Monday, October 14, 2013

Tent Camping for Two

So..... back in the early summer, I got the bright idea that Maddox (my dog) and I needed to go on vacation together. And the only way to really do that on the cheap is to tent camp at one of our state parks. So I chose the farthest one on the coast (Hunting Island, near Beaufort) and made my reservations for a long weekend. It would be glorious!

I hadn't been tent camping since college, and not for more than an overnight since childhood, but hey, I had a good idea what I was getting into, right? I had acquired a 4-person tent (plenty of room for me and the dog), and planned the weekend. I borrowed a campstove from some friends, packed my car up, and took off on Friday around noon (later than planned). With that, I also got to my destination a little later than planned -- plus, did you know rest stops with pets in tow take longer than they do for just me.... huh, imagine that, right?

Got to the state park, found my trailside parking space, and started hauling stuff into the campsite. Oh yeah, see when I made my reservations, I saw the 10 trailside tent spaces, and promptly booked one. But that meant you lugged your stuff in from the parking spot into the area. It was about 100 feet from the parking area into the campsite. So once I finally got all the stuff there, I fed Maddox and then set about getting it all ready for our big weekend.

I should mention this: the bugs started biting the minute I got out of the car. I wish I were joking. Seriously. I started scratching from minute one. It is 72+ hours later and I haven't stopped. Again, I wish I were joking. But that is only some of the fiascos I have to share with you.

Fiasco #1: Wrong instructions in the tent box. I got a neighboring camper to help, and the instructions' item #5 should have been #3 instead! Would have made things MUCH easier (not to mention make more sense). So the tent went up with no problem after that.....

Fiasco #2: Couldn't start a fire for love or money. I was at least able to get the campstove started as I was in desperate need of coffee. I could feel a migraine building and thought some caffeine would help matters. I'm not much of a Starbucks fan, but I was pretty grateful for the Via sticks I'd brought along.

So I decided to just have a very light supper of a turkey & cheese wrap and some chips. I didn't feel up to dealing with trying to do more. The headache was winning..... so I went to bed early, forgetting a few key things such as:

Fiasco #3: Forgetting to move ALL the food into the tent with me. Or putting it back in the car. About 12:00 my bladder suddenly decided that it had to be emptied NOW. So I got up in the dark, stumbled my way to the bathrooms about a football field away. When I was done, I just got back into the tent and promptly fell asleep again.... only to be awakened at 3:00 AM by my bladder yet again. Repeat. Maddox was in the tent asleep the whole time. Around 3:20, I heard a noise that sounded an awful lot like Maddox's nibbling.... what's that, you ask? Maddox has a very bad habit of nibbling on himself when he has an itch that just cannot be remedied in any other fashion. So I heard the noise, tapped him and said, "No nibbles, buddy. No nibbles!" That usually stops him .... but then I heard "crunch crunch, smack, crunch." After realizing that, no, Maddox was very much not nibbling nor crunching, it hit me: SOMETHING OUTSIDE. Now at this point, I'm praying, "Sweet baby Jesus, do NOT let it be a bear, if it is a bear, I will flat out DIE right here on the spot." No, it was a raccoon: and that little sorry rat fish-poop (bass-turd) had the gollblasted nerve to LOOK at me like, "Yeah. I'm here, nibbling on your food. Whatcha gonna do about it?" I swung the lantern at him and scared him off but saw where he'd eaten nearly two and a half of the remaining 5 baggies of dog food I'd brought for Maddox. So here I am at 3:30 AM, moving junk (including cooler) into the tent. The only thing I left out was an unopened gallon of drinking water and a box of firewood. And damn his sorry hide, if that little SOB didn't come back and try to rummage through the wood!

Then at 5:00 AM, ANOTHER bathroom trip. I finally had the last one of the night when I woke around 7:45 or so. As soon as that was done, I got Maddox out of the tent for his morning potty break. We walked down to the parking area, and out through the rest of the campground. I took some baggies just in case he had to TCB, but luckily, he just needed the other at this time. So when we returned, I fed him and set about to start the water for my morning coffee.

Fiasco #4: I could not get the campstove going. I changed propane bottles. I changed burners. NOTHING. So I walked down to the park store and bought another propane tank. Let me also say that charging double for the item I can buy back in town is ludicrous. I could see another dollar or two for the convenience, but DOUBLE? #RIPOFF, South Carolina State Parks. Big ripoff. And guess what, it didn't work either. By this point, I was to the cussing phase, and figured an Egg McMuffin would be in order. I would also go to a hardware store to try to figure out the problem or get some advice. Oh, and coffee. MUST have coffee. So into town I went, Maddox in tow, and got to Mickey D's where PRAISE BE, breakfast waited. I darted into the hardware store up the street to get extra propane, and the idea that, "well, it's probably a bad bottle you got, try one of those." You can see where this is going, can't you? I got back, tried one of the BRAND NEW bottles I'd just purchased and.............. I figured what the hell, girl can eat on turkey wraps all weekend long and do without coffee. It was at that moment I realized that .....

Fiasco #5: That little stinkin' idiot raccoon took my Via packs. ALL SIX OF WHAT WAS LEFT. That was going to be one wired little animal. Seriously wired. Hope he had caffeine OD'd by this point. Nothing left to do except keep scratching and take Maddox to the beach.

At this point you're probably wondering why this is a big deal. Maddox is one of the few Labs in the world scared crapless of water. He hates it. He tolerates baths, he'll drink water until the cows come home but he purely hates puddled water. So my thought process was "maybe if he feels the nice cool ocean water lapping over his feet, he'll enjoy it and get accustomed to it."

The big ol' 120-pound wussydog BACKED UP. Every single time a wave would come in, he freaked and went backward. This cannot be my child of another species. Cannot be. As much as I love the ocean, my dog is petrified of it. SAD. Just Sad.

In the afternoon, my friends Russell & Amy were coming over with their doggie, Junot -- a cute little Chihuahua. And thus ensued.....

Fiasco #6: What happens when two alphas meet. Maddox is now also a senior citizen doggie, so he thinks he alone rules the roost. He was not in a playful mood, which made me sad. Then Mama got totally embarrassed when he growled and snarled and showed teeth. DUDE!!! I raised you better than that. So after being eaten alive by those CONTINUALLY PESKY little flying creatures, we meandered to the beach where Wussydog continued to prove his wussiness, but tried to redeem himself by chasing sand crabs popping up out of beach holes. Go on witcha bad self, King Maddox. You show that crab who's boss.

The good news was that Amy gave me tremendously helpful advice on fire-starting, and after their exit, I proceeded to build one beautiful fire!! Yes, it was the Tom-Hanks-in-Cast-Away moment.... HA!!!! And I got a tremendously bright idea that I could put my water kettle on the grill grate over the fire. OF COURSE!!!! What an awesome idea, never mind that I couldn't have coffee! I could have hot water! I could make oatmeal for dinner.... until:

Fiasco #7: You know how that smart little dude in the back of your brain -- with all the really important details -- suddenly comes rushing to the front of your brain screaming, "HOLD IT!!!!!" Yeah, he showed up screaming, "HOLD IT!!!! That kettle has a plastic handle and YOU don't have a pot holder, dipweed!" Oh holy crap. LUCKILY, the occupants of the tentsite before me had left a metal weenie roasting stick that served very well as a way to safely pull the kettle to the ground to cool. What the hell had I been thinking??? On top of that, the kettle was now scorched from a nice stainless finish to a charred blackened thing. I don't know that it will ever be cleaned. Luckily at home, I have an electric kettle but really, this was super stupid of me.

Finally, the fire died down and the clock on the phone told me it was time for bed. I was tired! And I still had two mornings to go.... I had to figure something out, but what? Go back to the hardware store to find a single burner stove? Ask a neighboring campsite with electric for permission to borrow from them a few volts?

So Sunday morning, I got up at a normal time and took Maddox for his morning stroll. I wore a hoodie to cover my already well-dotted arms -- and by the time I got back, my HANDS were covered in welts. THAT DID IT! I was beyond done. I fed Maddox and started decamping. I was over it. If I lost my money for the third night, I'd just lose it (and I did, thank you SC State Parks). But I was outta there by 10:00 AM -- and Mickey D's once again got my business.

And that bottle of Caladryl Clear that I bought last summer and used once is being used extensively now. OY!!!!

And I'd camp with my buddy again there in a heartbeat. As long as it's January or February. And snowing.