Sunday, April 21, 2013

9:29 PM
If I am completely honest, the truth is that I don't actually like camping very much. At all. I spent my entire childhood camping, and do it at least three times a year of my own volition, but it always is a bit of a struggle for me. I love being outside in beautiful places, but frankly, camping is a lot of work - it is dirty, cold and complicated, and no one ever sleeps all that much or that well. That being said, somehow, the idea of camping still always gets me excited, especially if other families are involved, and last weekend's trip was no exception. 

View From Our Campsite
We spent Saturday night at New Brighton State Beach Campground with about 20 other families, each with two kids under the age of six. It was complete and utter and wonderful mayhem. Everywhere you looked there were packs of kids biking, running, rolling, climbing. Village parenting worked amazingly well and you could actually see parents engaging in conversations that lasted more than two minutes before one super-parent had to dash off at top speed to avert some crisis.

The campground was spectacular, with large, open campsites, flush toilets and hot showers ($0.25 for two surprisingly luxurious minutes). We, of course, brought our twelve-man tent - so big because it has to hold two blow up mattresses (one queen-size, one single), a chair, a pack-n-play, the dog's bed, as well as all of our other stuff. We used to be the only ones with such a huge tent, but now everybody pulls up in their station wagon/SUV and spends two hours setting up their enormous (or multiple) tents, camp stoves, camp chairs, ice chests, games, hammocks, and all the other essentials required for their one night camping trip. 

Mc Mansion Tent - Exterior 

Mc Mansion Tent - Interior (Picture Taken from Our Queen-Size Air Mattress)
Our group had booked several adjacent ocean-front sites, the result being that the kids had full run of several acres of open space that were dotted with our tents and picnic tables. I am pretty sure that, with close to 40 inquisitive little munchkins running around, no stone was left unturned,  no tree unclimbed, and no tuft of grass untrampled. We are hoping that the ticks are not similarly feeling like they had the best weekend ever, but that remains to be seen.

And then there was the beach - a white horseshoe of sand rimming a protected bay - as warm and windless as it ever gets here in Northern California. Many adults, as well as kids, jumped into the water to experience the rush. Holes were dug, crabs were caught, and waves were jumped until, blue and shivering, the kids were wrapped up in sun-warmed towels and carted up the hill to the aforementioned showers.

The rest of the experience is what you would expect, grilling sausages for pot-luck dinners, roasting marshmallows for s'mores (only one person suffered from impalement by marshmallow skewer), making small talk by the campfire, and laughing over a few beers.

My entire family went to bed at the same time.  It was late for the kids, early for us. Despite not having gotten to work out, I was tired from a day spent packing, unpacking, carrying and chasing. It felt good to lay there on my air mattress, cozy in my sleeping bag, and be lulled to sleep by the rhythm of my family's breathing and the crash of the ocean waves. 

The Sunday morning bonus was the mom's run. About 15 moms (and my dog) managed to shake loose their tethers for one glorious hour and run together along the ocean front. We started in a pack, then lengthened out into a few small groups that morphed as the minutes went by. The conversation flowed easily as we discussed family, work, life, and running. As we cruised along, we celebrated each other for both our small and our big victories, for making it through the day and for managing larger life transitions. We came back to our families, refreshed, happy and eager to pitch in to dismantle the ornate campsites that we had set up less than 24 hours before.

Mamas on The Run
All things considered, it was a fabulous weekend, spent with an amazing group of families. Maybe, just maybe, I do like this camping thing after all - a little bit.

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