Nearly four years ago, The Boyfriend convinced me to try tent camping. I never posted how it went. Other than the fact that we forgot our extension cord to blow up our air mattress, I ended up loving it and wanted to do it again. The next few summers proved to be too busy with important events, though, such as JM’s wedding in 2014, my granddaughter’s birth in 2015, and our move to a new house in 2016!
I keep eyeing campers. Aside from The Boyfriend’s reluctance, I can’t justify a camper until I’m camping on a regular basis. So, I made a goal to schedule a minimum of three trips this summer. So far, I have two on the books and I’m trying to determine when and where our third one should be.
Trip #1 was this past week. We were booked at a nearby state park from Tuesday through Friday in a site that is either the same or very close to where we stayed in 2013. It has a view that’s hard to beat.
This is what we saw when we arrived at camp. I had been waiting and prepping for this trip so long and I was thrilled to be there. I had written down things to remember from the last trip and had assembled a chuck box with our cooking supplies, organized a bin with our of tent/shelter related stuff and a third bin with everything needed for cooking, be it propane, charcoal or wood fire. The Boyfriend and I had pored over recipes for camp food and he painstakingly prepped all the produce and meat ahead of time, so that our “at camp” prep was held to a minimum. We were stoked.
We immediately set up our tent and shade canopy. And that’s when it hit me: we had remembered the extension cord this time. But we had forgotten the air mattress.
There’s a reason we chose a nearby state park for this trip. I refuse to venture further away until we can get this system nailed down, and obviously, we aren’t there yet. The Boyfriend headed back to the house to retrieve the air mattress while I busied myself with setting up other things around camp. It was a challenge, though, because it was quite
breezy windy. And darker clouds were rolling in. Just as I texted him to hurry up because it was starting to look scary, he pulled in with our air mattress. We hurriedly set that up and started making dinner: Italian sausage with red potatoes and green beans and apple crisp for dessert. (I’m seriously hungry right now, just thinking about it–it was delish!)
The bathrooms were further away than we remembered. Or maybe it’s just that we’re almost four years older than we were and I’m battling anemia this time around. Regardless, when we passed by one of the few other tent campsites, we noticed they had two canopies like ours and they were on their lowest setting. The father of the family staying there greeted us and I asked him if lowering those canopies helped shelter from the wind. He nodded soberly and said, “Yes.”
So when we returned to camp, we lowered ours. And then it started to rain. And rain. And rain. Eventually, I ended up in my car, charging my phone so I could check radar and The Boyfriend ended up in his truck listening to music and occasionally calling me to see what radar was saying. Eventually, the rain stopped and we opted to head up to the shower house to take some of the chill off before we went to bed. We both slept soundly and were wide awake by 7 a.m. when we were greeted with this breakfast view:
JM brought my granddaughter (code name: Pumpkin) out for a few hours and just after they arrived, The Boyfriend’s parents also showed up. They had been planning to stay overnight, but his dad ended up having to work that night, so it was just his mom.
We had fun with Pumpkin. She will be two soon, so she’s curious about all kinds of things. She helped me wash the dishes after breakfast, then helped me empty the dishpan into the grey water disposal. She blew lots and lots of bubbles and chased a ball around for quite some time. And then we went on a fruitless search for ducks, before having a bit of lunch. Pumpkin was about done by then, so JM took her home for naptime.
The rest of the day was spent just relaxing. I’ve been having a stressful time of it lately, healthwise, and had really been looking to the chance to decompress. It was a fantastic day, except for one thing: ticks. You must understand…I have, for the better part of my life, been an indoor girl. Sure, I spent most summers on a boat, but the worst things we had to deal with there were crunchy spiders and mayflies. Ticks scare the crap out of me. JL was bitten by a deer tick while camping in NJ and contracted Lyme. It still makes me worry, even though he’s mostly had a complete recovery. Other than that, the only other time I’ve seen a tick was when JM was probably not three and had a dog tick on him. And during this camping trip, I lost count at six in a 24 hour period, including one on my shirt. We were able to determine that they were dog ticks, so much less of a concern than deer ticks. But still. Yuck!
After a day of sun and hanging with Pumpkin, I turned in early. But not before seeing this gorgeous sunset on the official first day of summer.
The weather had been perfect all day Wednesday, but the forecast was calling for heat and humidity for Thursday. It didn’t start off that way at all. It started off cloudy and cool, but it warmed up quickly. Rather than sit around and look for ticks all afternoon, we decided to leave camp and drive up to the beach. The last time we were here, The Boyfriend and I had borrowed bikes. Our intention was to rent them this time, but with the humidity and my aforementioned anemia, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to ride for very long. I’m not kidding when I say that walking to the bathrooms was sometimes a chore.
When we pulled into our parking spot, we noticed a younger guy getting out of the car next to us, with New York plates. After we walked along the beach for a bit, we sat under a shelter, enjoying the breeze, when he finished his sightseeing and headed back to his car. I asked him if he was from New York, and he said, “No, I’m actually from Spokane, Washington. I flew in for a business meeting and that’s my rental.” He had some very nice things to say about our Great Lake. He said, “I didn’t realize how big it is. It’s like the ocean.” I told him he should see some of the other ones.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my lake, but it’s just one of an impressive set that everyone should see in their lifetime. I’ve been to all of them as a child, and I want to revisit as an adult (although I can cross Lake Ontario off my list, as I was just there about 10 years ago).
The western end of Lake Erie has had some problems in the past few years, but it’s still, literally, a Great Lake. And I never feel my dad’s presence more than when I’m near or on that body of water.
We visited another favorite spot near the water and then I was about done, so we headed back to camp. The Boyfriend’s dad headed home shortly thereafter, having brought charcoal and eating breakfast with us after he’d gotten off work that morning. We relaxed under the shade of the canopy that I was so proud of myself for buying prior to this trip. And then I picked up my phone for some reason, and discovered we had a severe thunderstorm warning. I said it out loud and The Boyfriend’s mom pointed behind me and said, “Look!”
No sooner did I take this photo than the wind started picking up. We immediately dropped the canopy down to it’s lowest setting and started getting stuff put away before the rain hit. That was our mistake, because turns out there were 73 mile per hour gusts with this storm. I started chasing after unsecured items started blowing across the park (remember: anemia) and didn’t even see the wind destroy our canopy. I turned back after retrieving what I could to see The Boyfriend and his mom trying to get the awning completely off and put somewhere safe.
But that damage had already been done. It started to rain, so I got in my car with The Boyfriend’s Mom. He was still securing things and I was desperately trying to catch my breath. Finally, he got in his truck and we waited out the torrential rain. I watched the wind desperately try to take our tent, but it wouldn’t give. Miraculously, The Boyfriend’s mom’s tent, which wasn’t staked, didn’t even waver. It was safely sheltered by several pine trees.
When it was all over, our tent had stayed dry as a bone, but her’s was not so lucky. She had water on all edges and a leak in the top that dripped in the middle of her bedding. We had no dry place to sit because our chairs were still out, our picnic table was a soggy mess and we had no canopy.
So, our only option was to have the three of us hang out in our tent for the rest of the evening and overnight, or pack up and go home. Given that it was only 6:30 and our tent was barely big enough for the two of us, we chose option B.
It ended up being the better choice, since more rain fell that evening and Friday morning brought more torrential downpours that lasted for several hours. There’s no way we’d have been able to make breakfast in the morning, let alone find a dry slot of time to pack up.
The only weird thing that happened was that we left the canopy frame behind, and let the host campers know that we’d be back to get it either later that evening or before checkout the following morning. But when we showed up at 12:30 the next day, it was gone. We checked with the camp office and they assumed that we had come back already.
I was honestly relieved. It was bad enough that we were going to have to break it down, but then we’d have to figure out what to do with it. We assume one of the other campers retrieved it and broke it down for scrap. I tip my hat to them.
Since yesterday was still so humid, we didn’t get a chance to air everything out until today. You might think that this experience would sour me on camping. It hasn’t. I’m using it as a learning experience. Next time there’s a storm warning, don’t just lower your canopy. Take it down. And don’t feel ridiculous because you have so many tarps in your storage bins. Take that number and double it for next time.
Next time, by the way, is next month. Different park, different view, probably the same damn ticks. But I’m not letting them chase me inside. At least not until I can justify buying that camper!