Thursday, June 04, 2009


This weekend a bunch of LK's high school friends (who all seem to live within a 1 mile radius of their former high school - God this town is weird) organized a mass camping trip. I of course declined their generous offer of a night under canvas in a rattlesnake infested camp ground with a 3 year old and an infant - because I am not insane.

Lucy and I deigned to visit for an hour or two and had a wonderful time watching the kids swimming in the river fishing for crawdads, while the adults sipped a margarita.

Now that, is camping.

I left just as the reality of nothing but hotdogs for dinner was really starting to hit, and I headed back to civilization almost giddy with the idea of an evening alone with the remote control. How hard up do you have to be to consider an night with an infant a vacation?

Meanwhile LK and Anna braved a night in a borrowed tent with a blow-up mattress missing its plug.

That Garnet Hill duvet just screams 'roughing it in the wild' doesn't it?

Santa Barbara is a peculiar bubble. You only have to drive 30 miles north to be in complete wilderness. Full on camping territory, including a Ranger Station which always makes me think of pic-a-nic baskets. LK's friends more or less had the campsite to themselves, except for a couple of well-meaning I'm sure, 7th Day Adventists who distributed literature on the first night no doubt alarmed at the sheer quantity of tequila being unpacked from the assembled Winnebagos.

Poor old LK did not get to experience the campfire drunkenness. Apparently Anna, exhausted by an afternoon of 'swimming' in a knee-deep California 'river' pitched an exhausted tantrum, screamed for Mumma and demanded they both bed down for the night at 9pm. I feel a tad sorry for him, but not too much considering I know full well that if I had stayed the night, I would have been tent-bound by 8:30pm with two children while LK whooped it up with his cronies. Plus Lucy is not sleeping through the night, and I didn't fancy trying to boob her in the pitch black night while venomous things slithered and crawled around us.

I am not an experienced camper. As a child, the one and only time I spent a night in a tent was in the Guides, resulting in an anxiety attack and my thoroughly cross Mum having to come and collect me from a muddy field outside Ripon.

Camping in England means everything suffused in drizzle, firewood too soggy to light and cows tripping over your tent ropes at 5am. Camping in California is the polar opposite. It means punishing heat and dust, poisonous creatures, large wild animals with pointy teeth, grass too dessicated and prickly to sit on and campfires in designated fire pits only. Aren't I making it sound fun? I think it's a vacation if you're a child and you don't have to worry where the next hotdog is coming from, whether you remembered to pack the toilet roll, and you don't care that you've swum in, slept in and lived in the same pair of knickers for the last 48 hours. To me it seems like an awful lot of packing, cooking and washing.

Camping seems to be ingrained in the American psyche much more so than in England. Probably because there is genuine 'wild' here and not just that bit by the river off the A64 near Knaresborough. As far as I can tell, people take a lot of pleasure in moving the entire contents of their house in a massive camper van to somewhere with a nice view and then sitting in a deck chair by that vehicle for the weekend. British people will happily hike 15 to 20 miles in one day but have a desperate need to return to their couch for a cup of tea by nightfall. We are strange races.

It was beautiful to be able to drive across the mountains and see a side of California far removed from the manicured environs of Santa Barbara. It was wonderful to see all the kids splashing it up with their friends. Mrs S. as usual had the forethought to bring inflatables, glow-in-the-dark bracelets and alcohol. The real camping essentials. Our kettle corn was a pale rejoinder.

I don't think the idea of doing it next year with an 18 month old is any more appealing somehow, but I know I would enjoy waking up to this view through the top of my tent:


Kristin said...

You are right...camping is much more fun for kids. My parents took us camping 3 or 4 times a summer every year (they had no money, so it was our vacation), and we loved it. I have so many happy memories of those trips. However, I have very little inclination to take our son camping. It just seems like a LOT of work. Maybe when he is older.

Woolfairy said...

We camped all the time when we were kids, but not in this part of the country. And the experience was notable different. When we were little my parents had a pull trailer and once we were older (think 11 or 12) the trailer was destroyed in a tornado (we weren't in it. Or even camping!) And we tent camped after that.

We all loved camping, except perhaps my mother, but it was different then here. Not so hot, not so terrifyingly dry, and I don't remember actually staying in pure wilderness. Mostly KOAs. With swimming pools and activity directors.

Wow. Thinking about that and our flimsy nylon tent (versus our heavy canvas one from back then) and the extension cord leading from the electrical hookups to our light inn the tent where we played board games, it bears little resemblance to the dusty, "no campfires", needle grass, biting flies, rattlesnake-infested, where-the-hell-do-I-put-the-tent-so-that-it-is-in-the-shade-of-the-one-puny-scrub-oak-at-2-4pm-so-we-all-don't-fry camping we've done here...

Oh, and I don't know about your littles, but I never woke up to that view. DH did, but my kids are up at the crack of dawn wanting me to cook breakfast while the rest of the campground sleeps and I try to keep them relatively quiet until after 7am. LOL (and BTW, I really love to camp. Can't you tell?)

Hyphen Mama said...

LOL! I agree. Camping is wonderful when you're a kid and you aren't the sole individual who's responsible for packing EVERYTHING THAT EVERYBODY ELSE WILL NEED. And the nightmare when you realize you've forgotten something. Like enough apple juice to keep a preschooler happy for 2 days.

I hate camping. HATE IT. I'm allergic to everything, so I cough and sneeze all night.

Unfortunately, my husband loves to camp. UGH.

Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

I went camping for the first time 2 years ago with an 18 month and a 3 year old. They had a blast ... so much more freedom than at home. I just need to find a cheap black out blind that covers a five pod tent and then I'll be happy!

Ali said...

Yes. I agree. Kids always love it. I long for the comforts of home. I think a night with only the baby to worry about sounds like a great break!

Antonia said...

We went to Norfolk a few weeks ago - not camping, just getting out of London - and on the Sunday we went to the seaside. It was a glorious day, the best weather you ever get in England, and we were near Hunstanton, where the beach is huge and wide and golden and goes on for ever.

In the car park was a family of three/four people who had parked their car, got out the folding chairs, plokned them next to the car and then sat in them to read. In the middle of the busy, crowded car park THE BEACH IS RIGHT THERE WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

The photo of the open tent roof at the end of your post quite honestly blew my mind. I can't imagine ... not getting rained on while camping. Seriously, I can't get my head around that at all.

Best wishes from England, where it was overcast and grey and pissed it down today. Soak up some sun for me.