Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adventures in Camping: We Survived, Barely

Can you fathom that it takes this much crap to spend ONE night out of doors with a family of four.

Well it does.

We were supposed to go to the redwood forest with tall, tall trees that smell amazing, but somehow someone booked the wrong dates at the County park. When we drove up to the kiosk to enter our fantasy destination we were shown this error in our MY reading skills:

(I booked our reservations for August because I am a DUMB ASS. Good thing it was only a 15 minute drive from home.)

Devastated by the error I had made, I was grief-stricken and close to sobbing tears, but my husband Mike made a quick phone call to our friends who have 100 acres of hilltop land between the redwoods and our house. We arranged to camp at their place instead. I mean, how can we not camp when it takes longer to pack the car then it takes to drive to the camp site? We had to do something!

This is the entrance to our wilderness expedition into the oak woodland.

The black oaks were showing various color changes from orange to yellow, gracing our trip with shades of fall.

Here is the view from the top of the ridge where we camped.

Imagine The Sound of Music playing loudly in the background and Julie Andrews singing angel-like as our little family traipsed merrily across the dry grasses on hilltops, hoping that the vegetation did not spontaneously burst into flames during our camping experience.

With a bright pink shirt I was hopeful that I would be visible under any circumstance and not mistaken for a deer and get accidentally shot by hunters.

Then after eating dinner by the fading rays of the sun, we stoked up the campfire for the obligatory smores eating. Ella had to be cut off rather quickly from the fun since she inhaled something like 10 marshmallows almost instantly.

The marshmallows were roasted to perfection. Well, at least perfection in my mind. I can skip the chocolate and just eat toasted sugar for dessert.

Then we slept.

And awoke to find THIS!

Hmmmm. Does anybody know who was prowling around our campsite during the night?

That is the heel of my size 12 foot next to a feline print, softly embedded in the loose dirt. This is the hind foot print of a large yellow cat that came sniffing about the edge of the camp ground. (The top print is a front foot. They are smaller.)

And a set of tracks showing both front and back. I am sure you know who our guest was by now. Yes, it was a mountain lion, possibly a small female, but more likely a juvenile. Since normally mountain lions avoid the smell of people and human camp sites, I would place a bet this was a recently "fledged" juvenile just checking things out for himself.

And here is where you all are supposed to faint in terror.

At 3:00 am, Ella had to climb into the sleeping bag with me and share my spacious cot. So if the jr. mountain lion was really hungry and it was somewhere after 3 am when it came to see us, it would have been in for a real treat. A two for one special. Call me crazy, but I'd camp here again and not think twice about it, just inside the tent. I am not stupid after all. There is safety in numbers.

A morning moment at the campfire after my close shave with teeth and claws. My son is still addicted to his thumb. Some day I am going to coat his fifth digit in hot pepper sauce. Wyatt promised when he turned 5 he would stop sucking his thumb, but said, "Mom, I can't stop it. I just can't do it."

Below is a picture of comforts from home for Ella with her blanket and not so comforting experimentation with a new tool of destruction for Wyatt at the campground.

What camping trip is complete without a boy and an ax?

Eat your mush boy! We've got some hikin' to do!!!!

And to prove I don't accidentally blunder into poison oak here is a picture of a little beauty for the Olde Dame herself... but I don't get poison oak anyway so there!

While hiking I saw lichens that I really liked... That's a fungus and an algae teamed up in a symbiotic relationship for their mutual benefit.

The oaks were loaded with little presents for the fall season. These acorns represent new oaken lives just waiting to happen, or not....since most get eaten before they have a chance to germinate and start new trees. The deer ravage the ground beneath the trees once the acorns start to drop.

I think the acorns are like a promise that life will renew it self, someway, somehow, regardless of what we humans do.

Then before we went back to our house, the kids got a turn on the tire swing and screamed instantly to get off because it was too scary. Yes, that is a look of panic on Wyatt's face and Ella was yelling frantically at this point. Since they had been begging us for upward of an hour to ride it and we finally obliged them, they had to endure a couple swings that were unsolicited. Payback is hell.

So another adventure is complete. Now I have to redeem myself and prove I can make reservations for our next trip to the forest. October, that is month 10 I believe...

And I promise Shmo's story finale is next. It's half written already. Yes, Pooba you will have your answers.


Ms Snarky Pants said...

Looks like an absolutely lovely trip! Despite going in the wrong month. ;) I can't believe the mountain lion got that close! Eeek!

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Oh my, where to start!

So glad the mountain lion did not scratch and bite any of you. Very scary!

A fungus and an algae teamed up in a symbiotic relationship is called "lichen"? I thought it was called "marriage."

Those poor kids on the tire swing. It can be very frightening! Wyatt looks terrified!

I feel so bad that you accidentally made those reservations for the wrong month. I mean, yes, that's not an unexpected "Julia move," but still, how sad, and how nice that yer hubby called and got you that other place!!!

Captain Dumbass said...

Mountain lion probably just wanted some marshmallows.

ga.farmwoman said...

The camping trip sounds just right. All that matters is you all had fun(and wasn't ate by a mountain lion) and you all were together as a family.
I do remember all that stuff it takes to go camping for a family of 4. Whew Wee!!
Loved the pictures!and the writing.

Have a great day.

Yaya said...

I would have cried if I booked the wrong dates!

And I would have screamed knowing I was that close to a giant feline!

But overall, looks fun! (If you like that camping, wilderness stuff that is....)

Ryan Ashley Scott said...

The view is beautiful! It's odd how "roughing it" requires SO much preparation, though.

The most dangerous animal on our camping trips is usually a skunk. Definitely stay in the tent next time.

the ungourmet said...

Wow! That was great that your husband thought of the other place to stay. It's really pretty but... YIKES! Glad you and your little punkin didn't get gobbled up!

Yes October is the 10th month! I love when you teach us about plants too! ;0)

Have a great day!

Vixen said...

So the pink shirt might save you from the hunters confusing your for deer, but I hear that mountain lions love pink for a midnight snack.

Making reservations for the wrong month? Totally something I would (maybe have done)do.

And yes, they really said cuff folding. In fact, we had to ask her to repeat it because we didn't think we heard her correctly.

Pricilla said...

Man, would you not have loved to get a picture of the cat? From a safe distance of course.....

Looks like you had a grand time in spite of the reservation mix up.

And goats love lichens!

Apron of the Month Club said...

I love the pictures of the autumn leaves. I live at the southern most tip of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley by the Gulf of Mexico. We are not blessed with the beautiful colors of autumn. We have a lot of Latin flare and western style, but I miss the leaves from the midwest.

Blessing to you and your family,
From Yoli Kalkofen

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

With the adventures you had, maybe you were just supposed to camp where you did. What a great trip!

Ratty said...

It sounds like you had everything on this trip. That's what anyone can hope for. Even the mountain lion scare is an exciting story now.

Suzi said...

I had to close my eyes on the poison oak picture for fear that it might jump out of the screen and infect me.

The Mind of a Mom said...

What a great adventure for the kids, We used to take them all the time. I miss those days and can't wait for grandbabies so I can take them camping!

Aunt Spicy said...

I almost started to cry...I love that there are still 100s of acres of undeveloped land in California. Seriously that view from the ridge is stunning! What a fabulous excursion!

ps. I am surprised that is all you took...I probably would have had double that!

San-Dee said...

thank you for filling my heart with the beauty of CA, I miss it so much! And if you only needed one truck bed for camping with two young ones, you're really doing well! absolutely lovely pictures, kids, tracks, etc. Loved the marshmallow picture-Yum!

Richard and Jean said...

Hi. I have a blog at where I feature people's posts about camping, and I would like to send my readers your way. Of course I would give you credit for quotes and would link back to your site.

Thanks for considering this,

Jean B. in SC

xashee's corner said...

looks like you had a WONDERFUL time! sure glad that mtn. lion was only passing through!! :)
Thank you for sharing such GREAT photos!
i have had computer woes for a few weeks now, and hope that is behind me now! :)
Have a LOVELY weekend!

^..^Corgidogmama said...

You took some incredible photos! Looks like a wonderful time out in the woods. The wildlife however...just got a little too close. Ugh...meeting up with that animal would have been terrifying.
Your kids look happy and content, and competant out there in the wild. Don't worry about the thumb sucking thing...when he's humiliated by his peers...he'll quit. It's better than the pepper sauce! My son hung on to his thumb past 5...he's now 35, and I'm happy to say, he's done with it!

Frogs in my formula said...

Wow, you had a little bit of everything. Disappointment then luck, a close encounter, burnt marshmallows (my favorite!), mush. Sounds like a great trip. And how lucky are you that you have friends with 100 acres of hilltop land? That's wonderful.

Frogs in my formula said...

P.S. Glad you weren't eaten!

So Not Mom-a-licious said...

Looks like fun! Told you to watch out for those mountain lions!
Anyway, I love you , I miss you, I am struggling to keep up with everybody, but I wanted and needed to say hello to you old friend!

And maybe hoping that sometime over the next 3 weeks if you aren't busy, you'd want to hang out at my place for a day and tell stories to all my fans, I mean followers, I mean friends.

Still working?

Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

What a great post, it was funny and freaked me out at the same time! Mountain lion - are you crazy? Yikes!

Melodie said...

When Hubby and I were first married we lived in California.We loved to camp in the mountains there!I have to say every time we heard a rustle in the darkness,we thought of your "new kitty friend"!We never let it stop us from doing it again though.Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Grand Pooba said...

Seriously, here you had me thinking someone got eatin by a mountain lion and to top it off you leave Shmo for the next post?

I'm not sure I can handle any more suspense woman!

EL said...

Ahh the wrong date!!! So something i would do! at least a plan B quickly fell into place - whew! looks fun (despite the mtn lioner visitor yikes) and love hte tire swing terror pic - CLASSIC! hahaa

Lisa said...

The mountain lion freaked me out from here! But then again, I have an irrational fear of mountain lions...

It looks like a great time, though!

Mountain Woman said...

What fun you had. I absolutely loved your photos and your story was to die for fabulous. Glad the mountain lion didn't eat you. Is it deer season there already? Here it doesn't start for another 6 weeks.

Anyway, look forward to your next camping adventure. As always, it's so much fun hanging out with your family.

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