Camping Chaos

This past weekend, Dale and I went camping at our favorite place in the North Georgia Mountains.

We wanted to go a few times over the summer, but with all of the rain that we had, we cancelled our plans each time.

Then, the Weather Channel finally predicted a dry weekend, so we planned and prepared to go.

It seems that each time I have ever been camping, something completely funny has happened.

The first funny memory I have is when I went camping with my parents and Aunt and cousins when I was a little girl. We were all in bed sleeping, when we heard a loud racket. My father looked out the window of the camper and saw raccoons feeding on the cake that we had accidentally left out on the picnic table. From then on, it became known throughout our family as the “coon cake” story.

When I was in college, my sister and I went camping with her fiancé and his friend. We knew they were going to play tricks on us – plastic spiders, plastic snakes, etc. So we decided to “one up” them. Years before, our parents had gotten an album of “The Mating Call of the Wolves” as a gag gift. This was, of course, back when we had cassette tapes. We decided to fast forward a blank tape three-quarters of the way through, and then we recorded the wolves howling.

When we crawled in the tent that night, I pushed “play” on the tape player and we got in our sleeping bags to go to sleep. Thirty minutes later, the first “wolf” started howling.

We all sat up. “What the heck was that?” my sister asked. I had to stifle my giggle by burying my face in my pillow so as not to spoil the trick.

“Sounds like wild dogs.” The guys started looking out the zippered windows of the tent. (We had made the guys sleep on the outside edge of the tent because we figured if something attacked the tent, it would get them first.)

“Do you,” I gasped, “think they,” I gasped again, “can get,” gasp, “in the tent???” My sister and I were in tears because we were laughing so hard, but they guys totally missed it. They thought we were crying because we were scared.

“Sounds like they are on the other side of the creek,“ they said. “Maybe we can make a run for the car,” not understanding that the whining and barking was coming from RIGHT INSIDE THE TENT.

After ten more minutes of the guys trying to figure out how to get us to safety, they caught on. Their response? No escorted middle-of–the-night trips to the bathroom. Cathy and I were on our own.

Fast forward to 2008. I took my son, Matthew and several of his hockey buddies camping – two of whom had never been camping before. Besides the typical gross boy stories, my favorite part of the weekend was when they climbed in the creek below the hiking trail. Matthew had gotten an electronic device that played sounds of wild animals, and they would play barks and growls of fox and bears as people would walk above them on the hiking trail. I sat by the campfire watching and laughing hysterically as people would frantically look around trying to see if an animal was nearby.

Then, that leads me to this weekend’s camping trip with my sweet husband. It was our anniversary, so we looked forward to sitting around the fire sipping on wine, and just enjoying the quiet. The entire trip was so peaceful…until about 3 A.M. when an owl started hooting right outside our tent and woke me up. I could have easily gone back to sleep, until I noticed that our normally two-foot high air mattress was now so deflated that I could feel the rocks and sticks underneath the tent, stabbing me in my hip. photo_1

Besides the fact that Dale and I were so squished together that it seemed we had eaten magnets for dinner, we probably looked like two hotdogs in a bun. I started giggling and woke Dale up, who then proceeded to turn over and as his body weight adjusted the air in the mattress, I was catapulted off the other side.

So even though we both woke up each with a wickedly sore back and bags under our eyes from lack of sleep, I can’t wait until our next camping excursion.

Just to see what funny thing happens.

Adventures In Backyard Camping

I have been an outdoorsy kind of girl my entire life. Growing up, we didn’t take fancy vacations to other countries or exotic locations. Instead, my dad, mom, sister and I would go camping up at DeSoto Falls in the north Georgia mountains. Catching salamanders, hiking up to the water falls, hearing the rain on the roof of the tent, and telling scary stories around the campfire are some of the memories that I cherish the most. After my divorce, I started taking my son camping regularly at DeSoto Falls. I wanted him to experience the same fun adventures I had growing up –WITHOUT his Xbox, cell phone or any other electronics. We were primitive camping, which means a tent, no electricity, and no running water.

My husband, Dale had not been camping in 20 years when we first met three years ago. During our first year of marriage we took a camping trip to DeSoto Falls where I had spent so many of my younger years. I still laugh about the look on his face as I set up the tent (by myself), along with the picnic tent (also set up by myself). I must say though that he was able to uncork the wine bottle with the efficiency of a pro.

Since Dale had not been camping in years, his children had never been exposed to what it is like sleeping outside under the stars. We really wanted to share the adventure with them so we started off slow and decided to do a trial camping adventure with the kids by having a camp out in the back yard. If all went well, we would advance to camping in the mountains.

I got the tent set up along with the air mattress, sheets & blankets. I set up camp chairs around the outdoor fireplace (and actually found firewood at the Home Depot even though it was August.) I filled up the outdoor lantern and got the little table set out so we could play cards. I brought marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate to make s’mores over the fire. Finally, it was dusk and we brought the kids outside.

Everyone was so excited about our newest adventure. We played what seemed like the longest running Uno game in the history of the earth. We roasted marshmallows for our s’mores, which was even more interesting since my step-son has a gluten allergy, and we attempted to make s’mores for him using gluten free animal cookies instead of graham crackers. (It works, but it’s very sticky!)

It started getting late and it was time to wind down and get to sleep. Everyone climbed in the tent and got settled in. The kids were fast asleep within minutes. The adults? Well, let’s just say that the sound of air-conditioning units going on and off do not equate to the sound of quiet and crickets you get in the mountains. Teenagers flying through the neighborhood with their music blasting, trying to get home before their curfew is not necessarily equal to the sound of a babbling brook that lulls you to sleep. And did I mention that it was still August? In Georgia? And still 87 degrees out after midnight?

After the initial giggling between me and Dale of “what could possibly happen next” the dog next door started barking…and we called it a night. We grabbed the kids and took them inside to their rooms, and then we sleepy-staggered into our bedroom.

And it was a good thing. Because the greatest thing about backyard camping is that an actual bathroom is only steps away and you don’t run the risk of getting poison ivy on your butt from peeing in the woods. (THAT is a true story.)

We made the fun photo above using StoryMark – download for free in the iPhone app store or Android market.