Wednesday, July 3, 2013

First Camping Experience.

Camping; it's a sport rediscovered by the modern man. Remember Lewis and Clark, they went camping too, and you can only imagine what an amazing camping trip that must have been.  

Today, camping is mostly recreational. An activity for the modern man to reconnect with nature and thyself.  The circle of life that I have often mentioned in my blogposts and otherwise. Its one of those circles. We, the descendants of Adam and Eve started as wanderers went to the moon and beyond and then we felt the need to come back to nature. 

The idea of camping was alien for me until last week.  Many things about camping were big question marks. For instance, sleeping with the bugs, why? Making reservations a year ahead of time so I can spend two nights and 3 days bonding with friends and family unplugged. Why can't we do that sans camping too,? was my unpopular argument.  Last week all these questions were answered and here's the first camping experience. 

There are as many camping styles as individuals. The spectrum ranges from those who like to camp out in a fancy air-conditioned RV to those who like to rough it out with one backpack and dehydrated food.  Most of us fall some where in between. We carry our tents, sleeping bags, camp lights, regular food to enjoy a few days away from the daily rut and hope to connect with nature like our ancestors did  many many years ago, only they didn't have flush toilets and hot water showers.   Our initiation to camping is courtesy a friend. Her family camps every summer and  are seasoned campers.  She took the initiative to find a site that worked for beginners like us, which meant it had to be close to home and had restrooms and showers close by.  She  then made the bookings at Reserve America for the Glory Hole Camp Grounds and we were set. Then started the process of understanding what all was needed. She has a pretty exhaustive patented list, but basically its your tent, sleeping bags and or comforters, clothes, favorite blanky, flashlights, camp lanterns, first aid, tons of water and all the cooking stuff. 

Advise for first timers : Go in a group and if you have friends who have done it before so much better.  

Portable Spice Box
The plan was to take the bikes for the kids, until my husband saw all the other stuff. He very calmly and patiently looked at me and said "you do realize we have a van and not a U haul." I looked at him and said, "it has to go, there is nothing extra here." Little did he know that in all this stuff, was my first camping invention.  The portable "Indian Spice Box." 

Full brownie points to my hubby as he tried his best and kept his smile. First try, took the wheels out of the bikes, fit them at an angle, but it would not fit. Then we tried laying them down, the danger all the weight and the lack of balance won't work. Finally, he very calmly again asked me "It's going to be 108 F there, do you really think bikes are needed. Let's just take their scooters for now." He was right as always. Bikes were not needed.  We managed to put everything in the van and off we were on our first camping trip. Super excited kids, super excited dad, super excited me on the face and internally praying earnestly that the sun gods mellow down.  108 F, seriously! 

The closest city is Angels Camp as we passed its downtown, I made a note to self, next camping trip to Glory Hole,  no need to carry the corn and snacks from home. It can all be bought there. The camp also has a Glory Hole Center right outside the camp grounds, the basic supplies, ice, firewood is easily available there.  We made it to Glory Hole in good time, it was a great campsite. And I say this with all honesty and no sarcasm, I was pleasantly surprised. It was super clean, super big spacious sites and despite the scorching temperatures the staff was extremely friendly and helpful.  

Advise Corner: Tent, buy a tent that does not require the threading process. I don't know what they are technically called, but there are tents that have this claw type of structure that fits from the outside and are so much easier to set up when compared to those that require the threading process. 

Our tent is super special too.. its what we have nicknamed  "The Punjabi Tent." Its huge. Its a ten person tent. Too much for a family of four, not really... honestly in that humid hot weather, sleeping with some space around all of us was a blessing. Its a really nice tent from Costco that allowed us to open all the covered screen and allow the air to flow through the netting.  The only negative, it takes a little extra effort and time to set up. 

Chicken - taking its own sweet time
The day made way for evening and we started the cooking process and soon the third family joined in too. While they rushed to set up their tents before it got dark, we decided to get the fire crackling.  The fire wood got ignited and the kids looked forward to the grilled chicken and sausages. Speaking of chicken, I had the task of marinating it. Not sure which one, either the engineer in me or the hyper cautious mom in me was a little concerned about keeping the chicken cold in these super hot temperatures so it wouldn't go bad. I thought really hard and said to myself,  well if I can marinate this chicken frozen, and considering how hot it is, the chicken will surely thaw out by dinner time in the 108F temperature, that way it will get to its destination without rotting in the heat. Logically correct, right?  I managed to cut frozen chicken, marinate it and it all looked good until I realized that the chicken that I took out of the freezer at 9.00am in the morning was still frozen at 8.00pm. How did that happen? It's supposed to thaw in this scorching weather. Well, now I know that my cooler works really well. This is where experienced campers come to the rescue. My friend relentlessly got the fire burning and the chicken took its own sweet time to slow cook. As she fanned the fire, I looked at the pit and thought, that would make an amazing tandoor :). Took about an hour and the chicken was cooked. Was it yummy? I have no idea, for I am a vegetarian. I can only cook it. Eating it is my family's task and they enjoyed it. I hope the other's in the group too, thought it was worth the wait.  The kids ended the day with Smores and we ended the day with some cold drinks under the starry sky.

The fire in the pit continued to kindle and give its warm glow.  I stared it for a few minutes thinking about the awe and amazement on the persons face who discovered it for the first time.  It's a pity no one really knows how and when fire was discovered, but just imagine the astonishment. There is something so dangerously magical about it. Even in the hottest weather, the fire has this soothing warmth.  

The largest Stalagmite in the West Coast
Yummy Breakfast
During the course of the day and the conversations under the stars, we all had decided secretly in our own minds that   tomorrow if the heat is unbearable, we either head back home or take the kids to the nearby Moaning Caverns and then take it by the hour. Interestingly convincing each other was very easy ;) 

Well, morning came early. The first ray of sun hit my eye at 5.00am. It was beautiful then, and then gradually the heat came and I decided to hit the showers early so the water was not boiling.  Had some scrumptious omelette's and chai made by friends and yes we ended up going to Moaning Caverns. Then came lunch. 

Another lesson and note to self.. no matter how hot it is, even if you think there is an odor to the bread, do not put the bread near any kind of ice packs or ice. Regardless of how good the ziplocs are water will creep in.  Besides until there is no green stuff on the bread it's okay to eat it. It's camping after all a little green wouldn't hurt either. Thank fully the heat had taken away some of the appetite and we barely managed to salvage lunch.

Then we took off to Murphy's a tiny town in the middle of no where but the proud destination of Lila and Sage Cupcakes.. The Cupcake Wars Winner 2012. I am not a huge cupcake person, but had to agree with my friend, that how many times does one end up in a town which has a cupcake war winner. So we had to go there and I decided to taste the winning lavender and orange cream cupcake. I have to agree the combination of flavors was heavenly. Interestingly, the cream by itself or the cake by itself was okay, but when one bites it together, the flavors just combine beautifully.  By this time, we all agreed to go back home early.

The younger kids were red like tomatoes and the adults were guzzling water. It just didn't make sense to sweat it out and take a risk of sun stroke or any other adventure.  

Packing at 2.00pm was no easy task either.  It was brutally hot and this is an understatement.  Hope you saw that up until now I had not cribbed or complained. I was enjoying myself. Ten minutes inside the tent while packing up and I could feel the dizziness coming in. Okay, I admit it, I had to go to the van, crank up the A/C and sit there for a few minutes to get my balance back.  At this point, I was glad we were going back.  It took time and yes I did complaint once, but we managed to pack and load up the van to come back home.

When we started the van, it read 128F. I wish I had taken a pic. But yes it was that hot and for my friends in Dubai and India, that's 50C.  Came home, cranked up the air conditioning and took an ice cold shower.  We all sat down near the A/C vent to cool off.   And then were treated to an amazing dinner by the third family who had dinner chores. They were gracious enough to invite us all to their place and treat us in the comfort of their home. Veggie Burritos at their best. 

Question I was asked again and again, Will I go camping again? My answer, absolutely yes. 

Now that I think about it, the human race has been camping since the very early days. From the cavemen to the missionaries to the native Indians to Lewis and Clark and the 49ers, they all camped. Some where in between we discovered fire, the wheel and the modernization of the human race started.  The curious mind did not stop after that. Man dared to challenge and ask the why's and what's to make the world we live in today.   We made this world to give ourselves comfort and create the economic efficiencies successfully. So, why do we go camping?, when it was the luxuries we wanted in the first place.  

Camping I think is intrinsic to the human nature. It appeals to us because it's at our core. A long forgotten core but the instinct is hidden some where in the human DNA.  For me it allowed me to test myself. I don't like hot temperatures. I am a winter person. I am happy when it is snowing and cold. So for me to be in those temperatures and not loose my cool was a HUGE achievement.

Growing up, being outdoor was a daily affair. Today its a forced affair.  Childhood today is different. Nature does not exist much in it, camping fills this gap. It teaches kids to survive without wi-fi. Ours did. We did not take any ipads or Kindle.  They re-discovered the joy of water balloon fights and dumping buckets of water on each other. Thank fully all moms had brought many extra pairs of clothes. 

What makes a successful camping trip? Well realistically if you come back with no injuries thats successful. But while you are there, what really matters is you. You could be by yourself or with a group of friends. Either way, what really makes camping fun, is you, yourself and you alone.  I enjoyed this trip, because I chose to ignore the heat or at least not let it get the best of me. My husband and friends kept their patience and made up for my lack of experience. My kids listened to me and called their experience Epic. 

The end result, the resistance to camping has been replaced with "looking forward to the next trip." 


  1. Indeed first experience is worth remembering...have camping experience a lot as kid n teenager...still look forward to go camping but these days dont find companion to go along :-(

  2. I love camping and over the years I think I have mastered the art to a large extend. I can now carry one week's worth of supply and all my camping gear on my motorcycle with ease. I have travelled thousands of miles in US without having the need to check in to any hotels etc. I have camped in all kinds of 'no man's land' and generally try to avoid camp grounds as they tend to get expensive, noisy with kids and RV's running around. I will do a camp ground only if I have my family with me as it is generally safer. I don’t carry any hand guns with me but most my fellow riders do. I do carry a large bottle of pepper spray as part of my personnel defense. Being safe (both from elements and punks) is the key.
    - Abhi

  3. True Abhi. Real Camping is doing it with the minimal. But like u pointed out.. family camping tends to get over loaded with the "what if" accessories and camp grounds make it safe and pampered :)

    Have seen your pics of New Mexico.. truly a no mans land trip.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to write too.