Late last week, we (my wife and I) came to the decision it was time to get out of the house for a while. Many of you know how busy I have been with my various projects and how much time and energy I have devoted to them. Liz has also been pretty busy with her life and side projects and I guess decided it was time to get out of town. So last Wednesday, I receive a message saying ‘Let’s go camping this weekend!’
After a discussion on finances and possible locations to camp, we picked one of our favorite places to camp — Lake Sylvia. For those who are new here, Lake Sylvia is where we had our ‘after party’ after we got married a little over a year ago. Friday morning rolls around and I spend the morning digging through all our camping stuff — much of which hasn’t been touched since our honeymoon a year ago — and getting it all organized, washed, and re-packed.
As with many of our previous trips, we left about an hour later than we wanted to. Most of the time, this doesn’t mean much, but when camping at a first come first served location, the sooner you arrive, the better campsite you will get. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that when we finally did arrive, all the good campsites were taken by people who had just arrived. Needless to say, grumpy cat couldn’t have matched my expression at seeing my coveted site 7 taken.
Liz and I prefer a campsite that is away from other people. Not that we are anti-social, far from it, but we don’t want to hear other people’s conversations, music, or worse, screaming kids. Unfortunately, all the good, semi-private spots were taken. It was looking like the only spots open were the ones we occupied at our after-party, which was in the middle of the damned park. We had to find something a little more secluded. For good measure, we drove around the park a few more times to make sure nobody was tearing down rather than setting up. Of course not.
Finding a spot that was even somewhat secluded was impossible, so we chose the next best thing — a spot at the end of the road. At least if we did get neighbors, they would only be on one side of us. The problem with this site, of course, is that it was directly across from the camp hosts — the retired folk who take their camper to a campground for a season and volunteer to watch over it. So much for privacy.
After setting up camp, we head into the nearest town to stock up on supplies. Since this was to be a trip on a budget, we hit up the Dollar General store for supplies (and quicker service than the local Wal Mart) before heading back to camp for a (hopefully) relaxing evening.
Before I proceed, I need to mention that this is Chloe’s first campout and we have no idea what to expect from her. Some days, she is calm and docile, others she is a terror on two legs, so knowing exactly how she would react to having unfettered freedom of movement was impossible. So far she had been a trooper — nice and calm on the way out to camp, helpful while setting up camp (minus a small cingly episode when she fell) and even at the Dollar General she was generally good, so things were looking hopeful.
Arriving back at camp after our brief shopping trip, I quickly start dinner — well, at least I started to until I realized that I had forgotten to pack condiments and cheese and anything else that may be eaten as a side dish to grilled burgers. I sure as hell wasn’t getting back in the car and driving back to town, so we all ate hamburger steak — improvisation for the win.
After dinner we started the fire and tried to get Chloe settled in. She wasn’t having it. It wasn’t that she was active and getting into things, but she just couldn’t go to sleep with all the new sights and sounds around here. And because I didn’t put the rain fly on the tent, she could actually see stars — and look at the stars she did while asking repeatedly what each one was. Liz finally went into the tent to lay down with her to try to get her to sleep, to no avail. Chloe wouldn’t find sleep that night until Hunter came in layed down with her and their mom — at least that’s what Hunter told me later.
With Chloe down and Hunter starting to crash himself, camp was quiet and relaxing for the rest of the evening. The camp hosts across from us were quiet, if not up with their lights shining, and we had no neighbors on either side of us, so it was shaping up to be a great weekend — and then we realized we had picked probably one of the worst sites in the entire park.
The reason it was the worst campsite in the entire park is not because of where it is, but what it contains. There were more species of bloodsucking insects
flying swarming around and biting eating me up and down my arms and legs. No matter how much citronella we used, no matter how much DEET we used, now matter how much garlic we ate — it didn’t matter. Hunter and I got it the worst, while Liz and Chloe barely got bitten at all.
Close friends and family already know what time I generally wake up in the morning — an early 5:30-6am, so I wasn’t surprised to find myself waking up around that time, not because of my internal clock, but because of Chloe. As the sun rose above the horizon and the night was replaced with the twilight colors, her little eyes decided to open up and stay open. No big deal except that it was bloody cold. Summer in Arkansas, even this early in the season, is normally pretty warm even in the mornings, but not today. It was 16 degrees outside (that’s about 61 degrees for all of you who could care less about using an international standard) with a slight breeze.
Jumping out of bed to find a pair of pants and something warmer than a t-shirt, I find Liz already up re-starting the fire from last night. Phew, one less thing to worry about. Getting Chloe warmed up was top priority as she doesn’t have the body fat her parents do, so we bundled her up and got her as close as safely possible to the fire where we all sat for the next hour and a half while the sun took its sweet time getting to the business of warming our planet, and by extension, us.
Hunter finally woke up and I started breakfast — pancakes and, well, pancakes — again, my lack of food supply packing bit me in the butt. Oh well. We eat breakfast and decide to take the kidlets to the park playground so they could burn some energy. Needless to say, for the next 2 hours or so, they had a blast while us parents got some relaxation time and some great photos.
After a solid 2 hours of play, we take the kids back to camp in the hopes of getting Chloe to nap — which she does for about 30 minutes or so which was fine because we had to go back to the Dollar General to get ice and a few other supplies and foodstuffs. So we head back to town and notice Chloe is burning up. It wasn’t that hot outside, maybe 30 degrees or so (around 90F), but she was red hot. She also had a raspy cough that had quickly developed. It wasn’t a bad cough or anything, but raspy…and if she was still, it sounded like she was snoring.
My guess was that she inhaled some campfire smoke and it made her sick. In any event, the kid was running a mild fever by the time we got back to camp and settled in for the evening. We kept her hydrated and took her to the bath house for a cool shower to help out, which it did, and tried to get her to sleep. Again, due to the sounds and sights around camp, she had a hard time passing out, but eventually she did. Luckily, I had my fan with me and we turned it on her to make sure she was as cool as possible while she slept.
The rest of the evening went by without much incident — mainly just sitting around the campfire trying not to get eaten alive by the various insects that were present in the camp. Unfortunately for me, I had already become a buffet for the bloodsuckers the previous night so they were back in droves. Take a look at just ONE of my ankles.
Now imagine that all over my legs and arms. It is horrible.
One thing I forgot to mention about Saturday is that we had some new neighbors pull in while we were in town. These folks weren’t so bad — they were gone a lot of the time biking and fishing, but when they were there they had country music playing constantly. bleh. Later that evening, the guy came over to my camp to introduce himself and a business opportunity emerged. I won’t go into those details, but let’s just say I hope it pans out.
Again waking up at the ass crack of dawn because my daughter rises with the rising sun, I check to see how she is feeling and lo and behold, she seems to be back to normal. Woohoo! I get out of the tent and take care of a few things around camp and cook a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs and toast, toasted by Hunter.
I don’t think Chloe was 100% at this point because she barely ate, but her wheeze was gone and she was active again, so things were looking better. Chloe was being clingy to Liz, which was annoying as we were trying to get camp broken down, but they both took an early nap which allowed me to take some time to play with Hunter.
A few hours later, camp was broken down and the cars were packed. Yes, we have to take two cars to some campouts due to needed supplies. We need bigger cars. Anyway, as we were getting ready to leave, Chloe breaks down and informs us she doesn’t want to leave. It looks like, despite her sickness, she had a great time and wants to camp more in the future, which to us is great.
All in all, the weekend was good. Aside from my entire boding being on fire as it neutralizes the venom of hundreds of minute vampire insects and a sickly child for a half a day, all went well. I just wish we had gotten there earlier and gotten the site we really wanted, but hey, everybody had fun and we got a much needed weekend away from home.