For older children, campgrounds are very similar to off-leash areas for dogs.
In the off leash areas, dogs run, bark, and smell other dog’s private parts until they are muscled back into their SUVs and collapse into a slobbery lump.
In campgrounds, kids run around, scream, and throw things at each other’s privates until they are wrestled to the picnic table and forced to eat.
This year we all went to Daroga State Park. I arrived first with the children, who jumped out to chase things before I got the car in “P”. I had to carry all the gear to the walk-in campsite. I found a nice riverside campsite, containing a picnic table adorned with sand and seagull poop.
The tent pad looked suspiciously wet (it hadn’t rained in weeks), and the grass was unusually healthy. Ignoring the clues, I managed to get the tent spread out, and staked before the sprinklers came on.
Nicole and I watched the tent fill with water for a few minutes before I decided to move all of our wet stuff to an area of dead grass. Meanwhile, the sand and bird poop on the picnic table made a lovely mosaic before dripping off on to the concrete pad.
When the sprinklers finished watering the poop, sand, concrete, and aluminum picnic table, I poured water out of the tent and mopped up. I left the tent doors open to air it out, which turned out to be a great idea because Daroga State Park morphs into a wind tunnel for a few hours every afternoon. I looked for seat belts on the picnic table, while watching our gigantic tent puff up like a bouncy house in a tornado.
Thankfully, the tent pegs held, and after the wind died down, our tent turned into a shelter for an exciting array of flying insects. Whilst the mayflies mated on the ceiling, a colony of gnats began creating a civilization on the door screen. Before they were able to invent irrigation and farming, some creature that looked like a dragon fly with a hormone deficiency flew in and started eating the engineering department.
Riveting as the bug show was, I needed to take an intermission. I went in search of a bathroom and apparently moseyed 35 years back in time.
I found myself in a discussion about wheelbarrows with a lovely man from the 1970’s. He had cut off jean shorts, classic Converse sneakers without socks, a tank top, large thick framed Woody Allen glasses, and a Paul Simon “Bridge Over Troubled Water” hair style, sideburns and mustache.
I was shocked out of my 70’s trip by the fee station information board. Campsites were $14 per night unless you needed to add the yearly park permit, dump station fee, boat ramp fee, additional vehicle fee, shower tokens, breathing fee, and scratching yourself fee.
Eventually my wife and our friends arrived, and experienced the sprinkler show (replete with fresh seagull poop). After the designated dry time elapsed, Karl and I fired up the stove to cook up some turkey for the chili.
The stove ignited everything in a two-foot radius with a burst of blue flame. Luckily I didn’t have a shirt on, and the few chest hairs I once had are not really missed. After excluding me from the “Must Take Care Of This” list, the flaming roll of paper towels came next. I chose the “Scream and Throw It” method. Although exciting, it did not extinguish the roll, so I stomped on it.
Despite the picture of despair I've painted, I can assure you that we had more fun moments than not, which helped counter the lack of sleep, burned food, ruptured disk in my back, sunburn, and other stuff that I’ve chosen to forget. In fact, we have already booked our site for next summer!
I’m taking out extra insurance.