The Joys of Camping, Part II

We were up around 7. I’m not a morning person as a rule, but I like getting up in the morning when we camp. It’s weird. I also like to cook when we camp. Go figure. I was channeling my inner Ma Ingalls. My sister did not feel well and went back to nap in her tent. Uncle Paul and I managed to make a huge breakfast and feed everyone while keeping an eye on the bleak skies. It wasn’t looking great. Once we’d cleaned things up, we formulated a plan. I would go hiking with the boys on one of the easier trails and Uncle Paul would take Jesse, my niece, to the Lodge to see the ranger’s thing on wildflowers. (Do you think the giant stuffed bear held any attraction for Jesse?)

In hindsight, it might have been more fun all-around if I had taken Jesse to see the flowers and Paul had taken the boys. Instead of a short hike, I ended up getting a little turned around (I know, it’s surprising given my past displays of superior directional skills.) and taking what ended up being STRENUOUS hike – it’s not just me, the signs said it was strenuous! We ended up at the stairs that run down the length of the falls. The stairs we were at were a little more than 1/2 up the falls. We headed down. 425 steps down. I was feeling kind of smug. That wasn’t so hard. I stopped the kids at 425 because I knew my sister really wanted to do the stairs from the bottom to the top on Sunday.

After exploring a little bit and talking to some of the various people on the trail, we decided to climb back up and head back to the campsite for some lunch (this was 5 boys!). I know better than to be smug. Ever. The walk up the stairs was killer. It was fine for the first 300 steps. The kids were at the top telling me to hurry up for the last 100. My legs were shaking. The only thing that kept me moving were the two REALLY old people a few landings below me. I knew I would die if they passed me up.

I made it to the top. As I walked off the cramps in my calf, the boys explored a nearby stream and ran around emphasizing how old and sadly out-of-shape I am. I looked across the way to where we had to walk back to the campsite. The hill we descended leading to the path did not seem that big when we were hiking in. Now, on my rickety legs, I was near tears thinking to myself “The only way I’m going up that hill is if I crawl.” It was horrible. I called the boys and we started our trek “home.” As we approached the hill, who should drive by but Uncle Paul. I swear there were angels singing around the minivan and a giant halo around Paul’s head. I don’t ever remember being so happy to see someone in my life.

Paul drove me and one of the boys home. The rest opted to hike back! Lynne was up and feeling human when we arrived. She mocked me in a sisterly way as I staggered around getting lunch together. I knew if I sat down I was sunk for the day. We picked up our conversation from the night before as I made some (dang) quesadillas. We were looking down over the beautiful forest as we cooked and talked. When the remaining kids showed up, we turned around and realized we were IN a cloud!

It was the strangest thing. A fog had completely covered the campground. Talk about a Stephen-King-moment! As we ate in eerie silence, the rain started again. Paul opted to take the kids to the afternoon programs at the lodge. Lynne and I headed into the nearest town to get the things we had both forgotten to pack – namely toothbrushes for my family. We picked up coal, lighter fluid, dry wood, tea bags (I was freezing from being damp for so long!) and ice and headed back up through the cloud enveloping the mountain!

When we reached the campsite, the sun started breaking through! It was wonderful. The kids were busy making a movie with Andy’s Flip Camera. Paul got busy starting a new fire. I boiled water for tea. Ahhhh. Tea has never tasted so good. Things warmed up and everyone was in a great mood. The afternoon flew by and we started dinner. Macaroni and cheese, hash browns(yes, again), and bbq’d chicken wrapped in grilled bacon. After dinner we visited with some neighbors at other campsites – mostly to meet their dogs!

As it got dark, we made s’mores and sat around just talking and laughing and making more s’mores. And, again, here come the Park Rangers. More thunderstorms on the way. These storms came quickly. Once the rain started, Paul and all the kids headed to their tents. Lynne and I grabbed our box o’wine and the remaining snacks and headed to the car to finish talking. And, we talked. And the rain got worse. And worse. Finally, we were both falling asleep so we made mad dashes for our tents despite the storm.

This is day the end of day two in the same stinky clothes, no shower, no toothbrush. As I scooched Andy over so I could share the non-dripping portion of the tent with him I regretted comparing myself with Ma Ingalls earlier that morning.

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