We had an incredible time on our campout over the kids’ Spring Break last week.  We went from Wednesday to Saturday and stayed over in Carmel, just south of Monterey.  The weather was pleasant, though in the 40s at night, and the time we had together was very enjoyable.
Lindsey, being 6 months old, needed a little more comfort and attention than usual.  Also, she had a diaper rash that I aired out while Scott and the kids set up the tents.  Right away, the kids got to playing in the trees that were plentiful in the park.  I still don’t know what kind of trees they were, but they are excellent climbing trees.  They were many-branched, and pretty low to the ground.  Derek perched at the top of one right over our camp and had a good lookout post with his binoculars.  They all climbed the trees except Rachel and Lindsey.  There was a very good, large playground in the center of the park, two bathrooms—one with warm water and showers–, and a few nature trails.  The first morning we were there we saw a group of 5 deer come right by our campsite!

Our dinners were fun.  We roasted hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough the first night, the second night Scott baked potatoes in the fire to perfection and we put butter, sour cream, cheese and sautéed onions over the top, and the third night we had canned beef stew and rolls.  Our breakfasts were pancakes & eggs, French toast & sausage, and oatmeal & hot chocolate.  It sure is fun to do things in a different, adventurous way.  It’s fun to be resourceful when you don’t have your usual tools and conveniences from home, although I highly recommend buying a “Camp-Pal” that holds your garbage bag, paper towels, sanitizer, and salt & pepper all conveniently located wherever you choose to clamp it on your table.

Scott still amazes me on our campouts.  He is the epitome of patience doing what’s necessary day or-gratefully-night like blowing up our sagging air mattress time and time again, helping Melissa to the bathroom, or investigating strange noises in the camp, Melissa being the source of most of them.  He doesn’t complain the next day over lost sleep, and we even get a good laugh over the nightly escapades.  I helped Melissa change from wetted pants to clean ones in the middle of the second night.  I was able to arrange her sleeping back so as to not feel any wetness, so she went right back to sleep.  The next morning I took her to the bathroom.  She was talking to me through the stall, but stopped mid-sentence.  She exclaimed, “What the…Some magic must have happened in the night because I did not wear these pants to bed!”  I told her what happened and she-at first-was not willing to believe me.

Staying quiet was out of the question so various camping “neighbors” got a glimpse of our family-life. Most of what they saw was positive: singing, working together, etc.  I don’t know what they thought in the middle of the night, though, when Melissa started yelling at Christine for taking her spot.  They yelled at each other for at least a few minutes!  It helped my nerves to know that we set up camp first, and the others, if they had been on their toes, could have avoided a camp that looked to be holding a large family.  I mean, we had two tents, a suburban, and Lindsey’s booster chair always in plain sight!  One set of neighbors actually picked up their tent and moved it to another spot and then later took all their stuff.  We had a few good chats with them, though, and there were no hard feelings.  He commented that “at least it sounded like we were having fun.”

I love the way you can spend your time on camp-outs.  Staying 3 nights is ideal, I think.  Our down-time on a stay of any fewer nights does not justify the work a campout requires. Any more feels too long for me.  We talk a lot about past, present, and future.  We walk.  We get to appreciate nature a lot.  We feel the wonder and adventure that is inherent in life.  We read aloud to each other.  Being on such Hi-adventure also lends itself to kids putting-off using the bathroom.  It is amusing to note that each person in the family actually has a very unique stance they take when they are trying to “hold it.”  We picked these magestic looking frauns-on-a-stick and tried to use them in various ways. You have the time to stop and talk about lessons in life; about work, resilience, flexibility.  And “life’s lessons” are somehow taught perfectly when you have the experience of losing your golden marshmallow to the unforgiving fire and you then have to start over again.  So does the experience of losing your precious and only pack of Double-Stuff Oreos to a thieving (and very fat) raccoon.

We visited the old California mission: Carmel by the Sea.  Father Junipero Serra, the priest over all the missions up Camino Real, was buried there.  We toured each structure, saw paintings, sculptures, replicas of the priest’s “cells,” courtyards, the cemetery, and the chapel.  Derek’s 4th grade class focused on the missions this year, and he was especially attentive during the tour.  Rachel was especially inattentive.

Both Thursday and Friday we were able to visit the beach.  There were a lot of interesting things to see in the pools and rock off of the Monterey coast.  The Carmel coast has white, warm sand that we picnicked and napped on.  The kids kicked around at the water’s edge and got quite wet.  Lindsey napped during almost the whole visit to the beach.  One day we’ll go back and rent a Bay Bike, which is actually two bikes joined together by two benches, one at the back and one at the front.  Our whole family could fit on one of those.  It has a lovely umbrella, and the path you take has a view that is unbeatable.

It was funny.  We ran out of propane, using it the first two nights for heating our tent.  So on the last day we went to buy some more.  Scott and I couldn’t agree on which store to go to.  We ended up paying for convenience: $5.50 for a new pack of pristine sea-side Double Stuff Oreos and $5.80 for a single can (good grade plastic with a cool logo, mind you) of propane.  Ay Caramba!

Well we packed up on Saturday morning in about an hour (that was how long it took for our family moving crew to load ALL of our belongings onto a moving truck back in 2004).  We left that wonderful camping feeling and headed for home.  To “round” things off we ended the whole affair with a buffet lunch at Golden Corral where most of us stuffed ourselves silly with city food, no pun intended at first.  Maybe it was just feeling too full, or maybe it was the stinky city bathrooms (this is a different stink from parks and recreation bathrooms), but I think we came out of that restaurant feeling a letdown from the sharp contrast we felt.  (Our) nature’s tendency to excess clashed with Nature’s Wonderful Gifts of peace, wonder, work, and enjoyment.