Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Camping (2015)

Pratibha, the kids and I love camping. And I love it that parks here provide all sorts of amenities for camping. Showers, flush toilets .. running water at the campsite (sometimes) etc etc . Every time summer rolls around, we head out to the mountains for a weekend or two underneath the stars. The process is tried, tested and stress free. We usually start off with a morning hike and set up camp after the kids are tired. Sona and Megha would go looking for animal tracks and Pratibha would get busy with the camp stove while I setup the tent and supplies. Once the tent is up, there'll be hot tea, some snacks, a book and a hammock ready for me (she prefers a chair). Around sunset the kids come back. We light a fire and kick off grilling. Corn, veggie patties, marshmellows, fish burgers, baked bananas .. just lots of food. Afterwards, when the fire dies down, I lie in the hammock and point out star constellations to the kids .. Alright fine .. most of the time I make up a name .. dad's got to survive. They can sense weakness.

Sometimes though, the wheels fall off. Last summer we camped near lake Cuyamacca. Sites there are hard to get and I usually monitor them year round for openings on a good weekend. One Friday I saw an opening for friday and sat night. I could camp that very night. Some fool had a last minute emergency and must have cancelled. I pounced and roared in triumph. Called up Pratibha and told her to get off work early. She wasn't sure. 

Sonu : "Nikku .. we need to pack, get the kids ready .. can we do it?"
I insisted ..  we've been looking for a campsite here for ages. 

"But we'll get there after dark"
I scoffed at that with utter contempt .. I'd setup a tent so many times, I could do it with a blindfold .. on one leg .. holding babies in both hands. 

"Btw ... any idea why they cancelled"
"who cares ... lets do this"

I rushed out, grabbed the kids from school, and headed home after a quick stop at the grocer. I'm no greenhorn. Last minute is never an issue for a professional like me. I mean .. I have a checklist in a spreadsheet printed and pasted over my bedpost. So I wasn't even nervous. Methodically packed up all the stuff while the kids got ready. 
Tent ... grabbed it and threw it in the car
ice and Ice box .. in the van
grill tools ... in the van
cooking utensils .. in the van
corn, burgers, veggies .. in the van
Paneer .. skip it
Hammock and chairs.. in the van
Toiletries .. in the van
clothes .. in the van
lanterns .. in the van
sleeping bags, jackets, air beds, charcoal, lighter fluid, duraflame log, .. man I was good .. I didn't even need to look at the spreadsheet anymore. Soon as Pratibha got home we headed out. We were halfway there when I asked her to check the weather. Night was going to be in the high 30s Farenheit (2-4 deg centigrade). Still warmer than the ice in Pratibha's eyes. "That explains why the others cancelled" she said coldly. I feigned nonchalance and kept driving. "Those sleeping bags are rated at 32 .. I guess we'll find out how good they are huh" .. I croaked. By the time we got to the campsite it was 9 O clock. I stepped out .. stepped back in .. crawled sorrowfully to the back of the minivan and dug out my thickest jacket. It was freezing. I knew exactly where this was leading. That elder daughter of mine never feels cold. She would insist on setting up the tent and sleeping inside. Pratibha and Megha would curl up in the back of the minivan .. which can take a fullsize mattress once emptied. 
"Anyone want's to go home? .. I can drive while you sleep" I squeaked. 
"No way" .. came 2 full throated roars from the back seat. 
"We just got here" "I haven't even looked at the sky yet" " "We have to explore the woods tomorrow" "And you promised to take me to the lake .. remember"
"Alright .. Alright" I said raising my voice over the cacophony. "I'll setup the tent" 

I could feel the icicles in my lungs by the time I was done with that. To top it all, I had left the tent flap at home. "So much the better" Said Sona "We can see the night sky"I grabbed the lantern and looked whistfully at the Pratibha and Megha cozily cuddled up in the back of the minivan. "Come on .. come on Papa .. it's not even snowing". "Fine .. you polar bear .. I'm coming". She crawled into the sleeping bag, curled up, and was lost in dreams in 5 mins. I tried to curl .. the dratted bag was too small. My face poked out. It was going numb in the cold. I wondered when frostbite strikes. I don't know when I fell asleep. Maybe I just cryo froze and thawed in the morning. That was the coldest I'd ever camped in without heat. Luckily, by morning, things picked up and temperatures returned to normal. Sat night, we were back to our usual camping routine and I still love camping.