Ashley, Alyssa and I headed to the Pinery with the kids; Jae was meeting us after work. This was pre-GPS/smart phone days and finding us turned out to be a bigger challenge than we had anticipated. We actually didn't realize how big the Pinery is. And we didn't realize how much it costs to bring three vehicles on to one campsite. And I didn't realize how much bigger deal it is to bring four adults, three children - people who care more about having lots of stuff to eat than I do. Here I was picturing spontaneous, easy, simple camping - a tent and a chair. Instead we had two tents, three vehicles, all the stuff that goes along with a 6 year old, 4 year old and 10 week old baby and forty three bags of groceries, which needed to purchased in the hour long shopping stop on the way.
Totally different experience. In EVERY way.
My evening was spent mothering someone else's children - a couple young girls who had gone for a walk and lost their way. Did I mention there are a thousand campsites in the Pinery, in three different areas. I never did find any emergency place for them to help locate their site, I just drove them around and around until they recognized something.
Darkness had closed in and It was bedtime by the time I returned. "Well," I advised my rookie camp buds, "I learned something from my vast experience. Raccoons. You have to lock everything inside a vehicle because they will undoubtedly molest it." "But," I said upon consideration of the vastness of the park, "there are so many places for them go here, I suppose it's a remote possibility that they will just pick ours randomly when there are a thousand others, so I guess we're okay."
The girls headed to the washrooms with the kids and the only flashlight. Something I also garnered from my vast experience - a flashlight is a handy thing. Two would even be better, I thought, as I sat in the darkness with the baby. They were only a few yards away when the raccoons started coming out of the shadows. How they could get the signal out that quickly was incredible. "GET AWAY" I shouted, loud enough that the baby had a little heart attack. They did not scurry. They looked at me with a mild irritation and a 'You are not a hindrance, we SHALL return' look, and lumbered away.
When the girls returned I informed them that we indeed needed to lock up all forty three bags of food in the vehicle and not put them inside our tents. The vision of the shadow of those massive raccoon hands on my tent zipper was still fresh in my head.
We loaded it all in my little car. The last thing I did was poke my head out and 'beep-beep' to ensure it was locked up tight.
Then I slept. Well this time, perhaps because I had the comforting breathing sounds of two tiny people with me.
Morning arrived and with it a new camping lesson to add to the growing list of 'Things Learned'.
#1 Put all food stuff into your vehicle.
#2 SHUT the door.
#3 Lock the door.
Apparently we had missed #2.
Yes, the back door on the passenger side was wide open. Wide open. I can just see big ol' Henry put out the signal to his wife and all her cousins. "Martha, you won't believe the buffet that's open. Rookies, gotta love 'em."
What a feast they had. The entire back seat was filled with bags of food. My camping colleagues value eating and having great quantities and choice far more than I do. The coons were impressed. And happy. And fat. And full. So fat and full in fact, that they couldn't hoist their big old raccoon bellies up over the seat to get to the overflow from the 43 bags in the front. It wasn't for the lack of trying by the looks of the muddy paw prints.
I haven't been camping since. Every year I intend to have the adventure again and see what else I can learn. But I never have, for no reason other than the fact that summer goes by too fast and the years fly by.
THIS year, I assured myself .. I WILL. I HAVE to. And then suddenly it's the last week of summer and I have not.
I rectified that today. With the convenience of on-line booking - even to the point of getting to see photos of the site and where it's situated, I did it. I thought I could peruse the area and choose just the right spot, conducive to solitude and writing - nice trees, close to the water. One spot left in the Dunes, one spot in Burley - that's all. And yet another lesson learned - book earlier.
Using the lessons I learned on my last trip five years ago, I booked TWO nights. And I'm packing something to read.