A Camping First

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I grew up camping. After all, who puts 10 kids in a hotel when they can let them run around the woods, my parents were smart, so, for the most part, when we traveled we camped. For the most part I loved camping, even the few times we got flooded out it made for good stories later. Then for two summers during college I worked at Philmont Scout Ranch where I literally lived in a tent the entire summer and those are some of my fondest memories.

Wallaby on the other hand was almost 2 and had never been camping! An overnight camp out with the grandparents and a couple of cousins was just what he needed, the perfect trial run. Not that I worried about him enjoying himself—he prefers being outside to anything else. Sadly, The Grizzly Kid had to work, but that meant that Wallaby and I could travel light and bunk together in my 2 man tent.

Friday we headed for the pine trees of Arizona (they do exist) and ended up camping right here around 7,ooo feet in elevation, so the temperature was gorgeously cool—something I had been desperately missing here in the valley. Wallaby was in heaven the second we got out of the car.

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While the rest of us got the tents set up and gear unpacked, the boys got right to exploring the woods and getting dirty.  Exhibit A: A boy and his pile of dirt, happy as can be.

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My oldest nephew even brought a hammock to set up. Which was thoroughly enjoyed by all, don’t let that stoic face fool you, Wallaby was in love and wanted to do nothing but climb in and out and swing in it—maybe we need one for the backyard.

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Look at this dirty face, and I mean that literally since he face planted in the dirt. A couple of times. Also note the pink mark on his forehead where he hit a dirt clod.

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It took him a while to get used to the rougher terrain, but he didn’t fall at all on day two. For dinner we used a tiny camp stove for a single pot of chili to pour on fritos, which is probably my favorite camp meal. I know that tin foil dinners are more traditional, but too much work and they always end up taking longer than expected—I’d rather spend my time exploring.

We ended the day with the classic campfire and s’mores. Worn out, Wallaby and I fell asleep shortly after dark—who wears a watch in the woods?—cuddled up in flannel pajamas and sleeping bags. I awoke a while later to the sound of heavy rain splattering the tent and wind pulling leaves from the tree branches, slid Walt back onto his pillow, felt around for leaks or puddles, and fell back asleep. And repeated that every time the rain started up again. I did wake once to elk calling nearby—our only encounter with any wildlife.  Otherwise an uneventful night. We woke in the morning to deep gray clouds and more rain, but with a couple of cars and some snacks we made a morning of it in the tent in a perfect pile of blankets and pillows.

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Thankfully the rain ended and we ventured out for the best childhood breakfast, personal sized cereal boxes, donuts, and hot chocolate.

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It was a chilly morning, but little Arizona man is not used to wearing layers and kept tugging at his long selves, and did  not want to wear a coat. To get him to put the hat on took bribery, flattery and then immediate distraction in the form of sugary cereal. In fact the hat stayed on his head for about as long as it took him to finish off that box. I did manage to snap about a hundred photos of him in it during that time. This one being my favorite.

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We played for a couple of hours and wanted to stay longer but the clouds looked threatening, so we packed up and headed out to have a picnic at Montezuma’s Castle which was only about 30 minutes from our campsite. The drive down from the mountains was beautiful and the giant groups of yellow wildflowers were surreal.

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After a lunch with begging squirrel we took the short walk around the remains of the Sinagua  peoples’ hard work.

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I even managed to not only get in a photo with Walt, but he even smiled for the camera!

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After the short tour we headed home, but the rain clouds caught up to us, making 2pm look like sunset, and the rain was so heavy in parts that cars were pulling off the freeway waiting for it to clear.

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It still blows me away, even with all the rain we have been having, that Arizona can be this green with a vegetation made up of sage and saguaro cacti.

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It was a lovely short trip. I enjoyed exploring a new area and seeing Walt enjoy camping so much. Hopefully the next camping trip will be soon!

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