So my first adult camping experience occurred in 1996. Family Camp for Cub Scouts. Michael was a Tiger Cub and Nick was just a little guy, 6 weeks or so away from turning 3. We borrowed a heavy canvas tent and I began packing. Clothes for me and Nick, supervising which Michael’s choices. Food, toothpaste and brushes, band aids, antiobiotic ointment, acetaminophen for adult and children, benydril, cooking utensils for a campfire and a camp stove, gallons of clean water, juice, coffee, creamer, hairbrush, comb, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, paper towels, matches, marshmallows, pillows, blankets, sleeping bags, plastic bags for laundry, a mountain dulcimer, games, dry shoes, water shoes, lots and lots of socks, jackets, and more – you get the idea. Scott got home, loaded the station wagon, threw a few things in a bag and we were off – a mere 10 hours after I began packing. Two hours later we arrive at Camp Sunnen, which now belongs to Greater St. Louis Boy Scout Council.
Setting Up Camp: Luckily, we weren’t the first ones there, so while I’m playing ringleader to the boys, Scott and some of the other dads put up our tent. Then he takes over with the boys and I set up the sleeping bags, pillows, suitcases, cooking supplies, showering supplies. We’d stopped to eat a quick dinner in Potosi, so at least I didn’t have to figure out the camp stove. The Scoutmaster got a nice bonfire going and before long we were all gather around it, long sticks in hand, making smores, eating cheese and crackers, laughing. Michael in particular thought Smores were the greatest thing on earth and ate his weight in them. He made more for me, his dad, his little brother, anyone who wanted one. As the evening became chillier, we bundled up and got ready for bed. That was when it started to drizzle. That was also when little 3 year old Taylor, the sister of another scout, said, “I gotta go potty.” She couldn’t go alone – her bottom was so very tiny and the hole in the outhouse was large. Her mom, a nurse, took her, held her over the opening then told her husband there might be a problem. She cried when she’d peed. I had, as it turned out, brought cranberry juice. Taylor drank all of that and then went to pee again. about five more times, actually.
The First Night. Just when we were settling in for the night, the boys in their jammies, tucked into their sleeping bags, we were assaulted by bright lights, slamming doors, loud voices. A family had just arrived and were trying to set up their tent – right next to ours – in the dark. After about 30 minutes of shouting and cussing, Scott and other dads got up to help. Turns out, the new family had just bought their tent – it was still in the box – and had never set it up before. An hour later, it was finally set up and things were settling down.
Taylor: I gotta Pee.
Michael: My tummy hurts
Ed (Taylor’s dad): I’ll taker her this time
New Guy: Grufffff, hoooonnnkkkkk (snoring)
Michael: I don’t feel . . . arghhhhh (throws up on MY cloth suitcase)
Scott grabs Michael, unzips the tent, and takes him outside.
Nick: pee. (I take him)
New Guy: Gruffffff, hooooonnnnkkkkk
Taylor: I gotta Pee again.
Dee (Taylor’s mom): My turn.
Michael: What smells so bad in here?
(Scott takes my suitcase outside and puts it in the back of the station wagon.)
New Guy: Gruffffff, hoooonnnnkkkkkk
Needless to say, it was a long night with very little sleep.
Day 1: Breakfast. Scott starts up the camp stove while I get the kids dressed. Michael, now perfectly fine, runs to joing his friends. I root through my suitcase and find my swimsuit, one pair of shorts, two t-shirts, one pair of socks, and one pair of sweatpants that have not been touched by smore vomit. I manage to scramble some eggs for breakfast. Scott and Michael go hiking with the group and Nick and I stay at the camp and do crafty shit. The ground is soaked from the constant drizzle, and Nick decides he doesn’t like the feel of wet grass and refuses to walk in it, so I have to carry him everywhere. Dee decides that Taylor isn’t improving, so she bundles up the little girl and takes her to the local ER (a VERY scary place!) Lunch is cold cut sandwiches. After, there’s creek crashing. Nick wants to be a part of this, but he’s afraid of the turtles, so while Scott keeps an eye on Michael, I go into the water with Nick in my arms. By now, my arms are numb. I take Nick back to the banks where he can look for periwinkles and crawdads. This works for a while, then he gets bored. He wants to go back to camp The grass is wet. I carry him again. Dinner is hot dogs cooked over the communal bonfire. This is when Michael discovers he doesn’t like hot dogs. Nick, however, loves them. More skits, stories, and smores – not to mention fireflies and mosquitoes. We get the kids cleaned up and are back in the tent trying to sleep.
New Guy: Gruuuuffffff. Hoooonnnnnkkkkk
Taylor: (now on antibiotics) I have to Pee
Michael: gawwwwww (yes, he snored as a child too!)
Did I mention Nick didn’t like the dark? He’s sleeping on top of me.
Day 2: Breakfast at the Hall. This was a communal breakfast held in the open air pavillion. Pancakes, bacon, strawberries, milk, coffee. We all eat and laugh and talk. Then, after it’s all cleaned up, we head up to the Point, an absolutely beautiful peak which overlooks the lake. It is also, however, a really long, steep hike, especially while carrying an almost 3 year old boy because the GRASS IS STILL WET!! The service is very nice. There’s singing. We’re almost to the end when Michael says, “I have to use the bathroom.” I glare at Scott. He sighs, gets up, and takes Michael into the woods. A few minutes later, they come back. Scott gives me that “you’re not going to like this” grin. I raise my eyebrows. Michael, “Runny poo isn’t any fun.” I closed my eyes and begged all the gods that be for strength. Nick, “potty.” I glare at Scott. He gets up again. Minutes later, they’re back and he holds up three fingers. OMG!!!! The service ends, we hike back down. Several kinds are taken into the woods by a parent and they all come back with an odd look on their face. Back at camp we begin to pack up. My stomach begins to rumble. Crap. Literally. I run to the outhouse. Wait in line. LOTS of intestines are grumbling. Around noon, we’re packed and ready to go – complete with having used the facilities OFTEN. We have to stop three times on the way home. Between the vomit soaked suitcase, laundry, wet shoes, and noxious gas, the car was unpleasant. We finally got home, I run to the bathroom and dig out the anit-diarrhea medication and hand it out like candy on Halloween night. Within 15 minutes I’ve got a load of laundry going. The rest of the clothes and bedding are on the back porch. NO WAY was I going let all that smell up the house. Two hours later, the car is unloaded and I’m lying on the couch wishing for death.
That night when I’m tucking the kids into bed, Michael says, “That was so much fun!! When can we do it again?”