Sunday, June 26, 2011

Storytelling Sunday

Having finally gotten some sleep, I'm feeling a little more coherent than I have been. It also helps, to be honest, that I have absolutely no obligations tomorrow, other than a few tasks for work, some of which I will complete tonight. I'm hoping to spend the day doing boring things, like laundry. I guess you might say I've had enough adventure to last me a while.

Last weekend's camping trip was an adventure, to be sure. We weren't even sure, when it started, that it was going to be a camping trip. Leaving in the middle of the afternoon, we threw some camping gear in the car, in case we decided that it was something we wanted to do but, in reality, I was hoping to be home before midnight.

Driving through the state next to the one in which we live, we did some meandering. We stopped for fireworks and snacks, we stopped so the teenagers could take pictures in a field, we stopped at a flea market. Turning into the parking lot of the flea market, we passed a field full of groundhogs, who were remarkably undisturbed when MC got out of the car to photograph them. At the flea market itself, we had the chance to hold puppies and browse.

We headed off to a National Park, and let me just take this moment for a sidenote: my affection for the US National Park System can not be overstated. We once took a sixteen day family vacation, built around the National Parks, and it is something the kids still talk about, eight or ten years later. The topic of National Parks will definitely be revisited in more than one blog in the future.

On the way to this one, we happened upon a ramshackle building with a sign outside that said "Modern Cottages" . The building was a stone cottage with undeniable mystique, so the teenagers were once again out of the car with the camera. I was glad to let them do that, but by the time we got to the National Park, it was closed. That settled it, at least for Middle Child and her cohort: we were camping out.

I was admirably good-natured about this, if I do say so myself. Our gps was no longer able to locate us, instead replacing the car icon with a blinking question mark. I did not consider that a good sign, as far as the level of civilization in our location. I'd told the kids I'd take them to dinner, so we ate at the only sit down restaurant within ten miles of the campsite. After dinner we went back to camp, where there was no running water, no cell signal, and certainly no internet. As I said, I was good-natured. It was an effort, because, as I believe I may have mentioned, I prefer the comforts of indoors.

Our tents assembled, mattresses inflated, we built a fire to make s'mores. At this point, it was about 10:30pm, which is normally about the time I'm starting my evening computer tasks, having fed the family, done the nightly chores, and seen Small One off to bed. At a campsite, however, for me, 10:30 is the time of darkness and supreme boredom. I bid the teens goodnight, left them to their s'more-ing, and took to my tent with a book and a flashlight.

A few minutes later, I heard footsteps and heavy breathing, just outside the tent. I am a TERRIBLE camper. The impact that ghost stories had on my childish psyche is clearly major, as I am absolutely sure that at some point, a man with a hook for a hand will be more than a little interested in my campsite. My adult brain understands the lack of logic in that, but my inner scaredy-cat is very loud, with her screaming. I played it cool, though, softly calling out first MC's name, and then her boyfriend's. No answer came. I took a few deep breaths, turned off my flashlight, and was quiet, listening for more noises.

Suddenly, the noises came. A snarling, hissing, growling melee started up about ten feet from my tent, and kept up for a good ten minutes. My heart was racing, and I was mentally going over a list of local wildlife in my head. Sounded too small to be bears, but there were definitely several of whatever they were. It sounded like a pack of wild dogs had been unleashed, and I had a fleeting thought that they'd eaten the teenagers. I considered raccoons and opossums, but still, wondered if wolves lived in the area.

The choice I had to make was this: do I sit in the tent waiting for the creatures to tear the the nylon and possibly eat me, or do I unzip it and try to be menacing, using only my wits and a flashlight? I decided on the second option, and summoned my courage.

Raccoons. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of five to seven large raccoons at our picnic site, fighting over the marshmallows and chocolate. And I will say, raccoons are cute, but they are pretty much known for carrying rabies, so I really was not feeling all that reassured. The primary relief I felt was in knowing that I could probably frighten them off pretty easily. I shined my flashlight and encouraged them to leave, and, with the exception of a couple of really aggressive ones, they scrambled away. The last two I had to actually approach and shoo away, but finally, they left as well.

I found them sitting peacefully, on a bench by the river. They did not have any chocolate or marshmallows with them, nor any wrappers to suggest they'd already ingested them, which leads me to believe their claim that they'd left it all on the table when they went to sit and talk. This means, of course, that at that moment, a raccoon was probably scrambling through the underbrush with a bag of marshmallows tucked under one furry little arm. The question that I still have, though, is why two almost-adults, one of them an Eagle Scout, would leave all that food out at a campsite! (The next day, I answered MC's lamentations over lack of chocolate with stony silence, and a look that suggested she accept responsibility for its absence.)

I returned to my tent to try and sleep, and was joined by MC in a short while. I did eventually fall asleep, though I will never understand the appeal of sleeping in a hot sweaty tent on an air mattress.The sleep was broken, though, by what happened next: torrential rain. Ah yes, the joy of camping is so deeply enhanced for me by trudging through the rain to an outhouse. Sigh.

I can only hope that my remaining offspring prefers indoor vacationing.

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