Monday, July 30, 2012

Grumbling vs. Grateful - Keenig Creek Campground Summary

This is our "thrilled to be here" (dripping with
sarcasm) face.

Last weekend our family went camping.  Tent camping.  At a small campground with twelve sites total – all tent only and all pack-in sites.  Somewhere around load fifteen, when my muscles were burning from carrying coolers down a steep, rocky trail I found myself questioning WHY we do this.  It’s so much work to pack up, set up, and take down a portable home for seven people (this time nine, since my Mom and Terry joined us) and a dog.  But the fun typically outweighs the negatives, so we keep doing it.  At least twice a summer.

The campground was Keenig Creek Campground nestled along the Wilson River among layers and layers of mountains that make up the Coastal Range.  Amenities included two very smelly outhouses without hand sanitizer.  The end.  There was a pump for water that didn’t have a handle so we had to lug in all our own water and drive out five miles to refill our jugs the next day.

The day we arrived, it was overcast and the sky was spitting.  By dinner time, the spit turned to drizzle.  And just as Curt got the campfire roaring, it started raining.  We huddled around the fire for a while, trying to pretend we weren’t getting soaked, but eventually we called it a day and headed to bed for a “good night of sleep.”  But here’s the problem.

The campground was cut out of thick underbrush and relatively new-growth forest.  Lush vegetation, wild blackberries, and mountain wildflowers surrounded each camp site.  To keep the vegetation from overtaking the sites, the Forest Rangers filled each campsite with thick gravel.  Great idea in theory, but really tough to sleep on.  Even with a camping mat, I felt every rock and tree root jabbing into my back and my side.  

One of the kids started talking in their sleep and yelling about having to go to the bathroom.  It was quite the process to keep her from peeing on the floor of the tent, get her out of the tent, and wake her up enough to teach her how to squat in the woods since the single outhouse was a quarter mile hike from our tent.  Not to mention, she woke everyone in a five-tent radius.  

Sarah wanted our dog to sleep in her little tent, but the dog whined all night.  When we had our potty incident, Sarah gratefully dumped the dog into our tent.  We tossed and turned all night and just as we were finally falling asleep, the kids woke up at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m.

The second night was no better.  We enjoyed our campfire without any rain, and fell sound asleep quickly, in spite of the rocks.  But a few hours later, Curt and I woke to the sound of footsteps right outside our tent, followed by rustling and then clinking of bottles.  It's funny how the thin fabric of a tent feels like a shield of armor when there's clearly an intruder in the camp.

Our "intruder" was a raccoon.  He was digging through our garbage and happily eating our leftovers.  Curt chased him off and after our adrenaline subsided, we fell back to sleep.  Only to be woken again by that same dumb animal.  This time more brazen, he was tearing the garbage bag apart, stringing it from one end of our campsite to the other, and making tons of noise.  Curt scared him off again and then had to go outside and clean up the mess.  Once he gathered all the garbage, he had to haul it up the hill to the parking lot to deposit it a garbage can that locked before coming back to bed.  Good times people.  Good times.

Curt and I love hiking.  We drag our kids on hikes all over Oregon.  They often pretend to despise hiking but once we get going they usually have fun.  Since they woke up at 6 a.m., we had hours and hours of daylight to fill.  After breakfast, we set out for a hike on a clearly marked trail.  

The trail was cut through thick vegetation that was choking the trail, making it barely wide enough for one person to walk on.  The plants were still heavy with dew so our feet were drenched within a few steps.  Some of the ferns were taller than Paige and the poor kid kept getting smacked in the face by low-hanging vines and plants.  Blackberries and thistles tore at our legs and I kept trying not to think of all the wild animals (snakes in particular) that like to live in such thick weeds.  

The kids all have "happy to be here" (dripping with sarcasm) faces too.

Everyone was miserable but we kept plodding along, optimistic that it couldn't possibly be this awful for the entire 1.5 miles.  Kids complained.  Cried.  Argued. Whined.  One even declared that death would be more fun than this hike.  It was loads of fun.  Needless to say, we all threw a party when we finally reached the wide gravel road at the top of the  mountain.  Some water and snacks, a little rest, and a promise that we could take the wide gravel road back made the trail feel a little less evil.  

We gained a lot of elevation in 1.5 miles.
After lunch our entire crew lugged beach gear down to a private swimming hole on the river.  The water was clear and COLD.  We laughed and gasped as one by one, our family got in the water for a refreshing swim.  We even shampooed our hair!  It was a wonderful way to end a day that started off badly.  

The water was awesome!

When we were packing up all our gear and shuttling it back up to the car to go home, I couldn't help but think, "Is it really worth it?  This is so much work!"  

At church that night, the sermon was taken from Philippians 2.  Paul says in verse 14, "Do everything without arguing and complaining."  Our pastor went on to remind us that the opposite of grumbling is gratefulness.  It was a good reminder for our entire family who had perfected the art of grumbling over the course of the weekend.

It takes no effort to focus on all that went wrong on our camping trip.  The sleepless nights, arguing children, outings that didn't live up to our expectations, and the sheer amount of work to create a home for our family in the wilderness.

But we have a lot to be grateful for too.  We fell asleep to the sound of a rushing river and came home to a soft mattress!  Our family is healthy enough to go hiking and swimming and pack huge coolers up and down steep trails.  We can laugh in the face of disaster.  The smell of freshly laundered clothing is a glorious one.  Sarah has a hidden talent of playing bagpipes by tapping on her throat.  She had us DYING laughing with her talent - a highlight for sure!  And we made life-long memories together. We'll be saying, "Remember when the raccoon came through the campsite and we went on that horrid hike.." for years.

Tent camping with nine people and a dog is definitely worth it.  I'm almost looking forward to the next trip.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reminding me why I haven't been camping for a few years :)

    Boys are just about old enough to do it again, though..

    I enjoyed the swimming photos! Looks like fun!

    It is too true- we really have nothing to grumble about when you look at things from the right perspective. We CAN laugh at disaster :)