link to complete article here: http://tarrytown.patch.com/articles/catskill-camping-with-the-bear-and-the-boo-hoo-baby
The word foolhardy kept coming to mind in the last several days. A composite of foolish and hardy, I thought, as we went through the motions – many motions – of tent-camping with two young kids. Our vacation was hard work, one day of packing and one day of unpacking sandwiching two nights in the woods of the gorgeous North-South Lake State Park in the Catskills, complete with pristine lake beaches, boat rentals, spectacular hiking trails, playground, and black bear.
I have several fond memories of camping with one kid – even the tree nearly falling on us feels quaint at this point – but two was a whole different animal. In some regards, we are professional campers; in many others, nimcompoops. Professional: our REI Kingdom 6 two-room tent sleeps six (though who would?) and is probably the nicest thing we own; we have skewers just for marshmallow roasting, featuring rotation dial and telescoping extension. Nincompoopery: well, this demands perhaps the rest of my column.
Let’s start with bringing a nine-month-old in the first place. Forget the terrible-twos: our toddler was a piece of cake compared with the decibels this baby can output. She is preverbal, which does not mean this model comes without sound. In fact, what seems unbearably loud at home (drowned out by that toddler, radio, singing toys, fans) is 1,000 times louder in the eerie quiet of the full moon woods.
Husband and I were constantly cringing, trying to muffle and/or appease our little creature. Not that we would really muffle her, per se, but we did consider the etiquette – at 3am when she awoke…and then at 4, 5 and finally 6, along with other various testy moments during the day – of letting a baby just sleep/scream in the somewhat sound-proof safety of the car. It occured to me Addie is perhaps in the absolute nonsweet spot of travelling, with her tragic trilogy of frustrations: teething, not being able to do more than sit, and not being able to express her frustrations.
I had the feeling in the middle of the night, hearing our human neighbors rustling with disgruntled sleep-interruption, of being a parent on an airplane. Trapped and powerless. I hoped they were sympathetic – of course I knew they would be, as they too had kids, but that didn’t stop the agony when every one-second of scream-time equals an eternity.
Sure people had kids, most everyone here had kids, but they didn’t have babies. I kept wondering if these folks thought we were bonkers…until I heard another heartwrenching clamor echoing through the trees, and knew they were out there somewhere, other nincompoops. It was as comforting as marshmallows and cheap canned beer.
Which brings me to consumption. The fun, I think, of the work of camping is the old-world kind of effort it takes to build up and break down the meals. Food cooked over a fire just tastes so darn good, which must be due in part to feeling earned.
I also love losing the trappings of technology – both our cell phones conveniently died right away which didn’t bother me a bit. The toddler was estactic despite her TVlessness. Save for the old man who approached me on the beach to show me his iPad (why?), we were free of any of the signs of our times.
And then there was that anachronistic-seeming bear wandering along the edge of our campsite. Perhaps this also falls into the category of nincompoop (is the etiquette for those with young kids to promptly run for their lives?). Well, the bear seemed harmless enough and we did our best to keep our site clean and food-free.
Our packed-to-the-gills jalopy of a car was our lifeline, our sanctuary, our bearproof food storage, our way out. And as we drove homeward through the beautiful green mountain passes, Jeff and I asked each other again the question we had asked intermittently throughout the trip. Is it worth it? Is this camping thing really worth all the work? Definitely. Will we do it again any time soon? Ask me again tomorrow.