This week my family went camping at Beverly Beach near Newport, Oregon. I went with them, having finally earned some vacation time. How fun it was will depend on which family member you ask. Cole had the time of his life because we let him start fires on purpose. When Logan said the prayer over the food the first day he prayed that "this vacation will go by quickly," probably because Mom and Dad wouldn't let him bring his guitars, iTouch or white jeans.
I personally enjoy camping. There are naysayers out there who think it's funny to point out how silly we camping enthusiasts are to pay to sleep on the ground. Oh yes, staying in a hotel for vacation makes much more sense. You pay to sleep in a bed, just like you do every single other night of the year. Yeah, sounds like a blast. I would rather have some variety, break things up a little. This week instead of wearing slacks and a blouse every day I wore T-shirts and hoodies and jean shorts all week. I slept in instead of using an alarm clock, ate when I felt like it instead of during a regularly scheduled lunch break, goofed off with my brothers instead of being professional, didn't use a cell phone or check my email all week and lounged on the beach instead of working. Yep, sounds like a vacation to me. Although now I understand why some kids don't like camping. I guess if they wanted a change of scenery during summer vacation they would need to go to work with mom and dad or something. Otherwise it's like "Hey, wanna go play in the dirt?" "Yeah hold on let me finish making this mud pie."
Cooking is much more fun when you're camping. It was Cole's job to build the fire for breakfast and dinner every day, because he was the best at it. He's quite the fire purist, insisting that we only cook over campfires "built with integrity." Apparently food doesn't taste as good over a fire using cheating scumball tactics like lighter fluid or fire starter sticks, or even pre-cut kindling. When Cole builds a fire it's just him, some logs, his hatchet, and a single wooden match. Fortunately it didn't rain all week so our fires stayed honest, except for one night where we were in a hurry to get somewhere after dinner and after Cole got it started he decided to dump some lighter fluid on it to speed things up. Unfortunately he had never used it before and didn't realize how far it squirted, so he shot it over the fire and onto my bare foot right next to the fire. Fortunately I was able to leap up, offer a few choice sisterly words, and run to the water spigot before my foot caught on fire, otherwise this blog post might be about adjusting to life with only one foot.
Sleeping is less fun when you're camping. Well, less comfortable at least. Besides making fires with integrity, we also sleep with integrity, meaning no air mattresses. This is partly because we believe in actual camping, not that fake stuff most people do (if you're in an RV, sorry, it's not camping, it's paying to pretend you live in a trailer park, which makes even less sense than paying to sleep in a bed that's just like yours except with a questionable history). The other reason we don't use air mattresses or pads is that they literally won't fit. Anybody who has ever bought a tent knows that they tend to run small (don't buy a one person tent unless you tend to use it to house your chihuahua) and ours is a five person tent, even though there are six people in our family and I'm by far the smallest. When we tumble out of the tent every morning it must be like watching a clown car unload. I'll bet at least some of the kids camping near us think we borrowed our tent from the Weasley family.
Besides spending a lot of time around the campfire and sleeping in a tent we also did things like hiking and hanging out on the beach and exploring tidal pools. The water on the Oregon coast is pretty cold to do much swimming, but there were a lot of other things to do, like sunbathing, throwing around a football, skimboarding, and taking photos with strategically placed objects for a future "McDowell Men" calendar while Mom was disapproving.
When we went to hike the Cape Perpetua tidal pools (these are real tidal pools, with about a mile of sharp clam-and-barnacle-covered rocks and fiercely pounding waves and places to get trapped in) most of us ended up with soaked tennis shoes. I leaped onto a low rock in order to get across a pool and a sneaker wave submerged the rock before I could get off of it. Logan leaped across a stream but the wind caught him and he landed in the water (well that's his story; I think he just had bad aim). Someone joked about jumping to a far away sandy spot and Cole thought he was so smart by going around and dropping onto it from the rocks above, until a wave came in and covered the sandy spot and Cole couldn't climb back up. Lance achieved (temporary) favorite child status by keeping his shoes dry the whole time.
Half the time we go to the coast it doesn't matter whether we get our shoes in the ocean because it pours buckets of rain on us the entire time so everything is soaked the whole time anyway, including our tent. We've gotten pretty good at waterproofing the campsite since the first time we went camping on the coast, when we didn't realized crucial pieces of information like the fact that you have to stake the rain cover away from the tent for it to do any good, and you have to tuck the ends of the tarp under the tent, otherwise the rain runs down the rain cover, drips off and is trapped by the tarp, where it rolls under into the nice bowl of water forming between the tarp and the tent. Hey, we were from Iowa. We didn't know any better. We have also learned to bring rain ponchos, after we went on a hike one of the first years and the forest rangers felt so sorry for us they cut holes in black plastic garbage bags for us to wear. It made for a really classy family vacation photo. Now we are way better at the whole camping thing. It has been years since Lance and Logan woke up soaked (Dad and Mom sleep in the middle with us all around so they're the last to get wet) and spent the rest of the night under the hand dryers in the bathroom. Which may be even better than paying to sleep on the ground, in a bed or in an RV.