Sunday, June 25, 2006

Camping Out

Camping trips with Emma are a joy.

We drove up to Charles A. Lindbergh State Park on Friday with Emma and her buddy Meghan. Stopped for dinner in St. Cloud, because we knew trying to feed them camp food would be a nightmare; they're both vegetarian and picky. So, Perkins for dinner. Got our site set up, started a fire, roasted marshmallows for S'mores (yeah, they're vegetarian, but not that vegetarian), sacked out, went to sleep. Everything was good.

Saturday morning, at around 5:00 am, Emma wakes up to the sound of thunder. (Kristi later reports that it's been raining and thundering since much earlier, but I slept through it.) We kept trying to get Emma to go back to sleep, but she was wired, antic, and bound and determined to wake up not only Meghan, but the entire campground. She'd only had about 6 hours sleep, and we knew this was not going to be a good day.

Finally, the rain let up at around 8 am. We took care of essentials, then took a walk back out to the ranger station -- or, as Emma called it, the gift shop. That's how she saw the whole trip, really -- an opportunity to acquire stuff. Amazingly, it needn't be cute, useful, or in any way desireable stuff; she just needed to get something. I think she's part Ferenghi (and yes, Scooter, go have fun with that one on your blog; I don't care).

After a hearty breakfast (well, okay, supermarket donuts; gimme a break), we were ready to rent a canoe. We walked back to the "gift shop" (Emma was by now complaining bitterly about all of the walking involved in camping trips), got paddles and lifejackets and a key to unlock our canoe, then walked down to the creek where the canoes were racked. Emma and Meghan selected our canoe based on color (orange, to match Emma's outfit); Kristi and I unlocked it and carried it to the water. There's no beach to board at; we have to put the canoe in the water and drag it back to a rocky terrace a foot or so above the water level, and step in from there. We boarded. And all hell broke loose.

Picture me standing with one leg in the canoe and one on the rocks, holding onto a tree limb over my head and trying to keep the canoe steady and close to land for fully seven or eight minutes, while Emma stands in the middle and screams bloody murder because there are Daddy Long-Legs in the canoe, lots of them, and there's no way I'm going anywhere in this canoe let me off now now now now now!!!!! The rest of us attempt to talk sense to Emma, and Kristi evacuates enough of the spiders that Emma will now sit down and let us paddle to somewhere where we can beach the canoe and continue the evaculation.

This could have been somewhat amusing, but for the sudden shooting pain in my knee about halfway through. It was above the joint, meaning it wasn't my previous problem -- and as it turns out, it's feeling somewhat better this morning. But yesterday, I swear, I thought my dream of playing in the major leagues was crushed.

We paddled down the creek to a lagoon which opens out on the Mississippi. There's a boat ramp there, and we beached and finished the spider evacuation. There was a posted notice to fishermen advising that muskies shorter than 40" must be thrown back; I thought briefly about telling Emma about the size of the fish in these waters, and wisely reconsidered.

We paddled up the Mississippi for 45 minutes or so, then back. We didn't capsize, so I suppose, on balance, this was a successful outing.

Back to camp, and lunch: crackers/cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, fruit.

It had now sunk in with Emma that her behavior (particularly the refusal to let everyone sleep in the morning) was going to cost her. We'd told her at the start that she could pick out something from the "gift shop" if she did a good job, and clearly she wasn't. She plaintively asked if she could make it up to us, but after the canoe incident, and with my knee still throbbing, I told her she'd have to save somebody's life or the equivalent. Kristi and the girls took a short hike while I rolled the sleeping bags and took the rainfly off the tent and such; the knee was sore, but functional. After they got back there was some discussion of playing games, but I heard thunder, and insisted that we strike camp first. Good thing; it started raining just as we were folding the tent. We threw everything in the car and drove down to the "gift shop," where Meghan -- but not Emma -- got to pick out a treasure to take home. We then headed for home through heavy rain -- punctuated by a stop for dinner at a Sbarro's in Coon Rapids, where everybody could at least find something they'd eat, if not thoroughly enjoy.

Such is camping with Emma. The morning bike ride I'd planned for today didn't happen; I'm hoping that another day or so and the knee will be back where it was. But I don't know.