Monday, April 22, 2013

A'camping We Will Go

I may look like a mountain man, but I assure you that I am no Paul Bunyan. I don't own an axe. I have a golden retriever named Baloo, but no blue ox named Babe. However, I do look pretty good in flannel and I was once a wiz at Oregon Trail. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

I have never been camping in my life. Save your exasperations. Yes, I was deprived as a child. It's horrible, I know. Blame my parents.

I have been determined not to let my kids be as sheltered as I was (I kid, mom, I kid.) But in all seriousness, I have wanted my kids to be able to enjoy some of their youth camping. What's better than spending a few days getting dirty, negating baths, eating over a fire and sleeping under the stars? Says the guys who has never camped before...though in all fairness, what is better than that?

So over the last two weeks I have spent enough time in REI to earn some recognition. After walking in for the third time in as many days I was greeted with: "Good afternoon, Mr Brophy". Not everyone can say that, and now I eat that Ed Viesturs. But alas I was set. Solid tent in the Big Agnes Flying Diamond 6. Great sleeping bags from Poler Stuff. A solid stove from Camp Chef in their two burner stove and just about every other accessory one could need or want for a car camping trip.

The weather report for Hanging Rock National Park over the weekend was not ideal to say the least, with thunderstorms and tornado warnings for the area on Friday night and near freezing temps (albeit clear) for Saturday night, however I was optimistic that we'd be fine. Even as we were driving through Greensboro, getting sacked by torrential rain and watching clouds roll like I've only seen in Storm Chasers, I thought we'd be okay. Then as we seemed to move out of the eye of the storm and further out into the country, it all seemed to be getting better. That is until we reached the campsite and drove by three sites within 300 yards of our own with snapped, downed pine trees. And what was standing above our campsite like Mother Nature's own mace? A pine tree.

Have I mentioned that I have never camped before? Did I also mention that I have the Little Man and Taz in tow? Have I admitted how neurotic I can be?

A hotel was not far from my mind at this point.

After viewing six other open sites, driving around, checking out the closed visitors center, talking with park rangers, getting the inside scoop from the lovely old couple at the registration trailer, hemming and hawing, I finally decided we would stay with our original site. So I got the tent set up with a little help from another SAHD who organized the trip, our goods moved in and the stove lit up to cook hot dogs for dinner in mild winds and intermittent rain. Not bad for the camping novice I am.

While I knew that the weather would get cooler by the evening, I thought our tent would be more insulating. Not so much (and I also left the vents open...I'm a freaking genius). The temps dropped into the 40s and the Taz was in his pak'n'play and was refusing to stay under his blanket as well as the extra blanket I brought for him. He woke up four times during the night at about two hour intervals. That combined with the wind coming over the ridge every 30-40 minutes like a jet approaching from the distance and I got maybe three hours of sleep. Each time I was listenning for branches or, god forbid, whole trees snapping with each mighty gust. I was game planning for the pine tree (a.k.a nature's mace) just 40 feet away to come crashing in on us and how I would attempt to protect the boys and thinking I could somehow grab the pak'n'play, flip it over all of us in some sort of Hollywood stunt as razor sharp branches missed us all by only inches. Have I mentioned that I am crazy?

Morning came. We survived. I am dramatic.

After a good Entenmann's coffee cake breakfast we headed out to find cell phone reception, just a mere fifteen mile drive, so we could let our wives know we were alive and to also find out any updates on the Boston Marathon manhunt. With the wives nerves soothed and the second suspect caught, we headed back to Hanging Rock for a hike to the park's namesake peak.

The hike is a relatively short one at 2.6 miles (roundtrip), but mind you we have a near three year old, a near four year old, a 20 month old and it's about a mile and a quarter up steep hills. This may as well have been 26 miles. But everyone did well. The Little Man became Little Bighorn after about a half mile into the hike, as he casually bounded up the stone steps and asked to climb every rock in sight. Everyone seemed to be elated to make it to the peak. The views were unbelievable with visibility as far as the eye could see. And being that the site is called Hanging Rock, you can dangle your legs over the edge of a various number of cliffs while enjoying a snack if you so decide.

After the hike, the other SAHD and I decided that trying to get our kids through near freezing temperatures would be silly. If we were sans kids and could set up a fire, drink some beers and just hang out, things may have been different. But seeing as the kids started fighting over sharing bubble sticks while taking a trip to the nearby lake, we decided to call the trip over. There would be no merit badge for getting our kids through the night without frostbite. With only a two hour drive home, it made a ton of sense. So we packed up the cars, took a few last looks and headed home.

I learned that I am in no way, shape, manner or form an outdoorsman. However, I love the outdoors. It's relaxing. But I barely know my ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to camping. At least I have room to grow. The boys seemed to have really enjoyed the trip, though I know the Taz will never remember it and Little Man will need pictures of the weekend to potentially recall anything. As for camping again, we're already planning our next trip in a few weeks, but we'll aim for a warmer weekend and a closer destination for attempt number two. This move to the east coast seems to be getting better and better with each passing month.


  1. Camping is a wonderful way to relieve stress and to become emotionally, physically and spiritually stronger. Besides getting away from the city, you are bringing exercise, nature and relaxation into your own world when you begin camping at any level.

    Outdoor Blog

    1. You are absolutely right. We are looking forward to getting out again sometime...when the weather cools off of course! Cheers!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.