Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Best/Worst Camping Trip Ever

So here it is, over a month since my last post... and after all my good intentions to post more! Alas, the start of the school year has arrived like a flooding river, sweeping me into a fast-moving stream of paperwork, lesson plans, and 170 (!) new kids to get to know.

I am trying to make more time for 'other' things this teaching year, however, and spend some weekends actually doing things instead of staying at home grading more papers. In the spirit of that, last weekend we went camping for Labor Day. We made ourselves part of the Great American Traditions and were rewarded by... well, you'll see.

For starters, this trip had been long thought of but not long planned. We had wanted to go camping with our friends the Winkles in California, but then HH was supposed to work Saturday of Labor Day weekend, so we bowed out of that trip. 2 weeks before the holiday weekend, however, he got the day off, so we started planning a last-minute trip. We asked and asked around for people to come, but unfortunately most of the people we know are good planners and didn't have any last-minute free time. :-( However, Brad' sister was free, and my brother Kenneth from California. So we planned a sibling camping trip.

I reserved a campsite up in the Arizona mountains, sight unseen, about 4 hours away from Phoenix. Brad and Stacy grew up in those mountains, and were familiar with the area, but hadn't been to this campsite. Kenneth brought all kinds of equipment, plus his invaluable know-how (it's so handy having an Eagle Scout for a brother!) So Stacy and Brad got our food and more supplies, Kenneth arrived after a 10-hour drive from California (! hazards of holiday travel), and we headed off to the mountains.

We got to our campsite around noon, and checked in. The campground turned out to be pretty much in the city of Show Low, but it had lots of trees and a woodsy feel. We found our sites and started unpacking our gear. We got our never-used tent up, and Stacy's tent, and began unloading some of our food in preparation for lunch. I breathed in mountain air and sighed contentedly.

That's when things started to go downhill. Poor Kenneth had a nasty run-in with a green caterpillar that stung his leg, and then dark clouds started gathering. We were just opening the cooler to get lunch food when it started to sprinkle. It quickly turned to actual rain, so we hurried to put all our stuff under our table awning or in the tents. In a few minutes, however, the rain turned into a downpour. Brad was in the tent and Stacy, Kenneth, and I jumped into the trucks. We watched from foggy windows as our low-lying campground soon started to look more like a small pond, and then watched with growing horror as pea-sized hail started to pound down. Hail! In September. In Arizona.

After about 15 minutes of this, it was obvious that Stacy's tent was in danger of floating away, so Kenneth sacrificed his dry spot to get out in the rain and start moving the tent and cover stuff that was still in the truck beds. Our bicycles got a good drenching, but he managed to get most things like mattresses, blankets, and food under the awning.

So after about 30 minutes of the downpour, things slowed down and dried off. We emerged from our hiding places, sloshed around cleaning things up, then adjourned to the tents and trucks to change into dry clothes and take naps. We emerged at dinnertime feeling more optimistic, since some nice senior-citizen park rangers came by selling dry firewood. We moved the table to a slightly less-deep puddle, dried things off, and started up the campstove.

After a dinner of tacos, we started a campfire and settled in to enjoy the evening in our dry clothes. We'd just gotten out the camp chairs, however, when we felt a few drops of rain. We looked up in horror and noticed the sky growing blacker again. Sure enough, soon the drops turned into a steady drizzle, and then, just at sunset, into another downpour. We raced to huddle under the awning around the picnic table and dejectedly watched our campfire sputter and die. We were determined to have smores, though, dang it, so we fired up the camp stove again and melted marshmallows by propane. Kenneth rigged up a tarp to give us one wall on the awning and we stood shivering under the awning, trying to avoid the streams of water coming off the edge as we ate our smores.

Soon it became apparent that our tents were once more in danger of flooding, so Kenneth heroically put on his rain gear and left the shelter of the awning to move Stacy's tent and dig trenches. Stacy and I were now standing on the picnic table benches to avoid the growing lake under our feet (Brad had given up and had on flip-flops) and watched Kenneth salvage our dry spots to sleep. Stacy went out to hold the lantern for him while Brad and I tried to batten down the food hatches as much as possible. When the rain still hadn't quit by 8:30, we decided to head for bed. We took a brief sojourn in the boys' tent to play a game of Yahtzee by lamplight, then headed off to bed.

Thanks to Kenneth's trenches, everyone was able to sleep in a dry place and woke up reasonably happy the next morning. I woke up around 7, put on my last pair of dry pants, and went out to survey the situation. It was still cloudy, but not raining, thankfully, and our last bundle of firewood was still in its plastic bag. HH helped me get a campfire going and we had a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs.

After everyone was up and fed, we held a brief conference on strategy- to stay another night as planned, or to head home? The consensus was: we came, we ate smores, we had a campfire, we slept in tents, therefore, we camped. And that was good enough.

So after a nice bike ride around the neighborhood, we wrung out our soggy belongings, packed, and came back to Phoenix. We happily slept in dry beds that night (as another monsoon downpour raged) and spent Monday lounging around, entertained by TV and video games. :-)

So, the worst- we were rained out of our camping trip and spent a soggy 24 hours in the 'woods'. But the best- we made great memories and had a good time of sibling bonding. Was it worth it? You bet.


Veronica said...

Okay, THAT is exactly why Bianca and I don't camp!!! :) To open up an old argument...Disneyland all the way!! :)

(Glad y'all got your s'mores though...I have to say that is the only reason to camp.)

HH said...

AND Kenneth didn't bring a tent so we had to do guys and girls tents. Don't forget that. Worst part of the whole trip if you ask me.

bianca said...

I have to agree with Veronica. To finally resolve a question that was first asked on DLE some seven years ago . . . Disneyland. Hands down. No flooding, no man-eating caterpillars, no tents.

But the camping adventure is a great story!