A couple weeks ago the fam and I took a camping trip. Not the fake sort of camping with RVs, or even the traditional sort that I grew up with involving tents and campfires, but the cabin sort. The 100-year-old-no-electricity-or-running-water sort of cabins, way up in Northwestern Colorado near the Wyoming border. Typically we go there at least once each summer, but always have other people there besides our little family.
|The outside of the cabin we slept in|
This time it was just us. For four days. (Did I mention no electronic diversions were available?) The kids are now 4-1/2 and 3, and are becoming functional little humans. Mostly. We didn’t have to bring all the cumbersome baby gear this time (although the frog potty is a must), but I still visited Anxiety Attack Central while preparing for the trip. I thought we ought to pack the night before, since Dooley visits Man-In-A-Big-Freaking-Hurry-For-No-ReasonVille every time we’re trying to get out the door, but he casually insisted that it would take us just 10 minutes to leave in the morning—to “just throw some stuff in the car and go”. REALLY? Have you met this family? Or, for that matter, any family with two young children and three annoying dogs? Do you have any clue how much crap we need for four days?
For any readers who are either inexperienced or just dense, let me enlighten you as to what items one might require for a long weekend in the mountains with children: Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, favorite stuffed animals. Flashlights. Batteries. Propane for the lanterns. Toys, books, activities. Fishing gear. Dog food and bowls. Human food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, totaling about 12 meals for 4 people, not including snacks. Clothes, for four days and three nights, both for super hot weather and for super cold weather, since the temperature varies so hugely between day and night—bearing in mind that little kids need like five sets of clothes per day. Pullups for sleeping. Wipes. Toilet paper. Camera. Band-aids. Sunscreen. Bugspray. I could go on.
Incredibly, we accomplished the packing in a mere two hours and were gone just a tad later than Dooley’s goal of 9am. Our roomy minivan could hardly contain us and all our junk; it was piled under my feet and all around the kids. Our three dogs, one of whom is over 100lbs (mastiff-shepherd mix named Bruce), had a tiny space hollowed out in the back, and they kept knocking down the carefully constructed walls. The kids were antsy and the dogs were whiny, but we survived the four hour drive nearly incident-free, except for my throbbing headache. And, of course, the time when our nervous young border collie, Pete, decided to jump into Tuesday’s lap and inadvertently scratch the hell out of her soft squishy thigh. This led to lots of screaming, first from Tuesday, then from me as I tried to yank the dog off her and throw him in the back of the van, then from Dirt, telling me not to “rip Petey”, then from Dooley, demanding me to sit back down. Good times.
Pete was the source of our first on-site incident as well, when, on the first evening, he found a tasty snack in the rat poison that we accidentally overlooked in the cabin. Luckily there was some hydrogen peroxide left there. In case you weren’t aware, a few capfuls of 2(HO) will cause almost immediate barfing. Of course, he almost immediately set to eating his own poison-filled vomit, because dogs are gross like that. But he lived.
One of my personal favorite things is having to go pee in the middle of the night, several times per night (remember I’m three months pregnant now), especially when I have to trudge across the meadow with a flashlight, fearfully looking at the trees and bushes all around in case a bear or mountain lion wanted to gobble me up or an angry nocturnal moose wanted to stomp on me. I always make Bruce accompany me cuz I’m a Nervous Nelly. I’m not even sure anyone has ever encountered a bear or cougar there, but naturally I’d be the one if ever they chose to come out. The mosquitos sure think I’m tasty.
There are always plenty of bugs to keep us company. Since it was later in the summer there weren’t as many obnoxious miller moths bumping stupidly into all things, and the house flies were negligible. Still, our presence in the cabin disturbed several large spiders that didn’t really want us to crash their party. The mosquitos, however, were more than happy to have us there. The bug spray I got did not seem to work, as Tuesday and I had at least fifteen bites apiece by the time we went home. I’m not sure why the boys didn’t get eaten as much; maybe because they aren’t made of sugar and spice wrapped in silky-soft lady skin? Snort. I would’ve liked to wear long sleeves and jeans to avoid being feasted upon, but it was so dang hot out. As a result, we were rocking several delightful layers of bugspray on sunscreen on dirt on unshoweredness. Yummy. (I’d like to point out, on the issue of hygiene, that I still brushed my teeth each day and shaved my pits. Once.)
We spent the days fishing*, swimming** in the river or the lake, hiking***, off-roading****, eating, and napping. It’s a nice break from civilization because there is no sense of time other than daylight. With no phones or internet or television (and no we don’t wear watches), the day’s events are played by feeling. All weekend the kids were picking “beautiful flowers” and rushing them gleefully over to me; we cut the top off a bottle of water and made a bouquet. Dirt was inspired to sprint about like a madman on numerous occasions, sometimes totally nude after swimming (he seems to run even faster when he’s nekked).
*By fishing I mean we threw in a few lines amidst swimming dogs and yelling kids and splashing rocks. Dooley caught a few with his fly rod when the rest of the crew wasn’t there. A few times we let the kids hold the fishing poles while bait hung in the water below a bobber, but if we turned around for 0.3 seconds, there was an insane nest of tangled fishing line, inexplicably. I still have no clue how they did it.
**By swimming I mean wading and splashing. Although Dodie, our 9-year-old “borderstaffy”, would happily swim all day every day, so we played fetch. She did the real swimming-swimming. Bruce would wade in and swim a little too, but Pete just uneasily watched from the shore, curled up in the grass like a baby deer, wondering what the frick we were all doing in the water. I threw him in once, thinking he’d learn to love it, and he didn’t trust me for the rest of the day. (Oops.) By the end of the trip he was brave enough to get in the water to herd Dodie as she chased tennis balls.
***By hiking I mean walking very, very slowly on almost level terrain. It involves telling Dirt to slow down and telling Tuesday to hurry up while the dogs trot along happily at any pace. It also involves lots of whining on Tuesday’s part on the way back because we won’t carry her (she still hasn’t passed 30lbs but she’s close).
****By off-roading I mean exploring roads intended only for ATVs and horses…in our minivan.
Each day after lunch I’d nap with the kids. We had a few afternoon thunderstorms, creating magically soothing rain on the roof of the log cabin. Once or twice Dooley took that opportunity to go fishing alone; one of those days Dirt wet the bed and I had to wash his bedding in the river. Well, no, I just thought about doing laundry in the river but settled on a tub of hot water (from a propane-fueled giant coffee urn) and laundry soap that was serendipitously left at the cabin.
I hung his stuff in the sun on the deck, but it still wasn’t dry by bedtime so he had to sleep in bed with us…and had another accident in our bed. It was the last night so we just flipped the sleeping bag and went back to sleep. Or tried to. As wiggly and fussy as Dirt was, always getting hot and kicking down the covers from where he tossed and turned between us, even though we were cold and wanted covers on. I also had to pee three times that night, and the dogs were particularly antsy and even Tuesday was fussy, so not much R.E.M. sleep that night.
Each evening Dooley would cook dinner in the “cook shack” and we’d eat at the huge wooden table by lantern-light. After I washed dishes (also using scalding hot water from the commercial coffeemaker), we’d put on PJs or sweats and then read or write or color or play or sing—surprisingly not bored to tears given the lack of television, tablet, or computer. At one point Tuesday put boots on over her fleece pink piggy jammies and declared herself “the coolest of all the people” as she got to work with crayons and coloring book on the floor.
One afternoon we played at the sandy beach on the lakeshore. The water there wasn’t nearly as freezing as the river running by the cabins, and the water’s depth is so gradual that we could all wade out pretty far. Dooley walked out so far into the water in an attempt to catch fish that we had to yell out to him. I could have stayed there forever though. It was warm and sunny and peaceful and everyone was playing happily (kids in sand, dogs in water, Dooley fishing). Then suddenly the sun was behind the mountains and it was friggen freezing and we were all wet and covered in sand.
Both kids and dogs were happily exhausted by each day’s end, and so were we. Coming home was bittersweet, and electricity felt sinful. For all the stressors involved in a trip like that, it’s a lovely break from the reality of the modern world. We’re planning to go again soon, and I am both dreading it and looking forward to it. Go figure.