Monday, May 15, 2006


Roughing it in the bush

So you've been waiting for the update, right? You saw the forecast for rain, rain and more rain. You knew I was in a crappy mood heading out. You're itching to hear how it went, right?

Three words: Best. Camping. Ever.

Here, for your reading pleasure, an essay on how to achieve the perfect camping weekend, by Dani.

When you are making a reservation for the KOA Free Camping Weekend, and they tell you that they don't have any of these cabins left, but oooh, look at that, the villa is available, DO tell them yes, you will be happy to take the villa for the weekend, instead of the one-room, drafty, unserviced cabin. Because THIS little white cottage is the "villa":

(DO notice that it's right beside the playground, with a full kitchen, full bath including tub, sunken living room with gas fireplace, heated and air conditioned, with one bedroom, plus an alcove with TV and VCR and double futon, and two futons in the living room, and comes equipped with linens and plates and cups and pots and pans and cutlery - all this for $130 a night, one of which are FREE!!, in the most lovely campground I've ever visited.)

DON'T listen to the weather forecast with growing angst for a week before you leave. The forecast will call for biblical amounts of rainfall, and your friends back home will report a dreary grey weekend. But you will have discovered a magical micro-climate bubble where the rain peters out when you arrive, makes a sprinkling appearance the first night around the campfire, and then retreats completely until you are in the car on the way home. In fact, the skies will clear and the temperatures be so moderate that you will make time to enjoy the pool and outdoor hottub at the campground.

DO NOT try to light a campfire (for aesthetic purposes only, having used the gas range to cook dinner) using a dozen pilfered 1000 Islands Visitors Guides and two rolls of toilet paper. DO learn that the expression "where there's smoke, there's fire" is in fact not true.

DO take advantage of the campground's ice cream social. DO NOT eat the chocolate reddi-whip in a can. (Beloved and the boys have a different opinion on this one but it is, in th end, my blog and my opinion that prevail.)

DO NOT be too disappointed if the boys choose to ignore your lecture on how to perfect the balance between the roasted and the burnt marshmallow and instead prefer to eat their marshmallows raw, straight out of the bag.

DO be kind and let your husband have the bed to share with your eldest son when the three of them fall asleep together while reading books before bedtime, leaving you to sleep on one of the futons in the living room. DO NOT assume you will get a better night's sleep and think you will be able to sleep through your brother's snores, rattling the entire cottage from the alcove.

DO feel free to get out and take a walk when it is 7:15 in the morning and you've already been up for over an hour and find the whole family crawling the walls.

DO NOT feel obliged to hurry. DO take the time to examine every stone, culvert, rock outcrop and interesting weed along the way. DO NOT drink three cups of coffee before you go off wandering away from civilization and bathrooms.

DO take some time to be touristy, and do something fun like taking a boat tour of the 1000 Islands with your parents and your kids, even if you have done it many times before.

DO be patient when your two-year-old is more interested in rearranging the chairs on the deck than in the islands and other boats. DO be glad you chose to travel in the off-season.

DO NOT worry if the 'rain and twelve degrees' forecast made you leave your bathing suit at home. DO be grateful for the discount stores in small towns where you can buy absolutely anything for practically nothing.

DO NOT fear lasting damage when you enter the pool enclosure with your four-year old and realize as you stand up from taking off your shoes that you don't know where he is, and you find him struggling to get to the surface in the five foot deep pool that he has jumped into, thinking the water shallow. DO NOT spend too much time wondering 'what if'. DO be grateful when it doesn't seem to faze him, even though you are sure you will never forget the look on his face as his eyes locked on yours in the heartbeat before you jumped into the pool. DO NOT consider throttling him yourself when he makes the exact same mistake less than 20 minutes later in another pool. DO think the $50 swimming lessons have paid for themselves a thousand times over.

DO spend lots of time with your family. DO marvel at how your eldest son is far more patient with his 18 month old nephew than with his two year old brother.

DO bring along a fun toy like this 'jumpoline' (thanks to Andrea, who recommended it way back when I was looking for gift ideas for Simon's birthday) and dollar-store toys like bubbles and ring toss and hundreds of stickers.

DO NOT be surprised that you can survive as well without the Internet as the boys can survive without TV. DO NOT take this message to heart.

DO let the rules lapse a little bit. DO NOT be alarmed when Simon absolutely refuses to sleep in the pack'n'play. DO have confidence that the boys will eventually fall asleep, even if it takes more than an hour. DO think they look even more angelic sleeping together than they do when sleeping separately.

DO play Texas Hold 'Em with your folks and your brother well into the night. DO NOT chase the inside straight. DO admire your mother's poker playing skills.

DO eat yummy meals like sloppy joes, curly hot-dog flowers, and steak and chicken brochettes on a pita with tzatziki. DO be grateful to bloggy friends for great suggestions. DO NOT stick to your usual food rules and DO consume vast quantities of chips, peanuts, and other garbage. DO NOT leave the smores on the fire for more than a minute or two, because carbonized graham crackers are really not that appetizing.

DO NOT let the worst cold of the year get you down. DO be glad that if you are sick, at least your mommy is around to feel sympathetic.

DO make the trip home fun by stopping at the Skydeck tower to look out at the 1000 Islands from 400m above the river.

DO NOT be surprised when the boys have much more fun running in circles around the sky deck than actually looking out of the tower.

DO take yet another moment to marvel at the weather when you pull out onto the highway and the rain starts pouring down. DO be grateful for a weekend of perfect camping weather.

DO decide to make this perfect little cottage your favourite family 'camping' destination. DO NOT feel guilty for having spent a weekend camping without actually unrolling your sleeping bag or spending a single night sleeping on the ground or picking a single speck of dirt out of your food. DO feel like you are roughing it when some campfire ash drifts into your beer and you decide to drink it anyway. DO believe that traditional camping is overrated.

DO be glad to spend Mother's Day with the people you love most in the world.