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Camping Like We Mean It

This past weekend we went on a really nice, low-key camping experience. It was Stephanie’s idea, and thanks to her for motivating us to go. I was tired and a little reluctant, but as soon as we were underway, we were all having a good time. Jamiee had been out late the night before and was not interested in camping, so we went with just us: one vehicle, one tent, one night. 

We vacillated between driving down to the Anderson Folk Festival or up to the Chatanika area. In the end we decided that Anderson might be a little too crowded and raucous for an overnighter with wee folk, so once again up the Steese we went. 

The Chatanika State campground is a nice little bend in the road that we would pass by on every trip to Circle. We stopped there with the Watsons a couple summers ago, and no matter how fast I would rocket past that spot during the last hundred or so trips up the Steese, I never failed to think about that afternoon with the Watsons. Stephanie and I also spent the night there after the Indigo Girls concert.

The boys and I had a good time traipsing through the woods “exploring.” We never got more than a hundred yards from our campsite, but those’re big woods for little boys. We fished in the Chatanika, each boy with his own little rod. I managed to snag one arctic grayling and was able to pass my rod over to Jacob and ask him to reel it in for me. He was so surprised that “he” caught a fish. It was a little’un, though, probably about eight inches, so we let it go and vowed to catch it again when it got bigger. Top that off with some marshmallows slow-roasted over a campfire, and that’s as good as it gets.

We were enjoying the experience for its own sake, but we were also dialing in our camping technique at the same time. We finally found a warm sleep solution for Sarah. We used the down jumpsuit that she wears in the wintertime as a kind of form fitting sleeping bag. It’s warm, and it worked. She slept through the night - a first for Sarah and tent camping.

We settled on the French press for morning coffee; now we need to acquire a plastic one to prevent the inevitable breakage of glass. We are also in the market for a new tent that is warm and that fits us. We have four tents that we use piecemeal, but using them all is less than ideal. We’ve been auditioning a cavernous three-room cabin tent, but that is simply too big, and body heat could never warm it.

On this trip, we once again used our grey Coleman tent we’ve had since Texas. I can’t believe we haven’t retired and replaced that tent long ago, but it’s just barely big enough, and it was fun having all five of us together in one tent. Very cozy. Very nice.

On Sunday, after breaking camp, we continued a bit further up the Steese on a quest for blueberries. We ended up unintentionally in exactly the same spot where we picked berries a couple of years ago. On this day, we started out with a couple of helpful little boys, but they petered out pretty fast. Jacob started off strong, but every time he collected a small handful of berries in his half-gallon pitcher, he would up-end it and chug them down like an Aggie at happy hour. Just before he stopped picking altogether, he dumped out his pile of blueberries on the ground, “so that the bears will know we were here.”

Stephanie and I were intent on gathering as many berries as we could, whiney boys not withstanding. For the most part, we left them by the car, and left Sarah strapped in to her car seat, alternating between sleeping and crying. We were never more than a couple dozen feet away, and we could hear them fighting with each other or whining about going home. Sometimes if feels like they are teenagers already.

We managed to collect about three gallons of blueberries and brought them home for freezing. I really enjoy picking berries. I enjoy being out, well off of the road, in the quiet and the remote. And it feels like a coup to find such a treat right there waiting for us, free for the taking. It was cool and breezy, and among the blueberries is the Labrador tea that smells both subtle and incredible. I meant to grab a pound of that to see if I could dry it and make tea. Another time.

We made it home in time for lunch and naps all around. It was a nice outing, and maybe we can squeeze in another couple of overnights before the year turns too cold.

Posted on Friday, August 7, 2009 at 12:14AM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell in | Comments2 Comments

Reader Comments (2)

Good Morning Brian,
This sounds very familiar only we had 5 kids in a tent.Some memories you will treasure later on in life when the kids are grown and gone. I just came across some pics of you and us at camp when you were here for the summer. Its so nice to look back on those special times Enjoy every moment with them that you can.
Take care of you and yours
Mary Lou
August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary Lou
wish we were there with you on this go around as well.
August 7, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwatson

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