The last camping trip Greg and I took before kids was at St. George Island State Park in Florida. Mistakes were made, lives were changed (okay, maybe not), an inflatable raft was purchased. First mistake, beach camping in Florida in August. Next mistake, letting Greg talk me into "wilderness camping." We had to hike forever from the parking area through deep sand to the camp site carrying far too much gear. It started to get dark so we abandoned some of our gear to get to the site faster and pitch our tent before it was totally dark. Then, of course, had to go back for the gear. It was hot and buggy and the raccoons were very very bold - they didn't mind waddling right up to the tent, knocking on the canvas and just asking us to hand over our foodstuff. The next morning, after exploring a bit of the bay side of the camp (and finding hundreds and hundreds of creepy bird or fish skeletons) we decided to hike to the ocean side of the island. When we got close to the parking area it was so very hot we decided to drive into town and get some lunch in the air conditioning instead. On the way back to the camp site we passed a beach shop that had a big already-inflated raft for sale. Dun dun dunnnnn.
Here's where things took a turn for the truly comedic. I don't know whose idea it was, in theory it was brilliant - in practice, not so much. The wilderness camping was on the tip of a j-like protrusion, there was a boat launch on the main part of the island directly across from it, so if we had a boat we could avoid the long, hot, sandy hike. Like I said, brilliant. We buy the already-inflated raft, strap it on to the car or maybe the pick up truck (can't remember) and head back. I don't know if you've ever navigated a blow-up raft, but if you have, well then, you know. After a lot of paddling and going willy-nilly off course, we finally made it across.
Other campers had arrived while we were gone - but their tents were pitched a ways down the beach from us, so we were still basically alone. We swam and did other campy things, made our campy dinner and had to huddle inside the hot, stuffy tent to eat it because the bugs were so bad. Mosquitoes, biting flies and even the raccoons were edging up to us again. I was miserable and Greg may not admit it, but I think he was pretty miserable too. We decided to pack it in and go home a day early.
Oops - the car is parked over at the boat ramp now, so we've got to take the raft to get to the car. Remember when I said we had far too much gear? We were going to have to make two trips to get everything across. Greg headed across alone with most of the stuff on the first trip. We were losing daylight, but luckily a guy in a little motor boat towed Greg and the raft back across the cove to me. We loaded ourselves and the last of the gear (just a backpack and small cooler, but it was enough that we only had room for each of us to kneel on our knees in the raft with the stuff crammed between us). I was in front paddling and Greg was in the back. It took was taking forever to paddle across that cove, carefully avoiding the shallow spots with coral that really wanted to rip the rubber raft to shreds. Greg was getting more and more frustrated, yelling at me about my paddling skills when suddenly, CRACK - his paddle broke in half...and sank. So here we are, exhausted, hot, nearly hysterical with it all and only one plastic paddle. I handed it back to Greg, leaned over the front of the raft and started doing the arms portion of the breast stroke - and that's how we finally made it to the boat ramp. We'd been on our knees for so long that neither one of us could feel the lower portion of our legs. We stumbled out of the raft into the water barely staying upright - only to find our fellow-wilderness campers laughing their asses off at us as they are launching the canoes they'd rented. Now that was a brilliant idea.
I have camped only one other time since then - in San Diego for one night when Lorelei was two. But Greg has missed it, so last summer he took Lorelei and Violet on a trip to the Patapsco State Park about two miles from our house. He picked a site close to home because he wasn't sure how it would go with Violet on her first camp out. They ended up coming home for a bit on Saturday - Violet took a nap in her own bed and was refreshed and ready to go for the rest of the weekend. I think it was mostly fun for them, fun enough that the girls have been clamoring for another trip this summer.
Since yesterday was the Great American Backyard Campout Greg decided to pitch a tent in our little patch of grass. If you've been to our house before, you know we live in a townhouse on a hill - the tent pretty much took up all of the flat space in our yard. But even that was too much wilderness for me, I elected to stay inside and sleep in my nice bed. Lorelei ended up ditching too (she was invited to sleep-over).
I was a little worried about how the night would go for Greg sleeping outdoors with a two and four-year-old, but S'mores were eaten, fun was had and I think they even got a decent night's sleep. Success!