Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Camping with the Flamingos: Day 2

When Mace joined Flamingo Joe by the fire on Day 2 of our camping trip, they were in for a bit of a wait while the rest of us took our time rolling out of the trailer. While they were sitting out there waiting in the dark, Joe and Mace messed around with the fire, which meant that Mace inevitably ended up getting burned. Something Joe put into the fire fell out, Mace grabbed it to put it back in and burned the tip of his finger. Joe said Mace cried . . . I -- alert, conscientious parent that I am -- slept through it snug and warm in the trailer. But when we emerged an hour or so later, poor little Mace had his hand curled into a fist, clutched against his body and refused to let me see it.

He was okay -- four days later when he opened his fist, I saw he had a small blister on the tip of his finger.

And may I say . . . it is not a good idea to allow your children to run around a fire without shoes on. Not that he burned his feet, but still . . . what kind of parenting is that? Seriously . . . where is that child's mother?? It's a good thing DCF wasn't out at the campground monitoring fireside parenting on Day 2.

And one more thing about the photo above -- if you are going on a camping trip and plan to cook over a fire, take real full-of-fat oinky bacon . . . and cook it in butter. Turkey bacon sizzling in the frying pan sprayed with fat free cooking spray smells nothing at all like real bacon cooking over a campfire in a cast iron skillet. I'll remember that next time. I think I'll take real eggs, too, because we all know that Better n' Eggs are in no way, shape, or fashion actually better than eggs.

After eating turkey bacon and fake eggs, we decided to go canoeing on the river. Given the number of alligators we saw on the river the night before, none of us wanted to be the one to have to take the kayak. That normally would have been me, but I was not keen at all to be close enough to the water that a twelve foot alligator could just open its mouth and I would slide right in. We'd brought one canoe with us, so we decided to rent a second.

The canoe rental was back up the river about a quarter of a mile, so we piled in the car and drove up to rent the second canoe. When you rent the canoe there, you have to go ahead and put in there at the river as well, so Flamingo Joe and Casey (I'm not sure what happened to my skittish child who couldn't bear to be separated from me by more than 8 feet) got in the rental canoe and headed downriver to meet us at the campground's canoe launch. When we all met up again at the boat launch a few minutes later, Flamingo Joe looked nervous. He got out of the canoe to help us get the other boat down to the water and said, "I don't think you guys will want to do this . . . we just saw a huge alligator on the bank back there." I asked him if he thought the alligators would really bother us and he said no, but I know he thought Dez and I would freak out and want to come back. I was offended. So I handled it like any good wife would.

I ridiculed him for being a chicken and put the three year old in his boat so that if the three year old got eaten I could blame him.

Some of us on this canoeing excursion had long and varied outdoorsy histories full of camping and canoeing and others of us had heretofore lived lives completely devoid of any interaction with the outdoors whatsoever. I will not name names, but said inexperienced canoeist sat in the front of my boat and in order to actually get anywhere on the river that did not involve me having to untangle my hair from a tree, I just had to tell her to stop paddling.

At least she minds well.

And let me tell you something about canoeing on the Hillsborough River -- or at least the section of it that runs through the state park:

When you are not distracted by grown men wearing too-small hats . . .

. . . or your 7 year old inexplicably clinging to trees . . .

. . . you will find that the Hillsborough River is a wonderful, quiet, and lovely place that can only truly be appreciated in a canoe (though I did see one brave woman all by herself out there in a kayak). It was absolutely beautiful.

Look . . . turtle with a big leaf on its neck:

See the alligator back in there?

It's okay if you missed that one, we saw like, 25 or 30 more. See, here's another one:

After a while I had to stop taking pictures of all the alligators because every time I tried to snap a photo, the canoe would drift off course and Dez and I would end up lodged on a rock or stuck in the branches of a tree.

When Casey and I were taking the rental canoe back upriver, we saw this, too:

A red-shouldered hawk (you too will learn these official names when you start hanging out in state parks). Casey is still talking about how close we were to that hawk. Don't get me wrong, we live by water that provides us with all the alligators, herons, snakes, turtles, fruit rats and hawks that we can handle, but something about being in the middle of the woods, on a river, in a canoe, so close to a hawk that you could touch him with your oar, is amazing.

Later on Day 2, everyone but me did a little fishing.

Mace, as you might expect, didn't catch anything with his SpongeBob fishing pole. He kept trying to talk to the pre-teen girls that were hanging around. It was a little embarrassing to watch him walk up to girls, start talking, and be completely ignored. But he didn't seem to mind too much.

Joe caught a catfish for about 4 seconds:

It's hard to document these things when you only have four seconds to snap the picture, so you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that he caught the only fish of the day by just placing his worm on the fish's head right as Dez was telling him, "You can't catch a fish just by putting the worm right on top of . . . OH OH REEL IT IN REEL IT IN . . . dang."

By evening, we were tired, but we managed to cook some chicken over the fire, make some more s'mores for the kids and roll into bed. Mace fell asleep while sitting on my lap and it wasn't hard at all to convince Casey it was bedtime pretty soon after that. Dez slept in the tent the second night and the rest of us slept in the trailer. I wanted to make sure Dez fully experienced the outdoors on this camping trip, so when she volunteered to sleep in the tent, I didn't argue too much with her -- that would have been selfish of me.

On Day 3, as we promised the ranger, we packed up our stuff and left. When we got home, I took a shower and then laid in the bed and watched 8 hours' worth of movies on TV.

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