Last Christmas was our camping Christmas. We dubbed it so because we'd gone to REI, made out a list and added all of those things to our Christmas lists that went out to anyone whom we normally exchanged gifts with. Whatever we didn't get, we bought ourselves. When December was over, we had everything we needed for a trip to the woods. Why then, did it take us more than eight months to finally venture into those woods? Who knows. But finally, at the end of August, we made the trip. We drove a little less than two hours north to Prescott, AZ--it's MUCH cooler up there and we figured a day or two away from the 105+ heat that still plagues Phoenix at the supposed end of the summer would do us good.
It's actually a very nice drive. Prescott is a small college town, but the Target and the Wal-Mart are just minutes from the camping area. We had no idea really, what to expect when we got to Lynx Lake. What we did not expect was that all of the camp sites would be occupied. Hmm. What to do now? We had no back-up. Who goes camping? Aparently, a lot of people. We drove a bit farther into the woods and found another camp site, but it too was full. Now what?
Sorely disappointed, we drove to the nearby Days Inn, spent way too much on a hotel room and slept there for the night. The closest we came to roughin' it was spending the entire trip without makeup. We did drive back up to the lake the next day and hiked a trail, but in the end, we were very disappointed. At least we got to spend a day in cooler weather.
When we got home, however, we found the proverbial silver lining. We'd left numerous things sitting in our living room that would have been essential to a successful trip including our camp stove and Ivy's nighttime pillows (absolutly essential!). Whew! Escaped a minor disaster. With that, we had renewed furvor. We would try again the following weekend with a few alterations. We would not go on a Saturday night, but rather, Sunday morning. We discovered on our way back home, that the occupied sites were clearing out by noon or so on Sunday. If we got there Sunday morning and nothing was yet available, we could just hang out at the lake until later that afternoon. At the very least, if nothing ever became available, we could at least stay in cooler weather all day long and drive home that evening. The one possible wrench in the whole plan was Labor Day. Likely, we suspected, people would be staying longer than Sunday and it was certainly possible that camp sites would still be unavailable by Sunday evening. To increase our odds, we located three other camp grounds in the area.
Happily, on our second trip, we found that camp site number 1 was vacant and immediatly took up residence. While Nick set to setting up the tent, Ivy and I walked to the pay station and left our $10 fee. We were all set! Just as the rain shield was going on the tent, we felt a sprinkle. Just a sprinkle, but soon, it was full on raining. We took cover in our tent and waited out the storm. It was during this stint stuck in the tent, we realized that there just wasn't enough space to be holed up with an almost 2-year-old. Ivy was jumping around and generally making a mess. Not to worry--we had an 8 person, two room tent with a porch at home and would surely bring it the next time. Another lesson learned.
Half an hour or so later, the rain let up and we ventured out into the woods. We gathered wood and kindling in hopes that it was still dry enough for a fire later. We hiked a trail and got a bit wetter. Back at camp, we desperately tried to light a fire before the rain got much heavier. We had almost no paper (note to self--bring something with which to get a fire going next time) no dry wood (add to that--buy wood) and not nearly enough matches (buy extra matches). But after a while and after burning every receipt in my wallet (hey, it was dry paper!) we had a roaring fire. I cooked potato soup in the rain as we huddled under a tree. Ivy could not have been happier to be outside for so long and eating chips for dinner to top it off.
Blessedly, the rain eventually quit and the clouds drifted away, revealing a sky full of stars. We all changed into dry clothes and settled around the fire. Now, this was camping! As we sat there, enjoying the outdoors and the smell of campfire, I looked off into the woods. It was completely dark. That is, except for the two eyes staring back at us from the trees.
"Something is out there." I said. We looked closer--something was out there. It wasn't big--a cat or a fox perhaps.
"Try to scare it away," Nick said. We started yelling and looking for things to throw at it. It was actually quite close--just a yard or so away from the edge of our campsite. As it turned away from our shouts, we saw a thick white stripe down it's back.
"It's a skunk," I said.
"Ok, quit trying to scare it." We all backed up and started putting any and every scrap of food into the car. He eventually scurried off into the woods, but he came back several times during the night--all while we were still awake. There's no telling how many times he ventured even closer while we slept. Thankfully, we did not get sprayed. We put EVERYTHING into the car before going to bed and zipped up every zipper on the tent, vowing that if we so much as heard rustling in the grass, we were all sleeping in the car.
Funny how nothing is quite as scarry in the light.