Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Everyone mostly made it back...

Well, sure, if you want to do it the *easy* way.
-Gonzo the Great

I was pretty sure it'd be hard. In fact, I knew it'd be hard. But I was also pretty sure it'd be a lot of fun and everyone would make it home intact.

Hey, two out of three ain't bad.

In my defense, it wasn't my idea and I was a little mislead as to what to expect. And thankfully the blood soaked leg with the gaping wound that I was wrapping in gauze didn't belong to one of my kids.

So, let's move back a bit. It all started with Clark suggesting we do a family camping trip...
Doodily-doo! Doodily-doo! Doodily-doo!(Merriwether makes wavy "flash-back" motions with his hands.)
Clark: Hey Merriwether, let's go camping at my brother-in-law's deer lease and practice primitive skills! Let's also bring our families and invite several others, too!
Merriwether: Sounds great, let's go! What's it like at the lease?
Clark: 25,000 acres of pine woods. We'll probably have to carry all our stuff to the campsite.
Merriwether: Hmm, I better pack light if I'm going to carry everything to the camp. Not a problem, You know I'm a minimalist when I go camping. Having Miniwether and Mambowether along shouldn't require to much more gear.
Misseswether: You realize I have class on Saturday and Sunday. I can't go along, you'll have to take care of the kids in the woods all by yourself.
Merriwether: No problem. I'll bring some extra granola bars.


1. If all your gear, food, tent, etc fits on a "Radio Flyer" type wagon, YOU HAVEN"T BROUGHT ENOUGH STUFF!
True, when any of the other families needed some vital piece of equipment they came to me knowing I'd have it. On the other hand, my kids were constantly mooching food from the other parents. Apparently warm water and Uncle Ben's Ready to Serve Rice Dishes mixed with a can of chicken chunks can't hold a candle to Polish sausages roasted over the fire, ice cold juice boxes, fresh fruit, and Doritos. It seems "haul everything through the woods to the campsite" meant "haul ass down logging trails in Red Rider and assorted other trucks/SUV's until we find a nice clearing for everyone's tents". Truth be told, it was a lot of fun getting Red Rider muddy, but I probably could have packed more stuff. For instance...

2. If you are going to spend several days in the woods bring lots and lots of spare socks. Multiple other changes clothes might also be a good idea.
Miniwether LOVED riding the ATV with Shot Cop or Shot Cop's girlfriend. Miniwether managed to talk Shot Cop's girlfriend into believing that I was fine with them racing through puddles throwing up mud all over themselves. Miniwether LOVED that best of all.

Well, I do want my girls to love the outdoors. Meanwhile, in an attempt to mimic her big sister Mambowether took off her shoes and jumped in another mud puddle. She thought that was the second-best part of the trip. *Sigh* Luckily, Misseswether had talked me into bringing a roll of paper towels along, so I was kind of able to wipe them off...some.

3. Make sure you have something filling your kids can eat as soon as you get to the campsite. Something you have to heat up first does not meet this requirement. We got to the campsite about 11am and everyone began setting up tents and such. I knew my girls would be hungry soon so rather than set up my tent I began heating up some chili for their lunch. I figured once they were fed they'd be more likely to be happy and play while I set up camp. Ninety minutes (too be expounded upon next) and one disaster later I was trying to get cranky girls to eat funny tasting chili. Meanwhile the other families were feasting on sandwichs, chips, fruit, and ice cold drinks. This scenerio repeated itself (sans disaster) several times over the weekend.

4. When Freezer Bag Cooking it's best to get the water boiling, turn off the heat, then place the freezer bag of food in the hot water. This is especially important if you didn't bring much food with you. Now, I've done freezer bag cooking a lot when I'm out by myself and I've never had a problem with leaving the water boiling over the fire while it cooked. However, this time the bag of chili must have been touching the bottom of the pot and it ended up melting through. When I went to pull out the bag all the chili poured out the hole into the several quarts of water. This was not good, in fact it was a disaster (as mentioned earlier). I didn't have enough food to throw this out and make new stuff. True, I could have begged food from the other families, but I didn't think that'd be a good way to start the trip.

I ended up scooping out some of the water, added half of the pita bread (which I had originally planned on using as edible bowls during other meals) and added my one spare bag of Zataran's ready to serve jambalya to try and soak up some of the water. Then I tried boiling off the remaining large amount of excess water. Thankfully the girls ate a fair amount of the resulting crap, at least enough to recharge their batteries.

5. Don't really on Mother Nature to supply all the kid's entertainment. My girls LOVE being outside. Mambowether throws a fit if we don't go for a walk every night after supper. Most Saturday mornings find us exploring one or another of the local nature preserves. They love playing on sandbars, chasing butterflies, splashing in streams, etc... But eventually even they grow tired of sticks and want to play with something garishly colored and made of plastic. Luckily, the Valkrie (Lone Star C's wife) keeps a bag of random toys and books in their SUV for their 2-yr old son (who is just one week older than Mambowether!). Mambowether took great comfort in the green plastic shovel and the book "Goodnight, Gorilla" which she has a copy of at home. Bring toys. It seems so wrong to bring plastic toys into the woods, but do it anyway. A few of their favorite books does wonders, too.

6. Juice boxes are vital to keeping young kids hydrated out in the wild. Hydrated kids are happy kids. I brought 2.5 gallon and 7 gallon Aquatainers of water along to drink. They sat in the sun. The sun was warm. The water became warm. The girs didn't want to drink warm water. The girls started getting dehydrated. Misses Clark gave the girls ice cold juices boxes from their giant, ice-filled cooler. The girls became hydrated. The girls became happy. Merriwether felt like a loser.

Even if the water I had brought had been cold the girls wouldn't have drunk nearly enough of it to avoid the beginnings of dehydration. I hate juice boxes. Misseswether hates juice boxes. But the girls need to stay hydrated out in the wilds so we'll start bringing juice boxes.

7. Keep a close eye on a nine year old boy with a Bowie knife. If the nine year old boy comes to you a few minutes later and asks for a bandaid followed by the statement, "I might need two" you suddenly have a situation on your hands. Lone Star C was the lucky adult the boy found first (his parents were out on the ATV's). I got called over as soon as Lone Star C saw the damage. It was pretty ugly. The boy had been trying to chop a nub off a branch he had planned to use as a sausage-cooking stick. He had swung the knife really hard, it glanced off the nub and laid open his leg. This is where we started.

Luckily I carry a pretty extensive first aid kit in Red Rider. By extensive I mean "filled with tons of guaze rolls, assorted bandaids, and not much else". I've received many hours of first aid training at work where I am a First Responder. This has taught me that the best thing I can do for an injured person is stop the bleeding, wrap the injury with gauze, and wait for/get them to real paramedics/doctors.

The cut was ugly and deep but free of any dirt or mud. I didn't even flush the wound, I just wrapped it in layer after layer of guaze, then Lone Star and I carried him to his bedroll and had him lay down. His mom returned from riding ATV's about an hour later, heard what happend, unwrapped the bandage, and lost it for a moment. I was afraid she'd throw up or pass out. She did recover quite quickly and gave me permission to flush out the wound and bandage it up again. Then thanks to Clark's gps unit they were able to rush to a nearby hospital emergency room where they sat for the next seven hours. The boy ended up with four stitches, but they were put in just for comsetic reasons. The wound looked really big and bad, but all he had actually done was shave a strip of skin 1/2 inch wide, 3 inches long but less than 1/4 inch deep off his leg. It would have been fine without the stitches but it would have left an ugly (or cool looking, depending on your point of view) scar.

8. Read the food labels carefully before purchase! I somehow managed to grab sugar-free instant oatmeal at Walmart. It made yesterday's chili taste good. Meanwhile the other families were cooking up omlets, pancakes, bacon, etc for breakfast on Sunday morning.

My kids are turning into excellent moochers. While this is a handy survival skill it does bring great shame down upon me...

So there you have my list of failures. Hopefully you can learn from it. still, I seemed to have done okay in the eyes of my children. Miniwether has been talking no-stop about how much fun she had and how she wants to do it again real soon. Mambowether doesn't burst into tears when I say the word "tent" or "camping" and this evening she wanted to pretend to be my backpack. I'm guessing she didn't have a miserable time. If anything, she's been even more affectionate towards me since the trip. I think this is beacause I spent almost an hour down on my knees playing with her in a patch of sand. We used sticks to draw stuff, she LOVED it when I'd draw a heart. Whenever I drew one she'd give me a hug.

I drew lots of hearts for her.

Thinking back, that was one of the few times I had spent time totally devoted to her doing what she wanted. Miniwether was playing with the other girls so I could stay focused completely on Mambo. It was awesome.

9. Figure out some way to clean your kids up before you get home to mommy. Misseswether sent me off with two beautiful, clean, darling little girls. I returned with two muddy, ragged, dirty-faced, messy-haired, boogery-nosed street urchins. Misseswether was less than pleased by this.

Oh well. To be honest, they usually ended up pretty dirty whenever I play with them. I've just never had the chance to play with them for two days straight...

10, SUNSCREEN! It was still rather cool when we got there and no one thought to put on sunscreen. A few hours later people started turning red and there was a rush for the sunblock. Miniwether ended the weekend the kind of a lovely, dark roasted chicken sort of color but Mambowether was closer to red. Luckily I had kept her near me in the shade most of the time. Sidenote: when you rub sunblock on to gorgeous, curly red hair the hair straightens out and falls limp.

Okay and now some more pictures:


There were five familes consisting of nine adults and eight kids (technically nine kids considering Misses Clark is seven months pregnant). And yes, campfires are a necesity even when it's sunny and 84F.

The area was very pretty and as I mentioned earlier, was covered with 25,000 acres of pine trees. We all spent a lot of time walking in the woods (some longer than others, but eventually they found their way back to camp).

Primitive skills #14: Stalking sausages

Some of the young campers. Yes, Clarkette-1 is holding a deer skull and a big feather.

Hmm, a deer skull cell phone. That would be cool!

Clarkette-2 just liked being outside. She didn't need dead animal parts to enjoy nature.

However, Miniwether was really excited to get one of the deer's teeth and was really upset by mommy's reaction when Miniwether handed it to her after we got home.

Ahh, all the kids were in bed. Break out the funky glowing orbs!

Nasty, suger-free "Maple and Brown Sugar" instant oatmeal for breakfast.

Clark and family getting ready to make bacon, eggs, pancakes, etc for their breakfast.

Lone Star C, Valkrie, and their son Red Curl demonstarting why it is bad to have a tall person take their picture while facing directly into the sun.

Somehow, in spite of all the screw ups, we had a wonderful time. Hopefully we can do it again before the real hot weather arrives.

Adventure! Excitement! Family Camping!


Anonymous said...

looks like yall had a great time. maybe next i can make it. i need to blow the cob webs out of the 4-wheeler.


Anonymous said...

What an awesome post! Don't feel too bad for any mishaps, it looks like the girls had a great time anyway. They're growing up so fast!

Anonymous said...

Face it - you are too much of a man. Had Misses gone along, i guarantee the other kids would have been mooching from you guys. Now THAT is an organized mom... We have a built in mechanism for anticipating needs that men simply cannot fathom - like the need for extra clothes and baby wipes and ice and real food instead of survival food. I love you to pieces, but what works for the ubercamper (you) does not translate to kiddos. But it's not your fault you weren't born with estrogen. :)


Lone Star Chris said...

"hey, is that tofu??"

"uhhhh, no... that's chicken & dumplings"

Taurus said...

Ha. NICE work brother. I hope you dont mind but I decided to drop in and say hi. I really enjoyed your story.

Can't wait to get home and take the family camping.

Man.....I am getting too old for this.

Merriwether said...

Hey Taurus, you are always welcome even without a roll of detcord. :-)

When are you getting out of the sandbox?

Taurus said...

I was only supposed to fill in for a guy short term until a replacement could be trained up. they told me I would be here 4 weeks tops(as I am slated for another 9 months in 09)

that was a few weeks ago.


Windrider said...

Hey Merriwether!

I ran across you on the Equipped site. I run around out in the wildness myself..

I'm known as Bat69 over there. But you can call me Windrider.

I'm a Texas boy too. Unfortunately I live in Miami, but it lets me play in the Everglades..

Welcome to the Blogroll!


clarktx said...

Your lack of preparedness was mostly caused by the focus of the trip changing, and the fact that none of us had ever been there before. So, don't be too hard on yourself.

clarktx said...

Man, missesclark laughed harder then she has in a very long time. She really thought this post was super funny. She laughed and laughed. She thinks you wrote it really well. Adventure! Excitement! Food from the Goulag!

(actually your food normally turns out awesome but it seems events conspired against you)