Monday, May 08, 2006

When Smoke Gets In My Eyes

I have returned triumphant and dry from my camping adventures with Paige and Alex. It is the first time I have been camping without a male companion. I have seen women camping without men along to help set up, tear down and generally make themselves useful. I knew it could be done. I am delighted that I have now experienced it first hand.

Now, Paige and her daughter, Alex, are experienced lone campers. Paige has even set up a shop and run it while camping (did it for several years, in fact). But she is legendary for her ability to run tarps. This woman can set up a campsite so secure I believe it would take a hurricane or tornado to knock it down.

Approaching Culpeper, Virginia where I was to meet up with Paige and Alex, it was raining. This is not normally a good sign when one is planning on camping out. But I was confident that the rain would stop. It rained harder.

But I got to Paige's home and dropped off my son who was going to stay at her house with her younger children and Paige's spouse (who is a very good sport for taking all the youngsters to the golf driving range and generally keeping them entertained, fed and breathing throughout the weekend).

As final things were tossed into a cooler and then jammed into the back of Paige's vehicle, the rain continued to come down. But as we headed south towards the campground, it began to taper off. Finally, as we pulled into the campground, it stopped.

We set up. First thing we did was put up the largest tarp. Actually, Paige and Alex put up the tarp. I pulled stuff out of my car. Then we set up the tent. Then we put up a second tarp, dug out the odd assortment of odd tent and canopy poles that my husband and I haul around when we camp. We got out more bungee cords. Ropes were pulled. Stakes were driven. Chairs were put out and the "kitchen" was set up.

Using my little hibachi, some charcoal and a couple squirts of lighter fluid (yes, I cheated), I got a cooking fire going and we put the final touches and adjustments on our camp. Then we set up our camp altar.

I'm going to put up pictures here of all of this when Paige sends them to me.

We cooked hotdogs on metal forks over our little campfire and then we heard the drummers. So we went off to dance and visit with our fellow campers who had all come out to celebrate Beltain -- albeit a week late.

We danced to the drummers for a while but then felt a rain drop. Then two. We started back to our campsite. Our little fire, which we had covered, was still burning. We moved the hibachi under the tarps and grouped our chairs around it for warmth.

Ah, see, you thought you saw disaster coming. But no! We kept that little fire going (granted the air elementals were determined to smoke the heck out of both Paige and Alex all weekend) but we did not melt our tarps, we stayed warm and when a torrential downpour began around 10 p.m. and lasted all night long, we stayed bone dry. Both Paige and I had brought dry firewood from home, you see... and our little fire (although it died down at night), kept going the entire weekend until we finally put it out before we left to come home.

I still smell like smoke despite bathing and changing my clothes. It must be in my shoes... but I got lots of knitting done sitting happily under our tarps, by the campfire and enjoyed the delightful company of two very dear friends.

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