As we near another camping season, and try to decide where we want to go as a group this year, the talk naturally turned towards previous camping trips, and we were flooded with memories.
The year Squid was born, we decided to take our annual camping trip in Parson, BC. The weather would be gorgeous, the scenery would be beautiful, and it had the added bonus of not being too far from home (it wasn't till later, when we realised that Squiddy was a ticking time bomb, that we started to add 'close to major trauma centers' to our list of requirements....)
Although Jamie and Shawn had bought a motorhome, Jason and I had not yet graduated from a tent, and Lana and Erik were still camping in a cozy little freshly painted tent trailer.
Our tent was great. We could sleep all 4 of us in a row, and still had room for Squid's playpen next to us. We could probably still fit all of us in that tent, even with the big kids having grown and adding Eva to the clan, but it died an unfortunate death at the end of one of the quickest September Long trips we've ever taken. But I'm sure that will come up in a future blog.
The only down side to a tent (aside from the fact that there is no heat, no bathroom, you're sleeping on the ground, and the condensation in the mornings might hit the high-water mark left by the last great flood) is that fabric walls are not the best defence against wildlife. But I planned for that. I married Jason. One look at his big, burly body doing the peepee dance in the morning scares away pretty much every living creature on God's green earth.
When we picked the campsite, we took into account that we would be right next to the Columbia River, and that wildlife may become an issue. We planned carefully. We bought bear bells for the kids (the added bonus being that never once did we actually have to STAND UP to find them when they wandered away), we packed our food away every night, and I was careful not to wear my prey-scented perfume.
Jason and I were the first ones to arrive, and as we drove through Parson to the campground, we caught a glimpse of the liquor store (which we knew we would have to visit at least once, as our 2 huge coolers were stuffed with stupid things like food and juice).
If Jason Voorhees ran a liquor store, this would be it. The shingles were peeling from the roof, and the siding was falling off the building. One window was boarded over, and there was an abandoned car out front and two more in the back. Somehow, the flashing 'Open' sign on the one unbroken window was not overly reassuring.
"Do you wanna stop?" I asked Jason.
And he, who usually isn't bothered by my flights of fancy, took one look as we sped past and muttered,
"Nope. I've seen that movie. I know how it ends."
Not an auspicious beginning.
Once we had set up camp that first day, we sat back and looked around. This place was awesome! We would be there 10 days, so the laundry room was a plus. There were ponds and streams for Jason and the kids to fish in, a relatively clean swimming hole with a culvert perfect for jumping off of, and the campsite was huge. I checked out the washrooms, and they were spotless. Perfectly clean and well tended, and the smell of lemon cleanser was strong enough to make your eyes water. There was a cute little guest book on the counter, and the couple who ran the place had even taken the time (I assume it was her, not him) to sew little curtains for the front of the sinks so no one would have to look at unsightly plumbing while washing all the vacation off their faces. We set up our tent and assorted other gear, and sat back, waiting for rest and relaxation to overtake us.
And afternoon hit.
Apparently, the people who ran the place preferred that people check in in the mornings, because they waited till afternoon to let the mosquitoes out of their cages.
At first, I thought a cloud had moved over the sun. Then I took a look at the sky, and a swarm of the buggers had blocked every visible patch of blue. I don't say 'little buggers' here, although that is normally how I refer to the things, but 'buggers'. That is because each mosquito was roughly the size of a sparrow. Not a little sparrow. A sparrow the size of an eagle.
They would hover over you as a group, and while one of them sparred with you to distract you, another 2 or 3 would start ripping chunks of meat from your back in an attempt to drain you dry. The only defence seemed to be to swing at them with a small child, but all our available children had taken shelter in the car.
We realised that our supply of bug spray wouldn't last the day. We also needed something more powerful than the Off Skintastic we had brought along. Remember when you would go backwoods camping as a child and your dad would pull out the bottle of straight Deet? You used one drop on each wrist (the top of the wrist, not the thin skin over your veins- that was stupid), one on your shirt (being careful not to drip on your shoes, because it would melt the rubber on your Keds), and not only would the bugs leave you alone, but squirrels dropped dead out of trees as you walked past? We needed that. And some mosquito coils. And a citronella bucket. Or thirty.
We drove back into Golden (giving us the opportunity to hit a less-terrifying liquor store, so that was a bonus), and found that although they no longer sell straight Deet (apparently it's dangerous, and has therefore been made illegal), we picked up a huge supply of mosquito-deterring lotions, creams, sprays, bracelets, coils and candles. As well as a giant supply of mosquito netting and some clothes pins. We worried they might take Squid when we weren't paying attention. He was only 8 months old, and although he was already walking, he couldn't run nearly fast enough to escape a coordinated attack.
After a full few days planning a strategic offence against the invading hordes of bloodsucking monsters, we thought we had things licked. Everyone else showed up on time, parked in a horseshoe shape with the communal firepit in the middle, and Jamie and Shawn set up their giant dining room/mosquito shelter right over top of the picnic tables. We learned to take refuge in there when the flying vampires came out (and to hide in the motorhome when the campground guy sprayed the place every morning- apparently the mosquitoes were a huge problem), and things seemed to be moving along swimmingly.
Man, I miss camping!