---Dan Weston (for some reason anonymous is the only way I can post)