The thing about camping is that it’s supposed to be all about getting back to nature and bonding as a family—at least, in the Norman Rockwell-esque picture in my head, that’s what it’s supposed to be—but the reality is that there are only certain limits to which I’m willing to go when it comes to “roughing it.” For example: I am old, and I do not enjoy sleeping on the ground. Also, if it takes longer to set up camp than it took to drive there, I’m out. So this is why we have our little camping trailer, complete with beds (not as comfy as the beds at home, but a far cry from sleeping on the ground) and a kitchen and heat and AC.
It’s also why I let the kids take their Nintendo DSs on these trips, even though those are strictly “traveling toys” and never get played in the house. The IDEA of sitting around camp on a beautiful day, bonding as a family over idle chit-chat is a nice one. The REALITY is that perpetual “I’m bored” and “MOM! MOM! MOM! MOM!” makes me want to tell nature to shove it, so we allow electronics.
Maybe not exactly the “getting back to nature” experience we should be aiming for, but for the most part, I’ll take it.
This trip, though, was perhaps a little more Halloween-themed than we’d planned.
On Friday we pulled into our camp site and before we could even turn off the truck, a giant hawk swooped down about fifteen feet away, GRABBED A SQUIRREL, and took off. Said hawk then settled down on a tree branch within easy viewing distance to enjoy his, uh, meal. On the one hand, EWWWWWWW. On the other, Hey, that’s kind of cool, particularly as there’s no love lost between me and squirrels.
The problem is that we then had to spend the remainder of the weekend convincing Monkey that the hawk wasn’t going to come back to eat Licorice.
[Me: Honey, Licorice is ten times the size of that squirrel. I really don’t think a hawk could pick her up if it tried.
Him: But she probably looks about the same length from above! And some hawks are really big! And Licorice is a very small dog!
Me: Hawks are afraid of people. We’ll be right here with Licorice all the time. I promise she is not going to be eaten by a hawk.
Him: Nature is deadly.
Me: Indeed. But I really think the dog is safe, sweetie.]
For her part, Licorice was unconcerned. In fact, the very first time I took her on a little walk around the campground, she decided that she LOVES hawks. Do you know why? YOU WILL NEVER GUESS! I will just tell you, because it’s SO VERY AWESOME. Did you know that hawks have pretty refined palates? They do! It turns out that when they eat squirrels, they are far too posh to bother with the entrails. They just drop them on the ground.
For dogs to find.
And so that an owner who isn’t paying a whole lot of attention can suddenly realize her dog has something in her mouth and after yelling DROP IT! and coming in closer to investigate, discovers an entire Squirrel Intestine Complete With Butt Fur On One End. YAY NATURE!
I did not puke on the dog. But I seriously considered it.
Because THAT was not ENOUGH fun, on Saturday—as promised to our little Adrenaline Junkie—we headed over to Stone Mountain Park to try their new ropes course. [No, I don’t have any pictures, because you have to put everything into a locker before they let you on it, and none of us were smart enough to realize that with Otto and Chickadee lasting much longer than me and Monkey, maybe I should’ve had the key (and access to the camera) instead of Otto. Whoops! I found some pics on Flickr here if you want to know what it looks like.]
Now. The ropes course has 3 levels, 12 feet, 24 feet, and 36 feet. They strap you into a harness and attach a safety line to a track on the beams above you, and there’s nothing dangerous about it; if you lose your footing, you’ll simply catch on the safety rope within a foot of where you already are. No biggie, right?
I am afraid of heights. So is Monkey. (So is Otto, actually, but he does a much better job of overcoming it than we do.)
The line for this attraction is about an hour long. So we had pleeeeenty of time while we waited to discuss the game plan. Chickadee wanted to hit the top level, of course. Then we realized that the very top level course was half the length of the others, and due to the length of the line we convinced her to do the intermediate level to get more climbing time. She reluctantly agreed, and batted her eyelashes at Otto until he agreed to go with her. Monkey and I were going to hit the beginner level. We watched folks as we waited in line. That beginning level, 12 feet up? It was hardly high at all! Piece of cake! We were going to have a great time and not be scared at all.
I am pleased to report that this carefree attitude worked for at least one of us. Monkey took about three steps in and declared that this was “not scary at all!” and he was “having so much fun!”
Me, I took one step off the first platform onto the first plank and BAM, it was like someone dumped a bucket of adrenaline into my blood. My legs shook like crazy (“Mom! You’re making it move, stop it!”) and I felt lightheaded. Monkey was ahead of me and couldn’t see me hesitate (thank goodness), but I knew I had to just get on with it, so I did. But I spent the ENTIRE COURSE wanting to vomit. What had looked “not high at all” from the ground suddenly seemed plenty high to fall to my death, once up there. (Yeah, I’m a wuss. I know.)
Somehow we made it across and the park person asked us if we wanted to “go on.” I realized you didn’t need to wait in line to go again; they would just let you keep going. I quickly said “NO THANKS” and shuffled Monkey off to be unhooked, and of course that got me ten seconds of elation from him about having done it, and TWO HOURS of grief over not being willing to go again. (Oh, and Otto and Chickie went ahead and did the advanced level when they were done with intermediate, so that was all complete with BUT SHE GOT TO and IT’S NOT FAIR and maybe even him saying something really awful to a random child while I tried to distract him on something else. SUPER FUN. No good deed goes unpunished, that’s our motto here at Casa Mir. Finally I convinced him I’d really been too scared to continue, a fact he gleefully passed along to his father at his first possible opportunity. I noticed he didn’t mention his monster hissy fit, though. Hmmm.)
So there was that.
But it all came together on Saturday night, when we roasted marshmallows over a roaring fire, chatted in the dark, and played the story game (each person says one word, building a story). THAT was what we’d gone into the woods to do. It was idyllic! Family! Fire! S’mores! Togetherness! Word games! What could be wrong with that? Nothing, that’s what.
Eventually we shooed the kids off to bed, and then Otto and I sat out by the dying fire, talking and sipping our drinks, the dog dozing in my lap. It was perfection.
Right up until the kids at the next campsite realized they could honk their RV’s horn. Have you ever heard an RV honk? It’s an air horn, like a mack truck. One minute we were sitting there, talking and laughing, enjoying the night… and the next minute HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK!!!!
All three of us jumped, though the dog’s disturbance was the most comical. Poor puppy. Perhaps most amazing, the kids (asleep in the trailer) didn’t wake up. But that was pretty much the end of our idyllic evening, because it’s hard to recapture that loving togetherness when you’ve just had five years cut off your life. We put out the fire and went to bed.
I’ve gotta tell you; Halloween was something of a letdown, after all of that.