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Camping, Capsizing and Crying (all in a weekend at play)

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As backpackers, my husband Jamie and I are minimalists. We pack the bare essentials because we know we will be the ones hauling them into the backcountry.

We had also taken the same approach with car camping…until we saw the light during last weekend’s camping trip to Eleven Mile State Park, a venue that came highly recommended in Family Fun magazine and a rocky, barren venue that I would never recommend in a thousand years. Or in the eleven hundred miles it seemed to take to get us there.

Our friends Tina and Mark are Pack Everything Including the Kitchen Sink kind of campers. There is nothing wrong with this unless you are camping with them and your rations suddenly seem woefully inadequate and you find yourselves begging them to please share just a bite of their pancake, sausage and bacon breakfast to spare you the trauma of your Frosted Flakes without milk.

In addition to having a tent trailer that was stocked to the hilt, they also brought their canoe, a ton of toys, games, bubble whistles, glow-in-the-dark necklaces and a visit from the bead fairy who helped them make bracelets.

My contribution? Paper plates. A lot of them.

Oh, and both of my boys brought diarrhea. A lot of it. But I will spare you the joy of how I spent my afternoon in the park’s laundry room cleaning the pool of poop that had saturated Bode’s carseat during the drive. Jamie’s rendition of Said Illness did not hit until 11 p.m. and he had a grand ol’ time darting in and out of the tent all night and relieving himself in the outhouse.

Because those things don’t smell disgusting enough.

Our first day was windy and cold, which forced us to hunker down in Tina and Mark’s camper. Day two dawned glorious and calm so Mark announced that we would take the kids canoeing and issued a decree for anyone who wanted to come?!

Tina bowed out. She is afraid of tipping over in the canoe. Woosy.

Jamie was still nauseated from his all-night puke and poopfest. Woosy.

So I ponied up. Mark and I sailed across the water with Hadley and his son Nolan. All was going smoothly until we approached the shoreline and three motorboats departed at the same time. Three motorboats vs. one little canoe.

[photopress:canoe1.jpg,full,pp_image]I will spare you the details. Actually, I don’t really remember them. All I can recollect is my end of the canoe was the first to tip and the rest soon followed. Hadley and Nolan screamed hysterically. Mark and I laughed in the same manner.

Ever the loving, concerned friend, Tina was quick to react by barking out orders from the shore:

“I’ll get the towels and Jamie, YOU TAKE THE PICTURES!”

Just not with my camera because it was in my pocket at the time. And for those who are wondering: no, it was (as in past tense) not waterproof.

Hadley speaks of the incident as if she had one foot in the grave. She was so freaked out that family therapy sessions are assuredly in her future.

Rest assured, I will bring the paper plates for that occasion, too.

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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  • comment avatar Jdude July 7, 2008

    You are one day going to go to jail for succeeding in all your attempts to try and kill your children. But I will testify on your behalf because I know deep down you love them – who else would try to get poop out of a car seat whie on vacation? But that may have really only benefitted you by not having to smell it on the return trip home so who am I kiddin’?

    My boring life always pales to your adventures. And sadly, I’m really okay with that. Welcome home.

  • comment avatar kate July 7, 2008

    WOW! I think I would have turned around as soon as the carseat started to get a bit ripe. You’re a real trooper! You should change your blog name to “paper plate girl”

  • comment avatar Mary July 7, 2008

    That sounds like one fine camping trip! No wonder you aren’t a fan of camping with kids – a carseat full of poop and a capsized canoe. YIKES

  • comment avatar chel July 7, 2008

    You’re a much better woman than me! Poop and capsized canoes won’t leave me calm and collected. πŸ™‚
    So glad little Miss Hadley can live to tell about this traumatizing experience! πŸ™‚

  • comment avatar Melissa July 7, 2008

    How do you do it? How do you manage to have illness on EVERY. SINGLE. VACATION? I’m curious…

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson July 7, 2008

    Melissa–acquiring said illnesses is a gift. Really. Only miraculously this trip, I was the only one who didn’t get sick. Mind you, I was coming off of two weeks with salmonella poisoning….

  • comment avatar Sketchy July 7, 2008

    My boys have been hounding me to take a canoeing trip. ala Calvin and Hobbes I think.

    The only canoeing trip I’ve taken began with the park ranger saying “You’re canoeing? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone trying to canoe down this river.” And ended in lost car keys and rations, so I’m not so sure I’m interested in trip #2. Plus I’m pretty sure I can count my lack of abilitiy to spell “canoeing” to that trip. That looks wrong.

  • comment avatar Lisa July 7, 2008

    Sounds like one of our camping attempts. What fun would it be if all went as planned? Our family camped as well, but not the same kind of camping as you. Much louder. I’m trying to work up the energy to go blog about it now.

  • comment avatar Mel @ A Box of Chocolates July 7, 2008

    Your adventures never cease to amaze! Three motorboats to a canoe…sorry but you didn’t have a chance. Kudos to you for trying to wash out the seat. I would have went to buy another one. And here I thought we had an adventure outrunning the storm after the fireworks. Nope, we just can’t compete with your family!

  • comment avatar Kagey July 7, 2008

    Darn motorboaters! You never had a chance. πŸ™

    I think the lesson I’m taking away from this to bring everything short of the kitchen sink if we’re going to camp for more than one night. Like, an extra car seat in case one gets poopy! Urgh.

    So, when are you going again? (PS Hadley will tell this story with glee in about two years.)

  • comment avatar Denise @ EatPlayLove July 7, 2008

    Quite the adventure. I never trusted canoes. LOL!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson July 7, 2008

    Note to self: bring extra carseat next time.

    This was the doozy of explosions. It was so bad I had to remove the material from the carseat, throw it in the washing machine at the campground and hose down the rest of it. Oh, and not mention clean the leather seats on our SUV.

    Possibly my most disgusting moment as a mother. πŸ˜‰

  • comment avatar Loralee July 7, 2008

    Dude. I almost needed a drink after that and I hate alcohol.

    I do not have your minimalist, mad packing skillz and you will see at BlogHer. Sigh.

  • comment avatar Heidi Ahrens July 7, 2008

    Yeah, kids like to vomit on vacation. My daughter smeared some orange puke all over herself and the car seat one evening in Flagstaff when we were driving from Carbondale Colorado to Mexico. She was eating cheddar bunnies. She only gets this kind of stuff on special occasions ( like ten hour drive days). She does not want to eat them anymore.

    I must say that paper plates should not be a part of your camping experience.
    I have a great car camping list on my website.

  • comment avatar nikko July 7, 2008

    Fun stuff. I only wish that we had the time and desire to be as adventurous as you are with your little ones. :o)

  • comment avatar nikko July 7, 2008

    Although, on second thought, we HAVE done the puking and canoeing thing before. My M was only about 18 months old. And had red pop in the car on the way there. Yup.

  • comment avatar yvonne July 7, 2008

    That must have been so frightening for Hadley–glad she is o.k. Sorry about the camera.

    Tina sounds like a woman after my own heart–you always have to have pictures, eh?

  • comment avatar Damselfly July 7, 2008

    Man, I hate camping with people like that! πŸ˜‰

    And argh, I hate those motorboaters who don’t look out for paddlers!

  • comment avatar Stephanie July 7, 2008

    We just had a very similar experience–with a carseat full of poop on the ride home from our weekend at the lake. Of course, by this time in the trip, the last pitiful wet wipe was jeering at me from its container. I walked into the convenience store we had stopped at to deal with the emergency, to buy some more, but of course they didn’t have any. So much for “convenience”. Nasty, nasty nasty. I’m sorry you had a similar experience.
    My husband and I are converts to the “everything and the kitchen sink” theory of car camping. Especially more wet wipes.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson July 7, 2008

    Finding comfort in the comforting words of so many. Sniff. So nice to know I’m not alone.


  • comment avatar diana/sunshine July 7, 2008

    hehehe…ok, maybe i shouldn’t be laughing but how can one help not to? it’s all humorous and to top the story off with a dip in the lake brings a chuckle to my lips =D sorry about the camera, tho. that’s not funny.

    i’ve been to 11 mile and i really wouldn’t recommend it either. where we camped, we were infested with ants. they were everywhere. and it just wasn’t that pretty.

    and we’ve camped with friends who sound like your friends. they always had everything you would need and more. i would just have to remind myself that we’re not that kind of camper. i’m sure we had better bonding experiences as a family. that’s my story and i’m sticking to it =)

  • comment avatar Mo July 11, 2008

    Hey, if you ask me, paper plates and diarrhea are two essential elements to any good camping trip. What’s camping without a little adventure, right? No one like to reminisce about trips where everything went as planned πŸ™‚

  • comment avatar Wendi July 14, 2008

    I. can. not. imagine.

    I just made a vow to myself.

    Never to go camping, hiking, or canoeing.

    Thanks for the warning.

  • comment avatar serf 'rett July 15, 2008

    The canoe story just triggered a buried memory of a canoe flipping, my 3 kids, and my Canon AE-1 SLR camera. It happens so fast.