Yup. We went camping. It’s a thing I like to do every five years or so. Five being the amount of time it takes for the memories of the last trip to get fuzzy.
We went camping in Assateauge Island. It’s right off of the coast of MD, and has wild ponies roaming about. I was picturing us on a windswept beach, with some pony galloping going on. All very 5th-grade-girl romantic.
I wasn’t too far off, though. I mean OK – the only ponies we saw were in the parking lot, but that’s probably a good thing. The park rangers make them sound like feral, roaming wildebeests out to get your children. But the beach was pretty fantastic.
We got a late start (shocking, I know) and didn’t arrive until 5PM. It probably saved us. There were record highs – around 94 degrees, but when we arrived there was a big breeze kicking. And keeping the bugs away. So while Mike started our fire, the boys just….stripped down and romped around (even with the breeze, it was hot).
Tasted some sand, you know. The usual.
Oddly enough, the best part of our camping trip was the food.
Hipster Hot dogs*, corn on the cob wrapped in tinfoil and thrown right on the coals. Foil-packets full of chopped cabbage, potato, onion and carrot. We prepared them at home (with a dash of wine and plenty of salt and pepper) and just threw them over the coals with the corn. YUM. S’mores for dessert.
*organic, grass-fed happy beef hot dogs
Of course, evening playtime on the beach is pretty hard to top.
Found awesome treasure…
…and did some cartwheel lessons.
But here’s the thing: At some point, once you are done playing on the beach, roasting marshmallows, making smores, looking at impossibly bright stars…you gotta sleep in a tent.
Yes, we bring sleeping pads to sleep on. And I insist on bringing pillows and our down comforter from home with the 700billion thread-count sheets and pillowcases. But still. Mike can bring all the fancy I want…but at the end of the day I hate sleeping in a tent.
This tent experience was no exception. It was hot. Uncomfortable. The ceiling was too low. The mesh panels (no matter how many) didn’t let in enough breeze.
And on this particular night, the breeze was dying down, and the mosquitos were coming out. We had four bodies packed into a two-person tent. Oh, the sweat. I had my head by the entrance, trying to bite down my panic that the CEILING WAS RIGHT THERE. And I knew the mosquitos were waiting for me on the outside. Waiting for me to panic. All they needed was one weak moment. One moment where I unzip the tent to breathe in some fresh air. Or go to the bathroom. And then BAM! They’ve got me. Well. There was no way in hell I was going out there. Not only were there mosquitos, but at last count there were at least 11 large sand crabs scuttling by. Mike informs me that the sand crabs are blinded by our headlamps. Like this is supposed to be comforting. Let me be clear: I DO NOT WANT THEM BLINDED. I want them to see me coming a MILE AWAY so they can stay the F*CK away from my foot. Just sayin.
(Me + Nature. Ahhhh….)
Since I’m trapped, all I can think about is how badly I have to pee. And I’m sweaty. And it smells in the tent. I am miserable. Raines is tossing and turning, keeping me awake. Pax asks to nurse about a billion times because he can’t sleep. Mike? Sound. Asleep. Oblivious. And a major contributor to the too-hot and sweaty problem in the tent. I stare at his peaceful face, wanting to smack it. I vaguely remember middle-of-the-night-I-hate-my-husband feelings from previous camping trips. Briefly, I consider opening the door and rolling him out. A sacrifice to the mosquito gods.
GAH!! I am bitten!! On my toe! GAH!! Again! And again!! I thrash around, smashing at the sides of the tent. How did that f*cker get in here? “MIKE!!!!!!” I cry, like there’s an attacker. Mike leaps up. “Wha???” he says sleepily. I am freaking out, hitting madly at the tent sides. I hear a buzzing in my ear. I smash myself in the head. OW! My foot is on fire. Mike slo-o-owly locates his headlamp in the dark. Switches it on. “Where’s the bug?” he asks, eyes sleepy and unfocused. He swats lazily into nothing. “Mike!! There’s a mosquito attacking me!! GET YOUR GLASSES ON!!” Bastard isn’t even trying. I know he sees double without his glasses. Mike shifts around in the tent, feeling for his glasses. GAH!! I am bitten again! I am in tears. Mike has now found his glasses and is more awake. Looking around. The mosquito, now HUGE, floats lazily in front of Mike. Mike kills it, leaving a huge blood smear on the ceiling of the tent. “Hunh” says Mike. “Wonder how he got in here?” He switches off his headlamp. The tent goes dark. Mike is asleep (again).
I am in hell.
At some point (after going a few more rounds with the mosquitos), I sleep. When I wake, sunlight is streaming into the tent, and as my eyes focus, all I can see on the interior of the tent are a dozen little blood smears from our all-night mosquito battle. Even worse? Latched to the outside of the tent, with their noses pressed into the screen are more mosquitos. Little bloodsuckers…just waiting for us to emerge. Oh. My. God. There is no breeze. None. And even at 7AM…it’s hot. We are in trouble. Armed with bug spray and long sleeves, we emerge. Mike makes a fire for coffee. We decide to f*ck coffee and get the hell out. The problem? The car is 200 yards away. Through a gauntlet of low-lying swamplands. Apparently, the mosquitos are so bad, you have to run. I know this because Mike brought the cooler back to the car last night and fetched it again in the morning. (According to the rangers the wild ponies can open coolers? I don’t even want to know.) Anyway, the image of my husband sprinting – as fast as he can – over the hill with a cooler and a swarm around his head is one I won’t forget for a while.
I take the boys down to the beach to get a respite from the bugs and the heat. Mike? Packs up all of our stuff and makes about 40 trips to the car. By himself. Without even a hint of a guilt trip. Gladly suffering so his family doesn’t have to. That? Is a man. I immediately feel bad for last night. I am a horrible person. And Mike now has 29 mosquito bites ON ONE KNEE. I wish I was exaggerating.
“Ok,” says Mike. “Listen up. The car is packed, but we all need to get to it. And it’s bad out there. Really, really bad. We are going to have to run. As fast as we can. Stop for nothing. You understand? Nothing. Raines? It’s super-hero time.” Raines nods, his face serious. He picks up his lightsaber and his soccer ball. Mike takes Pax – he’s the fastest. I pick up our shoes and last remaining bag. “Mom?” Raines whispers. “I’m a little nervous about this.” “Me too, baby.” I tell him. “Me too.”
We walk to the edge of the small dune that separates us from the swampland. “Ready?” Mike asks. We nod. Mike takes off, running, with Pax in his arms. We follow. I’m so used to seeing Raines and the kiddos run around that I’m taken aback by how fast an adult man is. Mike is really, really fast. Trying to protect Pax. But I realize that I’m not really running. I’m doing my mom-jog, which is designed to be slower than the kids. Raines starts to pass me. I hear a slight buzzing. OW!! I stare at my hand, in shock. There are THREE mosquitos on my hand. I swipe at them with my other hand. Raines drops the soccer ball. “Mom!!” he yells, stopping. “The ball!!” OMG. “RAINES JUST RUN!! NOW!!! RUN!!!” He stares at me for a split second, and we are instantly covered in a cloud of mosquitos. “RUN RAINES!!! BE A SUPER-HERO!! RUN!! RUN!!!” Thankfully, he starts running. And MAN. That kid can go. I am so proud. I grab the soccer ball and take off after him. There are literally mosquitos everywhere. I am getting bitten repeatedly on any exposed skin. My leg! My arm! GAH! My neck!! Bastards!!! We make it to the car, and dive in. Mike is already inside with Pax, air conditioning running. “Close the door!” Mike yells. “You’re not done” he warns. “There’s a bunch inside – kill ‘em!!” We all go nuts: swiping, smashing, hitting, all yelling and primal screaming.
Finally the buzzing stops. Our car windows are bloody. We are covered in welts. Without getting out, we get the kiddos buckled into their car seats. Mike is red-faced, unshaven, and has buckets of sweat pouring down his face. We stare at each other and start laughing. Really, it’s so, so bad. “There’s that available campsight for tonight” I joke.
“Let me get you back across the bridge, Baby.” Mike says. “Then find us a HOTEL.”
Which is exactly what we did.
Oh, Baby. Take me to the Francis Scott Key Resort any damn day.
To quote my friend Molly, “I really like the idea of camping.”