WARNING: the following blog post is going to be LONG, but it will have lots of photos and minimal talk of training, so enjoy!
Apologies on the hiatus from posting, I spent last week getting ready for and then going on a camping trip with some friends. When I lived in New York, I would go camping with these same friends a few times a year and then they all moved to Seattle, so the tradition has moved to the West Coast. Now when I say camping, I’m not talking about the kind where you hike in and spend a weekend getting back to nature and “roughing it”, I’m referring to the kind where you drive your car to a campground, unload a crap load of stuff and then sit around eating, talking and generally loafing around for a weekend. (I throw some training in there, but otherwise it’s a pretty lazy weekend… )
FRIDAY, MAY 23
We pack up the car in a steady drizzle, which really dampens ones enthusiasm for camping (pun definitely intended!) After cramming an improbable amount of crap into the station wagon we borrowed from S and loaded the dogs into the cozy little amount of space we left for them, we hit the road. Here’s Wally sharing space with my bicycle wheel:
And here are the boys cuddling (against Smokey Joe’s will) in the car:
And of course, the glorious weather:
As we got closer, the weather started to clear and the scenery was really beautiful. We were camping up at a Washington State Park called Penrose Point, which is on the Key Peninsula, across the sound from Tacoma. The campsites are all nestled in a pine forest, which gave a great feeling of privacy even though there are other people camping all around you. (Shout out to M for picking a great camping spot!)
When we got there, M & J had already arrived and whipped the campsite into shape and plotted out tent arrangement. We had booked two sites for the six of us, because you can never tell from the pictures on the website if you can actually fit three tents onto one site, but it turned out everyone could set their tents up in the site, so we lugged the picnic table over from the other site and parked our cars over there. (Sadly, I didn’t get pictures of that because I was one of the folks lugging it over, but trust me it was pretty funny… )
Here, however are some other pictures of the set up process. First we have T sorting through the many, many bags:
The dogs contributing in their own special way, by being tied up out of range:
And M & J ham it up for the camera… okay, maybe just J hamming it up:
T and I finished pitching our tent and getting things organized while M&J made a firewood and ice run. They returned at the same time as the Cyclones arrived and the setting up and organizing continued. After we got everything ready, M, Ms. Cyclone, T and I decided to take the dogs on a little walk down to the beach, while Mr. Cyclone and J set up the gazebo/shelter thing we put up over the food tent (oh yeah, it’s Yuppie Camping, baby!)
When we walked down to the water, the tide was out and we noticed a large group of sand dollars – but ones totally different than anything we’d ever seen before. They were still alive!
I always had assumed that they looked different alive than the ones you find on the beach, but apparently not. They do have little tendrils on the bottom, not unlike a starfish. Very weird. There was a huge group of them on the beach, seen here to Smokey Joe’s left. (Told you the scenery was beautiful!)
Heading back to camp:
After being on the beach, we noticed this sign:
This is why design matters – the terrible hierarchy makes you think the beach is closed, instead of just being closed to shellfish harvesting. Shame on you Washington Department of Health. 😀 (thank god we didn’t eat those sand dollars!)
When we got back, it was time to start eating! For night one, we decided to go easy and grill some burgers and dogs. I made a potato salad to have with them and we had a big can of baked beans, which we cooked “hobo style” right over the fire (sorry for the blur, the fire confuses my camera’s auto-focus):
While waiting for the burgers to cook, I snapped a few more pics of my fellow campers:
Mmmm… burgers. A little while later it was s’more time. T is a constant innovator, always trying to create a better s’more. Here is experiment one – put the chocolate in the middle of the marshmallow:
And the verdict…
Pretty good, but perhaps we can do better. Experiment two, a double decker s’more. This one requires tongs:
First attempt: failure…
But eventually, success!
Sweet, delicious success… We chatted, roasted a few more marshmallows (not quite so fancy as Todd – though Ms. Cyclone experimented with replacing the graham crackers with Snickerdoodle cookies… ) But then it was time for bed.
SATURDAY, MAY 24th
There was a little rain in the night, but nothing too bad and I awoke to the sound of noisy birds and the crackling fire that Mr. Cyclone had started. T got up and got the coffee going and I sat by the fire. Little by little, everyone emerged from their tents and we sat around the fire, sipping coffee. Then it was time for breakfast – T made pancakes and Mr. Cyclone cooked bacon on a cast iron griddle over the fire. Pure deliciousness. While we ate, we discussed plans for the day. I wanted to do some open water swimming, so after breakfast we walked the dogs down to the water to check out the possibilities.
We went to a different section of beach than before, but the tide was still not fully in and the water was really shallow – so much so that I could walk way out into the bay with the water up to my knees – which was pretty cool in general, but not so great for swimming. The weather was sunny and gorgeous so we opted to drive to a lake that M and J had passed on their way in. The Cyclones decided to stay behind, so M, J, T and I piled into our car with the dogs and a bunch of towels. We had a little problem finding the place they passed and had to ask at a local market, but they put us on the right path and we ended up at beautiful little Horseshoe Lake.
Not only was it a pretty lake, but there were no jetskies or motorboats on it – so we could swim all the way across without worrying about getting hit by somebody. We found a little spot where the dogs could swim, M could read her book in the shade and we could put on our wetsuits without the locals gawking at us. J had to seek a sunny spot for napping in an adjacent meadow. T and I did a “lap” of across and back (probably about 250-300 yards to the other side) which was amusing, given that T has not been doing enough swimming lately. I wanted him on my breathing side, so I could keep an eye on him – but he was not so good at the going in a straight line, so that proved challenging. There were also a few stop and rest breaks, but he made it there and back in relatively good fashion and I was proud of his efforts. Then I got to do a lap by myself, to get a feel for the wetsuit again before the open water swim “race” I’m doing next weekend. It felt really good and I felt pretty fast zipping across the lake, given that I didn’t have to stop and look out for yahoos on jet-skis.
Afterward, we rousted J from his sun-nap and headed back to camp. Ms. Cyclone had organized the campsite and made it all neat and orderly in our absence. We had some lunch and I took a nice little nap in the tent. I also had a short run on my training plan, so I coaxed T into coming with me. After the hamburger and chicken sausage I’d eaten earlier, it wasn’t the greatest run ever. Plus, we had to run along the shoulder of a road so it was really warm in the sunshine. I’d only brought along long-sleeved shirts, so I ended up tying it around my waist and violating my self-imposed “no running in only a jog bra” rule. It was not a great run – there was some cramping and numerous walk breaks. But we went, and that’s the important part.
Some friends of the Cyclones were meeting us for just one night and they showed up while I was showering post-run. I’d heard a lot of great things about these friends and they did not disappoint. The husband Dave kept us entertained with some really appalling (but hilarious) tales from his frat-boy past (he’s slept in seven different dumpsters) and his wife Shelly was really nice and laid back. They added a very nice energy to the group. The ladies took another walk down to the beach, but the tide was actually in and the sand dollars were covered up.
On the menu tonight was packets – basically chicken (or fish) with some veggies and seasoning wrapped in tin foil and cooked over the fire. Easy to make, easy to clean up and really delicious.
After some more s’mores, delicious wine and more raucous conversation it was off to bed. I fell asleep pretty much instantly, only waking up to the surprising sound of rain (it had been so clear and relatively warm when we went to bed.)
SUNDAY, MAY 25th
Luckily, it pretty much tapered off by the time we were ready to get up and we managed to get a fire going. Dave and Shelly had to take off early, so they didn’t even stay for bacon and eggs. After the bacon was done, J used the bacon griddle to cook up some canned corned beef hash which looked just like dog food. He and Mr. Cyclone were alone in that breakfast choice, while the rest of us enjoyed some delicious bacon, eggs and toast.
The weather was more overcast today and it was a much more lazy day around camp. T and Mr. Cyclone played cribbage:
Ms. Cyclone gave herself a manicure:
We took the dogs for a little walk and I lazed around the campsite for much of the day. I had a bike ride on my schedule, so finally I dragged myself onto my bike and out onto the road. I left my bike computer at home, so I have no idea how far I road or how fast I went, but it was a nice little hour and a half on the bike and it felt good to get a little exercise.
Then it was shower time, a little snacking, a hilarious game of Apples to Apples, a few Mikes and then we grilled up some steaks and baked some potatoes in the fire. Mmmmmmmm! Some folks, including Mr. Cyclone moved on to wine:
Oh yeah! Then there were more s’mores, more conversation and the sad realization that it was the last night and time for bed. Sadness.
MONDAY, MAY 26th
Up early and got the water boiling for coffee and oatmeal packets. We dealt with the money stuff and then bid farewell to the Cyclones. M, J, T and I finished breaking camp and teased each other about all of the crap we had. It was sad to leave, I could have used another day of camping and I really miss my friends. Plus, when you realize how much work you have ahead of you, cleaning up all of the stuff and in our case, switching cars with S. it’s hard to want to leave.
After much driving, cleaning and whatnot I was exhausted. I watched a little bad T.V. and fell asleep on the couch so it was off to bed. Happy Memorial Day everyone! (Told you it was going to be long!)