Tag Archives: Camping

Vacation’s Over … Thank God!

Hubby and I have just returned from two weeks of camping, aka our vacation. Grateful to return with only 4,271 mosquito bites, I greet my calendar, which features a two-scene 1947 Norman Rockwell print entitled “Going and Coming.”

In the first, a grinning guy showing off a snazzy fedora and big cigar drives a station wagon topped by a boat. His smiling wife holds Little Sister on her lap. Junior and Fido hang out a window. Warm air flaps their ears and ours, and spit hits our windshields as they pass. Big Sis blows a bubble with her gum that could carry her to the lake by air. Little Bro holds his nose, giving the “You stink!” gesture that passed for rudeness during that era. Beside him, Grandma, sitting straight as a general, ignores the little heathens because of her poor eyesight.

At least, that’s the excuse we grandparents give.

In the second scene, the family returns from the beach. Dad sports only a stump of his cigar and bravado. Mom and toddler snooze. Even the boys and dog sit sedately, and Big Sis’s bubble has shrunk to earthbound size. Grandma, still ramrod straight, probably sleeps with her eyes open, a skill she’s perfected during church.

These Rockwell pictures shout their message so loud and clear even art experts can’t mess with it: “Vacation’s Over … Thank God!”

Each spring, epidemic celebrations offer a taste of summer, tantalizing as our first mouthful of strawberry shortcake. We view new territory, thumbing our noses at those less audacious, confident our bubble gum will taste good forever.

By late July, however, we surpass our quota of quality time together, especially in the car. We peel from the sun’s overfriendliness. Sand has made itself at home in cars, carpets and shorts. Kids have grown an extra epidermis comprised of sun block, Popsicle®, and dirt.

Oddly, something deep inside us craves an alarm clock — and regular bath times. We still love barbecues, but a Sunday roast with mashed potatoes and gravy sounds even better. We want our beds, our messy houses and our schedules.

Even messier because of vacations.

In Rockwell’s return scene, Dad will unload the car, including boat, gear, and sleeping children. Mom faces the formidable task of putting the remaining kids — freshly energized by their arrival home — to bed. (A side note: Both scenes feature children who appear entirely too clean. Mrs. Rockwell never would have painted them thus.)

Coming home is no picnic. Like this family, we continue to meet ourselves going and coming, coming and going. That’s life.

We wouldn’t miss it for anything.

 

Today, are you coming or going?

 

Crazy Cavers

Sixtyish adults who tent camp with grown children and grandchildren ranging from six months to age ten are certifiably insane. But my husband and I reached new levels of lunacy when we accompanied a large percentage of our family group to cave.

A forest hike would bond generations, educate little descendants, and keep them off campground roads inhabited by dinosaur-like RVs. They would view a cave like those immortalized in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

The cave’s yawning limestone mouth featured jagged teeth and an untidy moss mustache. Definitely the setting legends are made of.

However, half the campground’s population also had braved this wilderness journey. Unlike Aladdin, we stood in line … then remembered we hadn’t brought flashlights.

Despite my Boy Scout husband’s protests, the herd crept forward with only dim illumination from our phones and a son-in-law’s small flashlight. The temperature dropped 15 degrees. Chilly water dripped down my back.

Who knew what might dwell within these cold, drippy underground walls? Injun Joe, the murderous cave-dweller who terrorized Tom Sawyer? Dragons breathed down my neck. …

“I’ll bet this cave has bunches of bats!” my grandson enthused. “I think cave spiders just crawled up my leg.”

Shades of Shelob! With The-Lord-of-the-Rings passion, I brushed him from head to toe.

Now shaking off a hundred imaginary crawlies, I fervently wished he’d kept his scientific curiosity to himself.

The ceiling dropped. Walls closed in. My hips, still inflated by Christmas fat, might wedge in a fissure forever.

Would my skinnier descendants return to camp, mourning my demise, and console themselves with the four buckets of chocolate chip cookies I had baked? Would they not bring me even one to ease my passage into the next world?

Primeval fears solidified when someone called, “Time to crawl.”

My sanity finally kicked in. “No. I’m going back.”

Others turned thumbs down. The grandchildren registered a vehement protest. Our son-in-law sided with the kids. He pressed on, taking them and the only flashlight.

Now gripping my husband’s belt — I hoped — I trailed him through the darkness. Eventually, we arrived at the cave’s mouth. Whew!

Hiking to the cave’s exit, we awaited the adventurers. Anxious minutes dragged. …

Fortunately, they appeared before we summoned the National Guard. Everyone returned to camp to celebrate survival with an appropriately unsafe hot dog roast — and cookies.

 

Have you ever taken your kids/grandkids spelunking?

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Adventure Accomplished

O my God, how my hubby suffered when storms forced us to cancel our camping weekend—especially as we were to inaugurate his new kayak’s maiden voyage. But thank You for providing a sunny Sunday afternoon for the above adventure. (Otherwise, OMG, I may have had to flee elsewhere for a week.)

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Swimming by Faith

JonahSwimOh, my God, what an incredible lake campout with all our children and grandchildren! This morning, though, a Loch Ness monster of a to-do list emerges from the deep. OMG, walking on water isn’t my specialty. But with Your help, let me dive into today with the joy of my grandson.

 

Parents in the Wild

 

Uk and Ukette, 2016

Uk and Ukette, 2016

Camping was invented when Uk the caveman said to his wife Ukette, “Honey, let’s go on vacation. We’ll sleep on the ground, roast unidentifiable meats over a campfire, drink questionable water and battle dangerous wildlife.”

“But we already do those things.”

“Yeah, but now we’re gonna pay to do it.”

This ancient tradition not only has survived, but thrived through the ages. When our children were young, my husband and I packed our tiny Plymouth Horizon to the roof. Driving while astride sleeping bags and camp stoves, drowning in water toys, and surrounded by disposable diapers and packages of hot dog buns, we escaped to state and national parks. Unfortunately, clans of mosquitoes, yellow jackets and spiders scheduled family reunions at the same time.

As did every lightning bolt in North America.

My husband and I raised metal poles to the roiling nighttime sky while the tent’s wings flapped like an angry pterodactyl’s. Finally succeeding, we religiously kept the following nightly ritual:

  • Midnight:  Raindrops plop through the tent roof — mass Chinese water torture.
  • 1 a.m.:  Children pop up in my damp sleeping bag like mushrooms.
  • 2 a.m.:  Family death marches commence to the nearest outdoor john.
  • 3 a.m.: Steve and I share tender marital moments bailing out with Happy Meal sand buckets.
  • 4 a.m.:  We retreat to the car, sleeping (sort of) in pretzeled layers, periodically whanging noses on the steering wheel.

Inexplicably, our children wimped out of camping togetherness as teens: “Please let us stay home and mow the grass!”

Fearful for their sanity, we complied.

SteveHikerAs new empty nesters, however, Steve and I reminisced about hiking through verdant, sun-dappled forests. Canoeing silvery green lakes. Snuggling near a campfire, shy stars peeking through a gossamer cloud ceiling above.

Why did we let bored kids keep us from doing what we loved? And why miss out now?

Two-adult camping would be so simple. No more potty-training sprints to mile-distant restrooms. No more explaining the behavior of amorous groundhogs to six-year-olds while wishing for more personal romance sans a tentful of little roommates. No more arranging schedules in and out of the wilderness to accommodate Little League tournaments, band camp, or a first date with Mr. Awesome.

Steve and I could camp together. Alone.

I pulled out a faithful old iron skillet and my most raggedy towels. I bought Sandies Pecan Shortbread cookies, my beloved calorie splurge from camping years past (the kids wouldn’t touch them).

Munching away, I said, “Hey, Uk, want to go camping with me?”

He dragged our ancient tent from the garage. “You got it, Ukette.”

RachaelHammack

Living with the Wild Things

No camping trip is complete without wildlife. Years ago, we and our young children made the acquaintance of elegant deer, sunbathing turtles, wading blue herons, and swans trailed by fuzzy gray babies.

I loved all God’s creatures—if they stayed in their own hotels. I did not cheer when Granddaddy Longlegs invited hundreds of his grandchildren to stay in our tent. Nor did I welcome clans of mosquitoes and yellow jackets that hosted family reunions on our campsite. My flyswatter and can of Raid soon made it clear our family values were not the same.

raccoonCuter species — especially raccoons — also posed problems. We refused to let our children feed them. That night, the masked varmints assaulted the campgrounds like commandos. Fortunately, we’d locked our coolers in the car trunk.

Campers next door allowed their kids to feed the animals daily. The raccoons spread this good news with evangelistic fervor, and hordes of raccoons gathered in broad daylight, extending greedy paws, chattering for their fair share — a park version of the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

Our neighbors also left their coolers out at night, declaring raccoons could not open latches. Were they kidding? These coons could crack a safe.

skunkSoon word of easy pickings reached a rival gang: skunks. Guess who won the ensuing debate?

Thus, four-legged friends and thousand-footed millipedes inhabiting camp showers cause only a fraction of camping complications. Often two-footed wildlife create the most excitement.

Once, after a nearby rock concert, thousands of attendees decided to hug trees where we were camping. The lone park ranger looked 17, unable to control anything more aggressive than delinquent chipmunks. Our neighbors, who wore bandannas, chains and questionable cigarettes in their mouths, treated the campground to heavy metal favorites, courtesy of their oversized boom box. At 1 a.m., our tent walls throbbed in rhythm with the bass. One scary song sent our family over the edge.

“Mommy, it’s a bomb!” Our youngest dove into my sleeping bag.

“Nothing like getting away to peace and quiet,” I said.

“I’m going over there.” The love of my life unzipped the tent and stalked, unarmed, toward the gang zone. I prayed. I covered my eyes. But I could not cover my ears.

“Would you please turn that down?” he asked in a commanding tone. “My children cannot sleep.”

I waited for gunshots.

Instead, a loopy voice said, “Sorry, man.”

Silence. Blessed silence.

Out in the wild — and in the jungles of everyday existence — we often must communicate using fly swatters and worse.

Sometimes, when we least expect it, a forthright, courteous word will suffice.

 

Tell about a time when you lived with the wild things. Have you won any standoffs — two-legged, four-legged, or otherwise?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Home from Camping

Oh, my God, our home seems palatial, compared to the pop-up camper where Hubby and I spent the weekend. But I miss the wood-smoky campfire and Your sky chocked full of stars. Majestic rivers we viewed while hiking. Paper plates we didn’t have to wash. OMG, do You want to play hooky with us again?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: It’s Spring? Seriously?

Oh, my God, this weekend it snowed. Thundered. Hailed. Blew. Walking to church, we had to avoid ice on the streets. Yet, with the sun’s chilly afternoon rays, Hubby changed the oil on the lawn mower and raised the pop-up camper. OMG, is he a man of faith or just crazy?