Exactly 6 years ago to the day was my 1st and only Colorado Camping Trip. On Mt. Evans. 11,000 ft. With my Ex. We hiked up. Set up camp. And then sat in the same spot for the next 24 hours. I won a game of chess. (a plus) Ate gross soggy food (a negative) and listened to campers not far away sound like they were having way too much fun while I secretly wondered what the hell could be that much fun about sitting around in the woods. With little else left to do and a bottle of tequila I woke up 8 hours later nauseated and sick. After my soggy breakfast (another negative) we left realizing I was suffering from a severe case of altitude sickness. Four days later when I was still sick my doctor confirmed, I indeed did not have altitude sickness at all but was nicely knocked up. 2 ½ years of gynecologists, fertility doctors, acupuncturists and even a miscarriage. 1 camping trip, a bottle of tequila and 8 months later (and 5 weeks early) we welcomed Emily Grace into the world. I always did want to name her Evan.
So I have avoided camping since then. Well this spring after getting my heart broken and dumped because I don’t ski, camp, play volley ball or do any other “Coloradan” activities I have set out this summer to embrace my “Inner Coloradan.” To figure out what I really do enjoy. I mean people flock to Colorado by the millions to embrace all that this beautiful mountainous state supposedly has to offer. I should be able to enjoy SOMETHING I have recently reasoned to myself.
So it’s now Labor Day and I’m wrapping up my “Discover My Inner Coloradan Summer” with a camping trip. So far I have been pleasantly surprised. I love jazz in the park where I have learned to play Volleyball and actually love it! Apparently NJ attitude and competitiveness does translate into a certain amount of athletic ability so I’m not half bad at it either! I have worn flip flops more than stilettos (and have increased my dating percentages by 90% simply by dropping 4” – hey when you’re 5’10” in flats 4” makes a difference). I have a new favorite sport. Kegball. Yes, Kick ball with beer. I drove up to Winter Park… BY MYSELF! In the MOUNTAINS! Both ways! (I rock!) I enjoyed 4 days straight of 4th of July fireworks. Something I think must be uniquely Coloradan. Friday at Coors Field, Saturday at Glendale (in my personal opinion the best) and Monday at Elitches. (NJ we get one day. Enjoy folks. ) I went to Lodo Pool Parties (ok this might not be a “Coloradan” thing to do but totally totally fun) and even whipped out a pair of cowboy boots.
So now I’m off to go camping. 24 hours. 3 adults. 4 kids. Estes park. I’m really not sure what to expect. I pack burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, my cousin’s sleeping bag and a friend’s tent. Oh and she gave me a lantern. Which was good because I didn’t really think in advance about that whole light thing. I figure I don’t really need to pack much. I mean it’s Labor Day. In Jersey we go celebrate the end of summer at the beach. How bad can the weather be? Until I get Irene’s 3 part text of what to bring. Including wool socks?!?!? WTF? It’s Labor Day! So I throw in a couple of socks, long pants, 2 fleeces and 2 jackets.
A few hours later we meet at a friend’s house, load up the car and head up. And then… we stop. Traffic. Is there an accident? A road closure? No it’s MOUNTAIN TRAFFIC! Like beach traffic but worse…because in the end when you get there there’s no beach. We sit. We sit. And we inch along. Finally we arrive. It’s now over2 hours later and I’m hungry. If I’m hungry and cranky then the 4 kiddos must be too right? Our group of two cars pull off and S gets out to talk to C about what the plan is. I realize I made a mistake leaving this to the 2 NON Jerseyians when S gets back in the car and tells me we’re going to find our spot. What? If these were Jersey people we would have gotten through the front gate, pulled over to the 1st picnic table we saw and pulled out lunch before the car even came to a complete stop. Antipasti, meatballs, and probably a couple of sternos and no one would have batted an eye. Instead, we’re going to find our spot. (Sigh…my stomach rumbles).
Now we get to the entrance of our spot. Another ranger who reads through a list of Do’s and Don’ts that make Nazi Germany look like Disney World & we finally get to our spot. Ok this is NOT what I expected. This isn’t all that bad. Our site (#75) is right across from the bathrooms! Running water and all. Ok! This is the way to camp. (See Irene I didn’t need to pack toilet paper!) RV’s line the road. Every site is filled. I am secretly thinking to myself…I don’t get it? If you are going to pull up your $200K RV why not just stay home? But I’ll go with it. We park. I make a beeline for the cooler and the sandwiches. It’s gorgeous. Perfect sunny weather, crisp clean air. And a picnic table. Camping is going to be fun.
Time to set up the tents. 3 adults. 3 tents. I’m expected to fend for myself here. There are instructions. I’m supposed to follow them. I open them up. “Fire in your tent is a NO NO.” Yes it actually says “NO NO.” I’m now sitting on the dirt with a pile of clips, mental hook things, poles, a meshy thing, a black ropy thing and a tent with this thing that goes over it. OK deep breath. This is kinda like putting together a toy from Santa that has 4 million pieces and is written in pictures and Chinese. As I read the instructions I’m confused. I’m supposed to shake down the tent? I look at S & C. Oooo…stake down the tent…that’s what those metal hooks must be. The ground is mostly sandy dirt so I take the Jersey approach. I figure if I can stake an umbrella into the beach sand I can stake a metal tent thingie into the dirt sand. Cursing silently in my head I get the metal suckers into the ground. Tent goes up pretty easy. Little tarpy thing that goes over the tent, not so easy. 2 failed attempts later & my tent is up! S & C look impressed (and slightly relieved). But wait? What are all these extra parts for? I have extra stakes, a meshy thing with ties, and a rope. I re-read the instructions. I swear there is NOTHING in these instructions about meshy things or ropes. I give up frustrated. If my tent falls in the middle of the night I’m sleeping in the car.
So we’re set up, fed, and the girls are playing. Now what?
See this is my whole thing about camping. This is why I got knocked up. There is NOTHING to do in the woods! The girls want to take a hike. They go off. Emily is inspired. Now she wants me to go on a hike with her. Up a hill. I notice there is no PATH! I’m supposed to treck through brush! She heads up the hill. I chase after her with the OFF trying to decide which is worse – spraying my miracle child with poison or the killer tics that could be up that hill. Emily now wants me to explain to her what a hike is. (Yes she’s a 5 year old Colorado native and doesn’t truly get what a “hike” is- I openly acknowledge Zebulon Pike and Stephen Long are probably rolling over in their graves).
“Well” I say “We walk up the hill,”
“But Where are we going?”
“Nowhere, just walking,”
“Uh…Up the hill.”
“And where does that go?”
“I don’t know? Another hill? This is what I’ve been saying all along Em! Hiking is just walking around in the woods going now where!”
She looks as confused as I feel .
Watching the kids roast hot dogs on sticks – cool
Crazy Kamikaze chipmunks that have no fear of running inches from my feet causing me to scream more than once and curse their demise – not cool
Having a tent that you can zip close for time out so you actually don’t have to see your 5 year old having a fit – cool
Sun going down and needing to put on a second layer AND A fleece on Labor Day – not cool
Seeing a family of deer walk by – cool
Wondering if the people next to us are polygamists after noticing it’s 1 guy and 2 girls and a kid and not being able to tell if the guy is with one of the girls or both and then realizing that WE are 1 guy and 2 girls and 4 kids and possibly everyone is wondering the same thing about us – not cool
S’s innovated smores maker/basket that melts the chocolate AND the marshmallow – super cool
Stoli & Fruit juice – just necessary (warmed me up better then the fire minus the smoke)
It starts getting dark and Em is starting to crash. We climb into the tent. It’s starting to get cold. Really cold. Like under 50 cold. My saving grace is that my Staten Island hip hop turned hippy, camping, REI shopping, music fest loving cousin has given me her double person sleeping bag that I have to admit is the warmest thing I have ever slept in. Ever. Em and I snuggle in. I’ll just help her fall asleep and then go hang with S & C. My head hits the pillow. And I’m out.
I wake up to what seems like hours later to the sound of S & C going to their respective tents. At first I think “Where the hell am I and why am I laying on the ground?” Then I remember. I’m camping. I choose to sleep on the ground. And now… it’s cold. And I don’t care how warm that damn sleeping bag is my face is cold. The sleeping bad doesn’t cover my face! I burrow under like a mouse. I have to pee. Shit. It’s too cold to pee. I lay there for again what seems like hours. My house, which I’ve been complaining about for the last year, suddenly seems like the Four Seasons. My bed the equivalent of a Westin Heavenly bed. I hate camping. I still have to pee. What if there is a bear out there. A mountain lion. My daughter is depending on me to stay alive to raise her. What if I get taken out by a strange Coloradan mountain beast? I hold it and force myself to go back to sleep.
I wake up. Again. I still have to pee. I still hate camping. Why do I have the bladder of a 9 month pregnant woman? I remember seeing this red plastic pee cup in Sky Mall magazine years ago for peeing in the car when you’re traveling. I remember thinking that was the dumbest most ridiculous absurd thing I had ever seen. Now I’m wishing I had bought what I currently consider the greatest invention of the 21st century. Seriously, I would have no problem popping a squat in the corner of the tent safe from crazy Colorado wild life. I can’t take it anymore. I crawl out of the sleeping bag into the freezing cold, zip open the tent and wonder what is worse. Being mauled by a mountain lion or freezing to death? There is NO WAY I am walking the 500 yards to the bath room. Who knows what’s out there. I find a nice grassy spot behind the tents and let my Jersey gift for peeing in the dark without hitting my own feet get some use. I hope C & S can’t hear me. Until I see C get out of her tent with one of her girls. She sees me. She says nothing. And walks to the bathroom. Seriously she’s going to venture out into the WILDERNESS with a CHILD! And she’s from Georgia! They must be even crazier there.
I climb back into the tent. Into the best sleeping bag ever and placate myself that there can only be a few more hours till morning and then this hell will be over. I try to reason with myself…come on Tara…Embrace your “Inner Coloradoan.”
Oh F— my Inner Coloradan! I’m a Jersey chick who just peed in the cold. If I had driven myself I would have picked up Em – left everything else and made a beeline for the nearest hotel. I want to scream “I’m from NJ! I set up reservations not tents!” As my Jersey friend B said a 3 star hotel is what we Jersey girls consider “roughing it.” Thank God I don’t have tips anymore. Can you imagine my nails with this dirt. And you know the worst part? I have to take it all down and pack it all up tomorrow!!! I mean packing my suit case in a hotel and making sure I don’t forget anything is hard enough. Now I actually have to pack my BED and my WALLS! I want to cry.
And then there are my camping mates. I know it. I just know it. Tomorrow morning they’re going to ask me if I like camping. How will I respond? I can’t LIE. I am trying so hard to be Coloradanlly accepted. How will I tell them the truth? They have been so supportive. So encouraging. Cheering me on tent making and all. Ugh I’ll deal with it in the morning. Let me just get to sleep because currently I’m in hell and it has frozen over.
Emily wakes up first. Everyone else is still sleeping. She rolls over, looks at me and says. “MOM! I love camping can we do it again?” I ignore her. Fortunately, she’s cold. Me too kid. She wants to get up. I tell her to get back under the sleeping bag. Shortly after everyone starts waking up. I pop two Excedrin and remind myself I packed an emergency Bing since I’m not counting on coffee.
The morning confirms my worst fears. I truly, honestly, openly and deeply…. dislike camping. I now want a shower. I want a pair of stilettos and I need something with glitter before I will feel like a human again. S makes coffee (praise God) and C makes French cinnamon swirl toast over a fire pit (Ok yeah I’m impressed)
“How are you liking camping?”
I pause. I look at their beautiful expectant faces.
I wish I could lie.
“It’s a good thing we only stayed one night,” I say. “Or I’d be hitch hiking Emily and I out of here this AM. I like your COMPANY but…well…I…I HATE CAMPING!”
It comes out like an apologetic whine. I thank them for the coffee, the French toast and acknowledge I am doing nothing to contribute to the “camping” experience. I am ready to go. I am eternally grateful for a noon checkout.
The highlight of my trip (minus the kick ass sleeping bag) was the homemade ice cream we got in the town of Estes on the way home.
I adore S & C and appreciate their putting up with me. I’m glad they remembered garbage bags. And that they each know how to light a fire. And that C’s daughters were nice and let Em wear their gloves. And that S can make a kick ass cup of coffee in a metal coffee pot that’s probably older that both of us put together. And that S drove (I did Winter Park. I’m done). And that C brought sticks to roast dogs and marshmallows (do you know you can’t just use ANY STICKS you find in the woods? You can actually like die or something????) And that C wasn’t too offended when Em told her she wasn’t going to drink the ginger ale because it had high-fructose corn syrup. And that S took pictures of me and my tent.
I’m grateful God has put friends like this in my life.
And you know what? In a way it was therapeutic. If being with my Ex meant I’d have to go camping again, I’m glad he dumped me when he did.
I’m off to find me a city boy folks. Preferably one with a Starwoods Rewards card.