Ms J: Any luck on finding a hotel for the weekend ?
Me: Nothing for less than $129
J: Let’s go camping instead !
Me: uhhhh…. ok….
I had never gone camping before I met Ms. J. So the first time I went camping was when I was 40. I had never slept in a tent, or a sleeping bag, or slept outside at all. I grew up in the city, not at all near any kind of woods or wild area. I didn’t even belong to the Boy Scouts. So I am by no means an expert camper. Ms. J however has been camping for as long as she can remember. Girl Scouts, Appalachian Trail, the Long Trail in Vermont, tents, sleeping bags, back packs, the whole outdoors thing. Since that first camping trip, we’ve gone once or twice a year, for 3 or 4 days at a time. I’m still not at all an expert at camping.
Being a novice camper, I was a little dubious about continuing to go camping once Mr. C came along. But we have gone on at least one camping trip a year since he was 18 months old. Nothing too hard core, we’re always at a campground at a State or National Park. There is almost always running water, though usually just cold water, bathrooms and showers in an enclosed building, and sometimes wooden lean-tos where you can get at least some shelter if the weather should turn foul. I do like it, but I do enjoy a good nights rest which is usually not entirely possible when sleeping on the ground.
We were taking a trip to northern New Hampshire, about 3 hours north of us, as a birthday treat for Mr. C. He would get a ride on an old steam train in the afternoon and then we would set up camp for the night. Camping is much less expensive than staying at a hotel, so this past weekend the choice was between paying $129 for a bad hotel, or $25 for a campsite. With me being Mr. Cheap, and Ms. J being the expert outdoors person, the campsite won.
Mr. C certainly enjoyed the train ride, it seems as though liking trains is some kind of genetic requirement for boys. What he really seemed to like though was helping to tend the campfire. Between trains and fire, I think fire will always win. His search for sticks of the appropriate size to throw on the fire continued well into the night. He was extremely excited when the Ranger came over to tell us that he had left some cut up logs in a nearby campsite that we could use if we wanted to go get them. He then ran faster than I’ve seen him run, three campsites away, with me following as close as my old knees could manage, and proceeded to drag two huge logs behind him back to our campsite. He seems to be taking this camping thing more seriously than I had expected.
To help make sleeping a bit more comfortable, one thing we did get once we started camping with Mr. C was an air mattress. Sleeping on the ground is uncomfortable enough without also having an uncomfortable toddler as well. Proud of myself for remembering not just to pack the battery powered air mattress pump, but also an extra set of batteries, which I did end up needing since the ones in the pump died about half way through the pumping process, we had the tent, sleeping bags, and mattress set up in no time. After a long drive, train ride, fire wood search and log drag, we all were exhausted and collapsed into our sleeping bags.
About two hours later though I woke up to a slight hissing sound. A slow leak in the air mattress. When there is more than one person on an air mattress that is leaking what happens is that the heaviest person will tend to settle onto the ground first. Meanwhile, the lighter person will be buoyed up on the remaining air. So, since I was the heaviest, I was quickly coming to rest on the ground, in my sleeping bag, with a large pointy rock sticking up into the middle of my back. Meanwhile, Ms. J was still lying comfortably on a cushion of air on the opposite side of the air mattress, sound asleep. And in the middle was Mr. C, also sound asleep in his sleeping bag, who being the lightest was taken by gravity to the lowest point and deposited directly on top of me.
As I lay there, with a pointed rock eating its way through flattened air mattress, sleeping bag, and then directly into my spine, and a 42 pound toddler swaddled in his own sleeping bag directly on top of me I thought it could not get worse. But Mr. C is not a sound sleeper and will shift abruptly, completely changing positions in seconds. Before I knew how he could possible do it, he had somehow managed to move sideways so that his feet were on top of my stomach. I’m guessing that his head was nestled under Ms. J’s arm while they both continued sleeping. There was no way I was going to wake him up and move him. Once he wakes up, he’s awake for the night and we do not want that while camping since once he’s awake we’re all awake for the night and extremely cranky the next day.
He then started to kick. I was convinced that at some point the rock and the kicking feet were going to meet somewhere in the middle of my cracking vertebrae. At this point I am wedged between the wall of the tent on one side, the remains of the air mattress on the other, a rock below me, and a very heavy thrashing 3 year old on top of me. It was then that I had to go to the bathroom.
The one thing you do not want to do while camping is to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It’s dark, you’re not quite sure where the bathroom is, or where much of anything is actually. I try not to drink anything a few hours before going to sleep while camping. It never works. I always have to get up at around 3:00 am. I somehow managed to shift out of my sleeping bag, unzipping the zipper carefully, a little at a time. Trying as hard as possible not to move too quickly or Mr. C is awake like the morning rooster. I slip out of the sleeping and crawl over to the zipper for the tent entrance. Unzipping the tent zipper as slowly as possible too. By this time, I really had to go, so ‘slowly’ may not have been the speed I was employing.
At last, out of the tent! It’s pitch black. A cloudy night, so there is no light at all. I always leave a flash light at the entrance of the tent, as well as my shoes, because I know I’m going to get up sometime during the night. I first lean down to get the flashlight. I grab it and then lean down to grab my shoes for the run to the bathroom down the hill from the campsite. I’m not going to go into specifics, but there was no way I was going to be able to go in the woods. While leaning down for the shoes, I drop the flashlight. I hear it roll away. Maybe into the forest, maybe into the remains of the campfire, I don’t know. I try to find it by searching around on my hands and knees. Nope, it’s gone. I also can not find my shoes.
In my socks, I stumble down the gravel path to the shower-bathroom building, following the one light available which was a single bulb over the door to the building.
In the morning, my shoes were around the corner from the entrance of the tent. I don’t know why I could not find them. The flash light had rolled off into the woods. After Ms. J and Mr. C woke, both of whom slept soundly on what was left of the air mattress, we broke camp. Took down the tent, rolled up the sleeping bags, put away the air mattress, pump, and everything else and off we went. Needless to say, I was cranky for most of the day.
Father’s Day is coming up, I’m going to ask for a new air mattress.