Monday, June 04, 2007

Camping Recap

As some of you know, blogging about the vacation often takes longer than the vacation itself. Here's my very tardy update of our camping trip:

Last week, we loaded up the monkeys, a giant tent, an air mattress, fishing poles, several changes of clothes, and way more food than four people could possibly eat in three days and headed to the Ozarks for our first ever family camping trip. If I seemed a little stressed at any time, Warren made sure to say, "It's just car camping." (FYI--"Real camping" consists of carrying all of your belongings on your back and hiking several hours away from any mode of transportation.)

We left Memphis around ten in the a.m. and arrived at our campground just past Eminence, Missouri around 5:30p.m. (We would have arrived a lot sooner had Warren not spent a good hour looking for Jiffy Pop at every store in Somewhere, Missouri. (He blamed our slowness on our twenty minute lunch stop at Wendy's in Somewhere Else, Missouri.)

The whole trip Jiro kept asking, "Where are we going?"

"We're going camping," I'd say.

"No, where are we going?" he'd say a little firmer.

"Camping!" I'd say enthusiastically.

He was suspicious.

When we pulled into camp and started setting up the tent, he was more than a little disappointed. "I want to go to the new house!" he demanded.

Satchel, on the other hand, was thrilled beyond belief. "Can we go fishing now?" he asked about every two seconds. Unfortunately, it started to rain almost immediately after we set up our tent and we couldn't do much of anything except point out the spots where our new tent was leaking. (Oh this also gave us plenty of time to try and inflate our air mattress with the world's tiniest hand pump while both monkeys jumped on it.)

We ended up getting in the car and driving to Eminence for dinner at the T&A Cafe. (It was actually called the T&T.) It was the one place that Warren never ate at while on his dig. Satchel ordered a hamburger but ate none of it. Jiro surprisingly ate almost an entire grilled cheese sandwich. Warren and I both boldly ordered the homemade chili. Once the monkeys had both "unloaded" in the oh so nasty restrooms, we headed back to camp.

Despite the dampness, Warren was able to start a fire and we had s'mores before going to bed. The monkeys slept great and never once made a peep. Not even when Warren jumped out of his sleeping bag at 3a.m. and began fighting with a gang of raccoons that had infiltrated our food stores. He was too late to save the remaining marshmallows. Or the hot dog buns. Or our loaf of bread.

Oh well. Clearly the Atkins diet has not caught on with the carb-loving critters.

It rained most of the night, although not too hard, and had thankfully stopped for the most part by morning. Satchel woke up and said, "Can we go fishing now?"

Warren took both him and Jiro while I cleaned up a bit. I walked down to the river a few minutes later and basked in the cuteness that was Satchel and Jiro fishing. They didn't catch anything--in fact I'm not sure that there was anything to catch in the three inches of water where they focused most of their efforts, but they had a blast.

Eventually I was able to talk them into going back to camp for some breakfast. Warren was stoked to have a chance to try out his Coleman camp stove that he scored at the thrift store for $9.95 a few months ago. We had a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese quesadillas, and the leftover Hershey bars.

Next we went on a hike to check out the area. We found a really cool spring/swamp area:

Artifacts galore:

A cool bridge:

And a headless baby snapping turtle. (Not pictured.)

Next we went on a tour of the Round Spring Cavern. Since it was a Wednesday we ended up being the only people on the tour. It was pretty cool having the place all to ourselves. The two rangers were super nice and even took our picture out front. The cave hike was about a mile round trip and lasted almost two hours. Satchel had a million questions, as did Warren. (The ranger could answer Satchel's but not Warren's.) Jiro really liked the super fancy light saber like flashlights that they let us carry. I was pretty impressed by the clawmarks left by the now extinct fifteen foot tall short-faced bear.

Jiro and I were exhausted when the tour was over, but Satchel wanted to do some more fishing. We drove up the road a bit to a different campground and a different part of the river, hoping for a better spot. Satchel was determined to catch a fish for Warren to cook. Jiro fell asleep on the way so I opted to stay in the car and snooze with him. After an hour or so, we ventured down and found the fishing poles cast aside in favor of an intertube.

Jiro took his shirt off and played in the water a bit, but had no interest in the intertube. The water was about 10 degrees, so I had little interest too. I played photographer and skipped rocks until everyone was ready to go.

Warren built a ferocious fire and began cooking everything that we brought with us--steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, corn, onions, etc. I made some mac and cheese on the stove. Satchel and Jiro grilled their own hot dogs.

It was a feast of biblical proportions.

Once stuffed, we put all of the remaining food in the car so that the raccoons wouldn't attack again. Then we took our first shower in two days. It was almost eleven by the time we went to bed and I was exhausted. Our air mattress was slowly losing air and it wasn't nearly as comfortable as it was the night before. By morning, we were all on the ground.

We woke up and ate cereal bars before heading out for one last fishing expedition. Then it was time to break down camp. Everything was muddy and nasty. It was not fun. Satchel and Jiro were no help at all. They chased each other around camp and rolled in the mud as much as possible. Thankfully, I had one last change of clothes for them.

We pulled out of camp around noon to cries of "I'm starving!" I had to use Warren's Swiss Army knife to cut up some leftover steak for Satchel to eat in the backseat. (Jiro ate a few bites of cold hot dog.) I insisted on stopping at a gas station in Eminence to order a pizza since Warren repeatedly said that their pizza was better than Memphis Pizza Cafe.

We put in our order--a large pepperoni--and walked through the town square to the old fashioned soda fountain for a treat. I had a coke float, the monkeys split a root beer float, and Warren simply had a root beer, I think. As we walked back towards the gas station pizza place, we noticed an older boy from the soda fountain puking all over the sidewalk, and crossed our fingers that we would not spend the next five hours tempting fate in our only remaining clean clothes.

We loaded up the monkeys, got our pizza, and hit the road. When I cracked open the pizza box, I got a little excited. It looked really yummy. I love a pizza cut in squares. Don't ask me why.

It also tasted yummy. Kind of a cross between Pete & Sam's and Tostino's Party Pizza! I don't know if it was better than the Pizza Cafe, but it was damn good for a gas station in Eminence, Missouri.

Just to be fair, I asked Satchel if he thought it was better than the Pizza Cafe. Without hesitating, he said, "Oh yeah, baby!"

Once the pizza was gone, the monkeys went right to sleep. I read the February 2007 issue of The Sun (I'm so behind on my reading!), and Warren expertly navigated the backroads having driven them more times than he could count.

By the time we got to Jonesboro, the monkeys were up. We made a last gas station stop, got some snacks, and then made a pit stop at a gigantic, brand-spanking-new playground in the middle of an even more gigantic park.

Then I took the wheel and drove us home. As we pulled in Jiro excitedly asked, "Can I watch TV now?"


Anonymous said...

My dad's family is from that area. Next time you are out the area check out alley springs if you did not do it on this trip. It is stunning and the spring runs into Summersville,MO and feed the other springs if memory serves me correct. Glad to hear the trip was good.

Secret Agent Mom said...

If someone was taking me camping but refused to tell me where, I'd be a little suspicious, too.

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