Nature is terrifying

By Mir
November 1, 2010

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.


  1. Mamadragon

    My extreme athlete children must know the location of the nearest ropes course, now. Their height-phobic mama just wants to know if she HAS to watch or can she just go hide in a corner somewhere while her children run back and forth across the ropes a few times?

  2. M

    We did Stone Mountain on our last trip to see hubby’s family. I wasn’t prepared for a day of hiking and wore flip flops. We took the tram thing to the top and then walked down Stone Mountain – I did it in flip flops, hubby did it with our then 9 month-old daughter in a Baby Bjorn, both of us trying to keep up with the leaping 9yr old boy!

    I sat with the baby while the boys waited in line for almost 2 hours for the rope course and then chased them around taking pictures with the baby strapped to me. They did all three levels and had a blast. (Message me if you want a link to the pics on facebook)

    Before our visit, this Yankee had no idea Stone Mountain existed!

  3. Lori N

    On our last family vacation we ended up at a ski resort in Vermont that had a zip line — from the top of the mountain to the bottom. Kid #1 was big enough to do it (there was a minimum weight requirement of 80 lbs) and so I ponied up the money for the both of us to do it. I don’t like heights. We had to climb 30 feet of open girder stairway to the platform where we had an amazing view into the valley — I know this because looking at the horizon was the only way I could keep from falling to my knees in terror. Then they strapped us into our “seats” — I busied my mind with watching my daughter get strapped in, visually checking to make sure she was going to survive this experience so she could tell her father why her mother died from fright on a simple ride. After the gate opened and we were thrust out into the beyond & sent speeding on our way down the mountain, I was fine. I even did it a second time. (I still say the worst part was the stairway up to the platform — heights suck.)

  4. liz

    You are a better mother than me, I would NEVER do even the first one. I get woozy on long escalators.

  5. Jennifer

    I checked out the pictures.

    Why on earth would someone want to do that?! They’d have to be certifiable.

    From your faithful reader,


  6. Nelson's Mama

    I can’t get beyond the air horn to comment about anything else…

  7. Tracy B

    I was laughing so hard after viewing Flickr and then I got the air horn and just about fell out of my chair. Thanks for the laugh on this Monday of Mondays. Oh and the hawk and Licorice..we have owls and the same thing happened with a squirrel (or rat or something, I’m not sure what it swooped down and got) and I was just like Monkey. It’s like when you are in an airplane, everything on ground looks tiny. I’m thinking the same thing when an owl looks down at my puppies. So, I don’t let my puppies outside by themselves at night anymore. It could happen, you know.

  8. Jenn

    You and I seem to have some sort of weird camping connection. Every time you guys take your RV out to go camping, so do we. We spent a lovely weekend in the woods too – except for that part where we had to convince my son that peeing on the fire wasn’t really as fun as it sounded.

  9. annette

    We don’t have a small dog specifically because of the hawks:) Next time, come camp in my backyard. No tempting ropoes courses. No fog horns. Modern amenities just feet away. We have a bonfire pit out of view of the house, too:)

  10. bob

    yanno. I was eating lunch when I started reading this post. I had to take a short break.

    one of those “This post contains materials of a graphic nature…….” warnings would have been useful.

    just sayin.

    Did you go to the laser light show? I understand there’s a water taxi between the campground and the show site. Or, at least, that’s what I remember from years ago.

  11. Heather

    Okay squirrel entrails would definitely not be fun. Unless you were EmoDog, I suppose!

  12. Katie in MA

    Perhaps you should have shown Licorice and the squirrel guts to Monkey to calm him down. “See? Our dog eats what hawks are scared to touch! She’d have the hawk crying for his mama!”

  13. My Kids Mom

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….. We did that &%$#ing course! We spent two (2) %#$%ing hours in line (I NEVER wait in lines like that) and spent the whole time discussing which level we’d do. I talked the then 4 and 7 year olds into doing the lowest course so we could come back to the park other times and each time do one harder. Oh, Thank the Heavens.

    I freaked out, but I did the “hide it from the kids” mature crap. My husband was also struggling and not able to help 7 yo Pook except for verbally. They got a bit ahead of me and 4yo Bug so weren’t able to help us out much when the very stubborn and very vocal Bug REFUSED TO GO ON.

    The people working there said they couldn’t get him down at the point we were at, and they tried to bribe him with stickers! I upped the ante to an ice cream and he still refused to budge forward. The line behind us was building, so I DID THE REST OF THE #@!$ING COURSE WITH A HEAVY CHILD ON MY BACK.
    (This is the most I’ve “cursed” online in any comment before. Whoa, was that a day.)

  14. kathy

    Am I the only one really bothered by the absolute skank ad on the right sidebar?

  15. Little Bird

    Oh sweetie, you haven’t seen a ropes course until you’ve seen the one I had to do. For school. It started lowish, and ended up 80 feet up at the top of a zip line. And you had to hook yourself in, at every station. I still have nightmares.

  16. jessica

    We went to Vancouver on our last vacation, and my husband (the kind of guy who stands right on the edge of cliffs and waterfalls to look over, while I’m fifteen feet away yelling, “MOVE BACK! You’re gonna fall! You’ll lose your balance! Move BACK! MOVE BACK!”) convinced me to go on this thing:

    Okay, so when you’re swaying back and forth and then people start walking and the you start swinging to and fro along with the swaying AND you’re completely afraid of heights (not jumping off even a chair kind of afraid), well, you kind of freak out that you’re only halfway across. And then you freak out even more that there is only one way back — the way you came. Egads. I made it both ways. There are absolutely no pictures of this, as I didn’t stop going either way, and I didn’t let go of the railing or let my husband let go of me.

    I can say I did it, and that’s enough for me. My husband went back out on the bridge a couple times to “look around” and take pictures. I took a picture of him on the bridge while I was on nice, solid, non-moving ground. I love solid, non-moving ground. It’s great.

  17. karen

    I’m still dry heaving from that lovely entrails with butt fur description. Thanks for the visual!.. (gack)

  18. elz

    Squirrel entrails? You are not making camping seem that enticing.

  19. Little Bird

    Jessica @ 16? You win.

  20. Brigitte

    I’m imagining the heart-attack and ensuing mortification of the parents of the air-horn kids! At least *I* would be mortified, after restarting my heart. ;-)

  21. KMayer

    The airhorn would have sent me packing, had I lived.

  22. addy

    OK, tears rolling, hysterical laughter and typing kinda iffy. Air Horn in the middle of the night in the woods? So sorry, I missed that. Can’t stop laughing. Thanks…

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