Page the Second


A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Swamp Camping

Recently we went camping with another family with lots of little children. Those children are brilliant, as geeky as we in our family are, and hilarious. I just had to get that in there.
Ramming speed, Girl!

So we trundled out to the area, not in the mountains as once I had hoped, but in a valley. Here in the desert that means normally it would be hotter than a smoker in the Marianas Trench (pretty toasty for those of you who don't keep up with marine biology or watch Blue Planet). To add to that, the campsite was located on a road between two weed-filled ponds. I envisioned hoards of goat-sized mosquitoes plunging from the clouds to siphon up gallons of our blood. I also envisioned one or more of the tots flinging themselves (or accidentally falling) into any of three large ponds.

What I did not envision was that directly after dinner the first salad plate-sized drops of an all-night deluge would begin. Luckily we'd already set up our tents...on the road in a line. I quickly questioned the parents of aforesaid tots about whether there was any history of sleepwalking in their family, as our own is rife with it. Luckily none of their children had sleepwalked while camping. A felicitous thought.

Normally I make three or four trips to the facilities each night. I was dreading the thought. I made one trek out to the outhouses down a muck-glazed road. Before I'd gotten ten feet I looked as if I'd fallen in the pond. I found that what had been touted as a rain poncho on the cover, was actually a windbreaker sans hat. So much for being prepared for every eventuality. To add to that and the knee-deep mud, the hand washing hose pump was solar-powered. Hence no water. Which wasn't a problem right then. I could simply hold my hands in the air and they'd be washed clean in under thirty seconds.
Hunting the great carp

Upon getting back to the tents after nearly slipping to my drowning death in the pond nearby, I found that not only was I covered in mud, but I really had no wish to sit outside in the rain and chat, as my Hubs was. So I went to bed. Which would have been pleasant, except that the rain was making it inside in about eight different ways. I tried unsuccessfully to make my bed an island. It was warm enough that I slept on top of the sleeping bag in a blanket sack I'd made as a liner for cold weather camps. Unfortunately that sack made a fabulous wick. The tip of it dipped into the burgeoning puddle and as the night wore on, wicked up further and further. Finally I sat up and yelled, "OK! TAKE THE REST OF IT!" at the puddle and donated the sack to the cause of sopping up the water so that it wouldn't soak my clothes. Which didn't work.

So everything was soaking wet. I could deal with that for a night. No problem. I wasn't even chilly. What I had a rougher time hacking was the chorus of bullfrog mating honks. All night. LOUD. Right next to us. I wanted to yell, "GET A ROOM!!!" until I realized we were sitting in their room. Around two pm we heard something that seemed to be trying to get into our food coolers. Anticipating a coon or a ring-tailed cat or coatimundi, the Hubs shone his flashlight out there and the rustles retreated to the tree. We continued to chat and suddenly heard a Ca-RACKKKK and a SPLOOSH. The Hubs and I doubled over in laughter thinking that that coon had fallen into the pond. But we didn't hear any splashing of a struggle. So apparently it either didn't fall in and was still lurking in the tree somewhere, or was immediately consumed by the cow-sized carp that lurk in the ponds. At any rate, it left the coolers alone. I got maybe an hour of light dozing that night.

The next day dawned watery but sunny. We aired things out clear up until we left, not wanting to haul home exceeding amounts of muck. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sausage, we packed up most of it and went canoing.
We can beat 'em on the turn

The ponds could be called tiny lakes. I believe those things were mostly under five feet deep. I reached my paddle down to the bottom several times to check. Also, they were infested with lake weed which rose above the surface in many places. So for the giant carp to navigate, much of their bodies were above the surface. They left wakes like a motorboat. The Hubs was in front and saw several of the monsters. We chased them all over the pond. I wanted to see them up close too, but the bounders were too fast. Later when I went back out with my friend Lisa, we could find none of them. We found out that they had made their way to an underground culvert, which they used to escape to another of the ponds for safety.

After much pirate talk and plans to "ram the beggars" which we nixed after we saw how easy it would be to hole a canoe, we packed up the cars and wended our way home. That afternoon the house looked as if it was infested with mud monsters from the Black Lagoon. I still have several loads of tent and sleeping bags to wash and dry and put back together. And I hope none of those coolers contain anything other than bullrushes and air.

That 'squint-into-the-sun selfie
And of course there was the dialogue about what we'd do differently as we drove home. For one thing, I'm bringing my REAL poncho, not that stupid windbreaker. And for another, there's got to be a better way to keep the water out of our tent. And earplugs for the bullfrogs.


  1. This sounds a bit like the Berenstain's Worst Vacation. Something you can laugh about later. :D

  2. Certainly if it had lasted a week it would really bite, but for one night I can do about anything...;o)