Sunday, September 30, 2012

Summer Memories: June at Assateague Island

What I love about camping doesn't change much over time, and this year was no exception, but this year's camping trip did have a twist: we camped on the beach.  We've camped near the beach before, but this right on the ocean business...this was new.

One thing I failed to mention in my camping blog from last year was that we (knock on wood) have had extraordinary good luck on our camping adventures.  Our first time camping as a family, Ophelia was around eight months old and we went for two weeks to Acadia National Park in Maine and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.  We packed the car as tight as we could--no minivan, no roof rack--and drove a hell of a long way with our children buried in a midst of bags and bins (our longest leg was from Cape Breton Island to Vermont...20 hours), but nowhere in our stash did we have anything in the way of rain protection, and for all we knew it could have rained the entire time...

but it didn't.  Not only did it not rain, but the weather was so incredibly hot and sunny that the two-thousand-degrees-below-zero water in Maine actually felt good.  And not only did it not rain the entire week we were there, but the day after we were scheduled to leave, a hurricane hit.  In fact, some very sad things happened the day after we left Acadia...but by that time, we were all cozied up at a hotel in central Nova Scotia (our reservations just happened to coincide with the timing of the hurricane) and were camping again in Cape Breton two days later--as planned.  After another week of sun and sand, we headed home again--dry and tan.

Our next camping trip was to Lake George in New York, and although we had commented on last year's luck for an entire year, we never actually got around to readying ourselves for bad weather.  Once again we set out with a full car and some hope, and once again, hope delivered.  Although this time it was in the form of timing and good neighbors, because it poured.  Let me rephrase that--it POURED...for hours.  But only at night, when we were either sleeping in our tent (I awoke one night to one of the loudest and closest electrical storms I've ever experienced) or over enjoying cocktails with our great neighbors, who were both fun and prepared.

Last year's trip we couldn't press our luck anymore, so we brought a tarp--just a tarp--that gave us a dry outdoor eating, playing, reading area when it rained.  Which it did. A lot.

But this year...oh this year...

We spent our first night on the bay side of the island and were amazed at the beauty of our campsite there.  It was huge, beautiful, and private.

It did have its drawbacks, however.  All that lovely grass in the foreground was pocked with some sort of prickly cactus, and there were also some uninvited dinner guests...

The "wild ponies" (feral, really) were nice to look at from afar, but a little unnerving at the picnic table.  (And believe me, this one really cozied up to us.)

After dinner, we walked to the the beach to check out our campsite for the rest of the week--as close to the ocean as we could get.  After about ten minutes of ear-splitting winds, we turned around, happy to be heading back to our bay side camp.  We commented to a woman on our way back and her reply was "lucky for some keeps the bugs away."  Bugs, schmugs.  Bugs we're used to.  Rain--we're ready.  Bizarre acting flora and fauna--bring it on.  But wind...wind was something new. 

And new can be scary.  There was actually a fleeting moment the next morning when we considered staying in our comfort zone and saying "screw-it" to what--on the campground map months earlier--seemed like our dream camping spot.  It only took a few sharp thorns and a herd of horses waking up and heading our way to snap us out of it, however.  And really, what were we thinking?

We struggled getting our tent up in strong winds, and we slept with then walls blowing against us, but it was the ocean.  It's what we came here for. 

And sure enough, after a day, the wind died down, and all we were left with was soft sand to sleep on, sun to keep us warm, and the sound of the waves to rock us to sleep.  Oh, and the horses, which were much nicer to behold as they walked the beach along the fence line that separated us (and our food) from them.

We spent all day everyday right where we were--swimming, digging, eating, drinking, sitting by the fire in the evening eating smores.  The wind stopped blowing.  The sun kept shining, and it kept getting warmer and warmer...

and warmer and warmer and warmer, until we didn't need fleeces when we took our evening walks on the beach, and we didn't need to wear warm clothes to bed, or anything really.  In fact, we found ourselves sleeping on top of our sleeping bags, and wait a minute...are the backs of my legs sunburned?  Suddenly, we found ourselves camping in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave, and yes, the backs of my legs were sunburned, and so were my husband's shoulders...and arms...and head...and back...and did we have any shade?

Being on the ocean (in the ocean, really) did offer some respite from the heat, and if we had had some shading device (we did bring our trusty tarp from last year, but, um...well...let's just say there weren't really very  many trees from which to hang it) we probably could have made it through our last day in bliss.  But alas, two sunburned (read: stupid) parents cannot last the whole day, or any part of it, on the beach on a sunny day.

We tried spending some time inside our tent, but it hadn't even been a half-hour before we felt like we were inside a furnace.  What to do?

I don't know what you would do, but we hit the town, found the most out-of-the-sun basement eatery that dumps blue crab all over your table, and planted ourselves there for a few hours.  Maybe more than a few. 

And that was it.  Our camera broke the last night of our camping trip, right in the middle of taking this picture, so our future travels to visit friends in Maryland and D.C. went undocumented, but they were fun too.
Fun which included food poisoning, and a sweltering day trudging around DC, but fun all the same.  Come to think of it, I think our camera broke on our Lake George trip too, and maybe there were some other things...
So maybe it isn't really luck that follows us as we traipse around the country, but the ability to laugh at ourselves. Either way, I'll take it. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Shore

It's official. Summer is over, once again.

As per tradition, we spent another fall equinox squeezing the remains of summer into a glass and drinking it dry.  If we travel even farther south, I'm sure we could hold on for just a bit longer, but I'm tired.  Exhausted, really. 

This week I cut open my first fresh winter squash and let the aroma fill my nose.  I packed up all our summer clothes and filled our dressers up with wool socks and turtle-necks.  I had the girls try on snowsuits and mittens, corduroys and sweaters.  I took stock.  I cooked hot soup and baked warm bread.  I told Matty he'd better get around to cleaning both our stove pipes because it's gettin' cold in here.

Fall is here, and now is the time for us to be home.  And I'm ready...but someplace in the back of my mind I wonder: how many more weekends are we going to pack up and head to the shore before we realize we could save ourselves a lot of packing and a lot of driving if we just lived there?