Monday, July 13, 2009

Camping with kids... a true adventure!

We did not need to go far to find the great outdoors. It only took us about one and a half hours to arrive at our destination. Now if truth be told, it probably took us 3 hours or so to pack, in fact I would say more since we started organizing the week before. You all know the drill, (and if you don't you will); climb up the ladder and pull down the gear. "Maxine, we really need to organize the garage, is the voice echoing lost among junk in that location.” "We need mantles for the lantern...oh and you need a sleeping bag too...hey where is my sleeping bag....I got it..." Yup it takes a lot to prepare for the first camping trip of the season! Everything is staged in the living room...did you know the definition of living room is: the room in which we live, aka: living room/staging room! This is my personal excuse for clutter.

My own preparations began with making chili, a huge pot, and dividing it up for the trip. Next I was finding the remainder of my spaghetti sauce I had frozen a few weeks before. Oh and last but not least, I had to make a bunch of cookies. I cheated a little bit here and bought some mixes I just added the butter and eggs and baked. They turned out fine. I must have made about 130 cookies, a little bit more than I needed, but hey we were going to be in the wild for two and a half days...we needed the comfort food. The best part was bringing the two bottles of wine which had been resting in our fridge for near 10 was time to drink these two darlings.

Ok, back to the story....We arrived, it was a fun trip, playing eye spy a frog, or a cow, or some other interesting object. My daughter found every existing American flag between San Jose and Fremont Peak State Park. The final 11 miles were very curvy, but very beautiful. At the top, we gazed upon the valley we had just passed through with all the other 4:30 pm commuters. But here, everything looked beautiful, the sky, the trees and yes the valley below. It was dry, a little dusty to be sure, but beautiful...the golden hills of California, spotted with Myrtle and Oak. It was not too hot, just right I would say. We found our spot, it was number 24.

Setting up camp went fairly quickly, most likely because we had practiced at my brother’s house over the July 4th weekend. We learned how to set up our tent there, and we actually spent two nights in that little place for practice. Now it was real, we passed the test; the tent was up in about 30 minutes. Little Margo was able to help along the way. She had the job of securing the poles to the straps of the tent. It was a little job, but big for a 5 year old. Next in order was to prepare the meal, spaghetti and meatballs. It just meant setting up the stove, lighting it and letting everything defrost. Thank goodness for cast iron pots! Our friends arrived, they brought their small brood of three, two 5 year olds, Ben and Lily and one 3 year old, Ava. Jeff and Linsey were pros at this adventure compared to us...that took the pressure off of us. The kids played, and we all set up our camps to completion. Dinner was ready as the sun set, and all the kids were hungry. So were the adults...we ate a lot of spaghetti sauce in that one night.

The next morning we all awoke early, ready to start the day. We ate pancakes and bananas for breakfast, fresh brewed coffee, lots of that for the adults, and bikes and racing for the kids. Around 10:00 AM we decided it was time to head off for a real hike, the men chose the valley peak trail, and it started easily enough with a gentle downward slope. Soon all you could hear were the warnings of "don't touch that bush, it is poison oak." Or look out for the poison oak in the middle of the trail. Margo was a trooper; she trailed directly behind me, using my fanny pack for her stabilizing grip. Sometimes I think I was something of a pack horse for her, or mule to be more exact. Do you recall the movie where the heroin is trudging up a mountain pass holding the tail of the pack mule to make it to the top? I was the pack mule for little Margo. Linsey was the Sherpa for Ava, and carried her upon her back for most of the trek. Mark my beloved, would push Margo up the steep parts while she would try and pull me back down. In the end we all made it to the top! It took us about 2 hours to walk all the way over to the top of Fremont Peak. The views were amazing in every way. It seemed we walked through lush jungle, (with lots of poison oak), up through the golden hills of brush, rocks and few trees. At one point, Margo and Ben ended up chasing two large alligator lizards up the path. Boy did those two little lizards fly up the path, and eventually leaped into the brush off the side of the path. But so amazing to me, was that, the one chasing them with gusto had only a second before declared she was unable to go a step further. I learned, there just needs to be the right motivation.

Motivation would become very important before this story is complete. As we were getting closer to the peak, Margo was determined this was to be her last step. We urged her over the bridge, but that was about it. Between my husband and myself, I was the healthiest in regards to joints as such. So it was my job, to become Margo's pack mule one more time. She was placed lightly upon my back and then we walked forward. I even walked up the steps carved into the hillside with her on my back. I was pleased I could do this without too much fatigue; I guess all those days at the gym were paying off! We were left with about 50 yards more of trail which quickly became a spot of rock climbing for the last 100 feet. There were four adults and four children, all wanted to climb the rocks to make it to the top of the peak, and reach the flag pole, that marked the spot of General Fremont and his troops back in the 1800's. Ben and Lily were very good climbers, so Jeff was able to help them up to the top with some ease. Ava being three needed a simpler way, and Linsey took care of these needs, they too made it to the top with fair ease. I decided to send Mark and little Margo up together, I would stay down and take pictures and watch the packs. Really I was too concerned she might grab on to me and I would twist my back, so I did not want to risk the climb. Mark would lift her to a spot, or coach her to the hand and foot holds that they saw before them. Jeff, Linsey and the kids would tell her there is food for her at the top. Aha, motivation, the right motivation, and she would not talk about her fears, but about the need for food. My daughter, who even three months ago would not climb much of anything, was climbing these rocks. Once at the top, I was told she was really looking to eat the food. So the apple was delivered and her hunger quenched.

It was time to climb down, how were we going to get all the kids down? One by one, they each created a path down the rocks of the peak. I was amazed to watch them pick the best way down with a little coaching from us. Even Margo could make it down...her new motivation? 10 minutes till the rain arrives, oh oh, 9 minutes till the rain arrives...and so she counted down while she was climbing. No time to worry about how to climb down, she just kept focused and moving on the task set before her. I was proud of little Margo, she later said she was afraid, but kept climbing anyway...I told her that was courage.

Linsey and I looked at each other while speaking out the same thoughts. What were we thinking letting our little one's climb to the top of that peak! We decided once back at camp we would drink more wine that night by the campfire as well as eat the deserved smore's. Ben, the little son of Linsey expressed to me later, how he was scaring his mom, when he was climbing, but he assured me he was totally safe and knew not to fall off the edge. Did you catch that Linsey, he knew to be careful, not bad for a 5 year old. We decided to walk back via the surface roads and that took us all of 30 minutes.

Back at camp we enjoyed a well deserved dinner with wine and smore's for desert. The night was clear, and Ben told us a spooky story around the campfire and then the kids retired to bed. The adults, what about us, we continued to drink wine and discuss life. Oh yes, we checked out the sounds of animals walking on the slope behind our tent. Never did see the beady eyes, but I am sure something was there. Linsey moved to our side of the campfire. Hey who wants to be licked by a wild deer or "petted" by a raccoon? All in all this day truly defined our camping, it was about the hiking, the adventure and the team work.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! It was truly an adventure and you have described in perfectly. Yes, the motivation was key - thank goodness for that incoming rainstorm to distract the kids (and us) from our fears. After all, sometimes goes up is easier than going down! I was so proud of Margo - simply amazing and so exciting to be there with her. I didn't know Ben told you that about knowing how to keep himself safe. He was freaking me out, jumping around on those rocks, easily being able to slip and fall.

    Looking forward to the next adventure...and bottle of wine!