Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tale of a Fateful Trip

I am yankering to begin this story about our camping trip to Bastrop State Park by assuring you readers that it really taught the Green family a lot about what we should do better on our next trip. Which you know means one thing: everything went wrong.

It did. Wrongness was the most confident and reliable member of the camping party GreenDaddy, BabyG and I set off on with our friends Gemini, Araf and their five year old daughter, Maha. I’m fairly certain none of us would deny it.

But just in case somebody would, I’ll make my case, which begins by explaining how the site we had planned to visit, Huntsville State Park, just an hour away from Houston, was filled. Garner State Park and the clear and cool Frio River, where I really, really want to go was too far: four hours away. So we drove to Bastrop State Park, which we knew little else about except that it had a swimming pool and pine trees. I could not dismiss a forboding feeling when I heard the park (was so lame) that even though it had two lakes, it also had to have a pool.  Something seemed amiss.  

But Bastrop is two hours from Houston and had a spot open: who cares about amiss? GreenDaddy and I spent hours Friday night amassing gear...so long we skipped breakfast and were two hours late meeting up the next morning. Then, though she didn’t scream the whole two hours, our child refused a nap and earned high high-maintenance marks.

Bastrop Park was hot. Our site was hilly, BabyG tripped, and this made her cry until daddy took her for a walk. We forgot ice. When Gemini and I went to buy some, I asked the cranky old lady in the park store where we could swim, and she told us nowhere: the pool was closed and no wading or swimming was permitted in the lakes or creeks. Since we were planning to paddle, I asked if water-contact was prohibited because the water was somehow dangerous, or if it was just a protected ecosystem. She said it was an ecosystem, and wouldn't say more. When an old volunteer guy carried our ice to the car, I asked him how to cool off. He said drive five miles to the lake in the neighboring park. We eventually did: it was a crowded, swimming-pool-sized, fairly shallow area in a lake otherwise meant for water skiers and that, Maha said (dismissivley) smelled like ketchup: otherwise it was perfect.

That night, BabyG peed the bed. Twice. It was blistering cold outside, for Texas, and we were serenaded by the continuous humming, honking and buzzing of cars passing on the nearby highway. Half the pan of oatmeal fell into the fire, that next morning. BabyG started saying bye-bye to everybody, which meant: okay, I’m ready to have been back in Houston three hours ago.  

Instead, we headed to the lake you couldn’t swim in, to kayak and fish. It turned out we were missing GreenDaddy’s kayak oars, so he and Araf rented a canoe and then Araf went fishing. It took forty mintutes to put the Klepper kayak together, after which, Gemini, Maha, BabyG and I climbed into the canoe. I took one oar as Gemini had never paddled before, and GreenDaddy took the other in his kayak.

Maha, almost immediately, wanted to go fish with her dad, and BabyG was unabashedly unimpressed with her life-jacket. She performed her best shrieking raptor imitation, non-stop, until I stopped paddling and breastfed her. Gemini didn't want to take the helm as the canoe thing was new to her. She thought she'd kill us. She didn't though: she caught on to paddling nicely.

When we reached Araf, he said he’d like a ride. GreenDaddy jumped waist deep in the water to help moor us as we transferred vessels. When Gemini’s family came back, we all decided to picnic on what ended up being waterlogged veggie burgers. Yum. After eating, we packed up and headed to our respective homes.

Fast forward twelve hours and note how GreenDaddy’s body is a minefield of flatworm infestation. It looks like countless mosquito bites. Initially, I felt sorry for him, but didn't pay much attention. When the bites seemed to multiply, I searched the internet and discovered he has swimmer's itch: bites made from a parasitic worm that cycles through snails and ducks until humans stupidly offer up their, apparently, duck-like skin. Its itch is severe (like poison ivy) as opposed to mild (like insect bites) according to the Center for Disease Control. He has over 74 bites.

So, it’s like I said, we learned a lot about what to do better, next time.

But it's also like what I didn’t say, but what GreenDaddy and I talked about half the way home. As BabyG slept peacefully in her Aloha carseat, and we were following the wildflower drenched highway back to Houston (and there were dozens of varieties of wildflowers out this weekend: in purples and reds and yellows and golds and whites and lavenders...) we talked about how we both felt toatlly relaxed. Stress-free for the first time in months.

And it occurred to us, as it has occurred to all campers at one point or another, that the swim in the grass-filled and pondy bottomed lake, the making due with imperfections, the passing of intensely intimate time with another family, the learning to wash two pounds of spinach in a plastic bag, the witnessing of somebody learning to steer a canoe, the blossoming friendship between BabyG and Maha, even the little part of beauty evident in the presence of motorhomes with their sewage systems, Christmas light pollution, and satellite televisions: the power of camping is that all of these tiny things come together and trump the obvious wrongs. And no matter how annoying the wrongs were at the time, by the ride home they seem to be integral parts of camping fun (except for those worm bites.)

I mean, I wrote all this just to say: we had fun. More fun than we've had in ages and ages. It was nice to spend that time with our friends and each other. And though next time we’ll be sure not to wade in shallow lake water we’ve been told not to swim in, and we’ll remember toys for the baby, and we’ll make simpler meals, and we’ll get up earlier and swim in cooler water…something else unexpected will happen. And we’re looking forward to finding out what it will be.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Aw. I really enjoyed that. It's made me feel less nervous about my camping trip this weekend, and the discomforts I'm sure to endure.