Monday, August 30, 2010

14 Days of Camping--DONE!!!

There is a crowd of eager convention attenders stalking this computer so I will be quick and to the point. The camping marathon is over, and we are safely tucked into the clean sheets of the Best Western Hotel on San juan Island outside of Seattle. Last night's hotel in downtown Seattle proved less safe than camping in the woods with bears, after a gas leak filled the hotel with fumes and we had to checkout and find a new hotel. Glacier National Park was without a doubt the most beautiful place I have ever seen...we took a number of hikes including the 12 mile Highland Trail which was successful in that only two of the kids cried and only one for longer than 20 minutes.We took so many pictures because I kept saying, "Now THIS is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!" Then we would go around a corner and it would happen again.
The weather was perfect except for the night of the windstorm--We were camped in a canyon that was advertised as "breezy"-- which to me meant soft, warm summer breezes to keep you cool in August. Apparently when a cool front moves in, that same canyon is a wind tunnel and we ALMOST lost the whole tent. It was shaking in on us for hours and we had a few stakes pop out that we had to go replace at 3:00AM...We heard the murmur of expletives that were floating over from other tenters who seemed to have lost more than a stake.
An elderly lady is looking at me with hope in her eyes so I will wrap up with the most repeated quotes of the week:

Matthew: "Can I pee over there?" (Strict bear rules limited Matthew's marking territory.)

Bryan: "I miss Basso...." (Endless refrain from the boy who we knew would be homesick first.)

Michael: "I need chicken nuggets...." (Poor kid continuously searching for a break from spaghetti and mac-n-cheese.)

Me: "Look boys, isn't that pretty!" (I was called out on this and changed the comment to just 'Look!'"

Andy: "Would you guys just cut it out--I mean it." (He means it!)

And the quote of the week which was a one time comment from Christopher that had us laughing, "I know. We can check the weather and if it looks bad then we can get a hotel.....and if it looks good--we can get a hotel!" Poor kid, we slept in a tent--AGAIN.

Off to Kayak for today and then a cottage in Olympia, WA to recover from post traumatic camping syndrome. It really wasn't that bad.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Perhaps I should have waited until the beer I just drank has had time to digest, however, this may be the only chance I get to update for a few days. Coverage has been almost nonexistent. I am posting from the lobby of an amazing hotel on the banks of Flathead Lake in Montana right outside of Glacier National Park. After EIGHT straight days of camping, I cracked. We passed a sign that said, "Mountain Lake Lodge two miles ahead" on the way to our next campsite and I said, "Hey, we could see if we can find a hotel for the night." After one shower in the last week and ice on the inside of our tent this morning, I felt a twinge of entitlement. We deserved to sleep indoors. When I inquired about rates and amenities at the front desk and she said, "Yes, we do have guest laundry right on the premises." I told her, "You had me at Hello!"
So, tonight we have had a full meal that didn't come out of the trunk of our car; we have all been swimming AND showered and even used towels larger than a dinner napkin; I have done two loads of laundry; I trimmed all the boys' nails; and tonight we will be warm. Heaven.
It has been an amazing trip and I actually have LOVED camping. The bear precautions have been a bit tiresome and spitting toothpaste into a vault toilet so that bears would not be attracted to our site was perhaps the all time camping low. On the positive side, we have rafted on the Yellowstone River, bathed in the hot springs, hiked into the Yellowstone Canyon as well as a 6 mile hike in The Grand Tetons, and the boys have chopped and hatcheted their way to boy heaven.
It's late and I have a WARM bed that is calling me, but I wanted to close with a few quotes that I have collected these last 11 days from each of us:

Matthew: "If I have to eat that turkey sandwhich, I'm going to throw-up." (Matthew, the finicky eater, HAS eaten a whole turkey sandwhich and much more without throwing up since the threat of bears coming to attack him provided ample motivation.)

Christopher: "Are you serious, Mom? You don't know the difference between a pistol and a revolver? (Hiking conversation)

Bryan: "Oh my gosh! If that's the same waterfall, I'm going to die!" (After hiking the 5th different trail to see the same waterfall.)

Michael: "Dad, are we really cleaning disposable spoons?" (Commenting while drying the spoons we confiscated after our lunch in Gardiner, Montana)

Andy: "Where are we going next?" (Andy took a more passive role in trip planning.)

Me: "Stop wiping your nose on your shirt. We don't have laundry!" (No explanation necessary.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Boating, Badlands, Black Hills

Boating, Badlands, and The Black Hills

We haven't seen cell service in days, but we have hopes that tomorrow this can post. A few trip highlights:

We spent 24 hours with my brother on a lake in western Illinois Saturday through Sunday, and I think the boys spent at least 18 hours tubing, swimming, and jumping from a stranger's boathouse roof. For a family that doesn't go boating but once a year, we can pack it in. I realized God designed two of my boys to love speed...that boat couldn't go fast enough for Bryan and Matthew. Their thumbs were in the air the whole time prodding Joe to make the boat go faster. SInce I was insisting that the speed stay within the range of a non-bone breaking speed, these guys would stand up, or jump from tube to tube to add some thrill. Then the Michael and Christopher would have their turn after having Uncle Joe swear that he would not go above 15MPH. They white knuckled it around the lake and even smiled a few times.

We camped Monday night in the middle of the Badlands after a day of hiking and Prairie dog stalking. It was pleasantly cool and I learned to eat Cream of Wheat by adding hot water to the bag it comes in. I thought FOR SURE the water would leak through, but it appears that Andy the Backpacker was right--again! You can try that trick at home just for fun.

Tuesday we stopped to see a nuclear missile silo, Wall Drug, and Mount Rushmore before setting up camp in the Black Hills at Custer State Park. The boys immediately got out their three scooters and one fishing pole (since the others got cut in the packing dilemma...see prior post) and set off to fish. Christopher returned with tales of 9 "little worms" that were crawling on his hands. He asked Bryan what they were since Bryan had been to DNR camp this summer, and Bryan informed him that they were leaches! They also caught four turtles and a snake and "hundreds" of fish.

Today the boys encountered a heard of 1500 or so buffalo while at their fishing hole. I'm SURE that Matthew was tempted to cast his rod at one of the smaller calves, but he resisted the urge. Andy and I had set out to run and had to get a ride from an older couple while we encountered the same heard on our way back. That was my first time to do the thumbs up hitch hiking sign. The woman had the Bible on her lap and said, "You're not supposed to pick up hitch hikers you know."


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Packing Dilemmas

We knew things would be tight in the mini van. The four inches from the new cooler were used up immediately. We got the largest car top carrier they had, but it still was quite enough last night at 9:30 in the last rays of daylight. The 3 back packs and 4 sleeping bags waiting on the driveway would need to find a way into the car--somewhere--somehow.

It was time to start tossing. We laughed that the first thing to go was the bag of homeschooling books. I reevaluated my hopes and expectations and realized that I was kidding myself with MacBeth and Merchant of Venice and instead opted for the sure thing of enough sleeping bags for everyone. I cursed the 6 pound Algebra book and moved it to the compartment on the side of my door. We took down a well packed plastic tub from the cartop carrier and had to put it in the aisle as a "table." Every mini-van needs a table in the aisle. We even took the car manual out of the glove box and shoved a few more homeschooling books in there. (Macbeth is still back in the house.) Andy was busted for trying to take 2 fifty pound weights and 2 fifteen pound weights to work out with. Clearly sleeping comfort overrides working out every time. I told him he could lift rocks.
Please keep in mind that we had already packed light. Andy said only one towel for all of us for swimming and that we would all use shammy towels for bathing. So I have my 6 inch by 7 inch "towel" rolled in my make-up bag. Yes, I did bring two eyeliners and a curling iron and blow dryer because... if mama's not happy, ain't nobody happy. Each person has five shirts, one pair of pants and two pairs of shorts. We are lean and mean. Denim and cotton are forbidden fruits because of the moisture. However, I did smuggle in my favorite pair of denim capris and an extra pair of flip flops. A girl's gotta live. Though I feel like its camping contraband.

Friday, August 13, 2010

24 hours to go

I woke up at 6:15AM with that same feeling that I used to have when I was seven and it was Christmas morning. (By the way, WHY was the alarm set for so early?) I couldn't even enjoy one "snooze" because my mind was flooded with, "Only 24 more hours." I also couldn't help but notice that I was neither too hot or too cold; my back was not sore and my pillow not damp; the boys were not all sleeping on top of me; there was not a rock under my shoulder. This could be as good as it gets for the next 50 days.
Wow, 50 days seems like a little much. Seven weeks seemed shorter, but almost two months seems longer. What have we done? Anyone reading this and not knowing about "The Trip" clearly does not live in Zionsville, IN at the moment. "The Trip" has consumed almost every free, random-thought moment since April 18th, 2010. That was the day that Andy downloaded the family videos from 1998 and I freaked out that the boys were growing up so fast. The "trip out West/Homeschooling extranvaganza" would have to be THIS fall or they would be driving, voting, dating, and raising families of their own soon. (and in that order)
I feel ready. Sort of. The backpacks, one for each person, are actually in the car with each person's "trip cup"-- their name written in sharpie on the side--already in their cup holder. Each boys' hiking shoes are under their seat and the finger/feet prints on the inside windows have been removed so we can drive at night without dying because we can't see beyond Michael's size 10.5 foot smudges on the front windshield (which he assures me are not his.) Obviously there are people in the world who break into cars with sweaty feet and place them all over the windshield in an attempt to wreak havoc on the American road system.
Ok, the bear spray is packed, the bug spray, and thanks to Amy Rafalko, the room spray/ air freshener is packed. We have one pan, one pot, one stove burner, one roll of toilet paper (thanks Amy again)two fishing poles, two cans of tuna fish, four scooters, four bottles of Gatorade, and four very excited boys with fresh haircuts and big dreams of adventure.
Surprisingly, they are all very excited about home schooling. However, I think the exciting part for them is the "home" part rather than the "schooling" part. So as we sit here on the official last day of the comforts of home, I feel.....ready! (Except I have to go buy a cooler that is 4 inches smaller than the one we have now because Andy says we need those 4 inches! :-) )