Camping 2017

After two years in Miriam's backyard in Roslindale, then two years at Wompatuck State Park near Hull, and last year at Sebago Lake, our sixth annual summer camping trip with Sarah and Sean and Miriam and Davis has grown: we do three nights away now, not two, and this year we added on Robert's mother Judy and Emily and Nathaniel's family and got our own private group campsite at the Recompense Shore Campground in Freeport, Maine. We had flush toilets, though they were unlit (making for exciting middle-of-the-night adventures for the older (Judy) and pregnant (Sarah) among us), and we had a wonderful time.

Marcus, Helen, and I took the train up, to avoid--in order of decreasing severity--babies who scream in carseats, siblings who fight in the close quarters of a car, and kids who occasionally get carsick on long drives. As soon as our train left North Station on Thursday afternoon, the conductor got on the intercom and gave a long announcement about the policies concerning the Great Dome Car. He began, "Okay folks, I know most of you are here to see the Great Dome Car, so let me get a few things straight..." and continued just as mystifyingly as he had begun. When he finished, Marcus and I looked at each other and asked, "What's the Great Dome Car?" As soon as I could flag down the conductor, I repeated our query, and he eventually explained that it's a rare, 1940s-era double-height observation car that there are only two of these days in all of Amtrak, and that they cycle from route to route for one month each. We happened to be lucky enough to get it on our trip north, so I sent Marcus up to check it out while Helen was sleeping. "It's pretty cool," he said, when he came back, so later on I did go up with him and sit there for awhile and enjoy the view.

Our train ended up being about twenty minutes late pulling into Freeport, but that was fine, since it gave Robert enough time to drop off Judy, Samantha, and some of our gear at the campsite and then come back to pick us up.

On Thursday night, after we hastily set up tents and things before dark, we celebrated Marcus's birthday with cool camping shirts, a birthday crown, and sparkly candles in a donut before our nightly s'moresgasbord (choose-your-own-adventure: churro-flavored, fruit-flavored, mint-flavored, or plain marshmallows, on top of graham crackers, Oreo thins, pretzels, donuts, or Hong Kong egg waffles, with melty chocolate, either Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey bars, coffee-flavored dark chocolate bars, white chocolate cookies and cream bars, or peanut butter milk chocolate bars).

By Friday night, Lyly (7), Clarinda (almost 6), and Samantha (5.75) were fast friends. They went off on a number of different self-named "Girls' Adventures," sometimes taking Helen too--those tended to be short adventures, such as walking up the path toward the bathroom--and sometimes spending half an hour packing bags (water bottles, dolls and doll clothes, and their little observation notebooks and pencils, courtesy of Sean, were key additions to their bags) and going off to look for moose (they didn't find any, by the way).

Saturday morning on our camping trips is always when the kids make breakfast--shake-and-pour pancakes, which Marcus masterfully flipped, and sausages which Andrew and Logan grilled, plus berries, cocoa, coffee, and tea.

On Saturday night Marcus built up the fire. He thought a lot about where to put each log or used paper plate.

The campsite wouldn't let you drive right down to your site, so they provided this extra-large wheelbarrow for bringing gear up and down the hill from cars to camp. We made good use of it all weekend long.

Though we were (obviously) camping, we did allow ourselves to go off-campus for a couple meals and some diversions. On Friday most of us went to Buck Naked BBQ (they put the BBQ sauce, including a blueberry one that was far and away everyone's favorite, on the side) for lunch and to let the kids play around in their play area. Then on Saturday we went to the Desert of Maine, since it was only about ten minutes away, and then for lunch at Harraseeket Lobster & Lunch. Only Sean, Robert, and I had been to the desert before, but our whole group enjoyed it--the "gemstone hunting," the rolling down sand dunes--excuse me, silt dunes--and the peculiarly moralistic slant of the tour guide's spiel ("That's what happens when you don't rotate your crops!").

Back at our campsite, we managed to amuse ourselves lots of different ways, including

animal spotting: a porcupine mom and baby were noticed in a tree, and there were also wild turkeys and--some say--coyotes. I wouldn't know about the coyote, as the growling I heard one night, cutting through the silence, turned out to be someone else's snoring,

a slack line,

bogging--messily, and muddily, for Marcus, Andrew, Logan, and Garrison, mostly,

table-top games,

glow-in-the-dark bocce,

crafts (bracelets and moose-callers),



and crocheting (a winter hat for Helen).

All too soon it was Sunday morning, which meant the end of our camping trip. This year, Sunday was complicated by the fact that Marcus and Samantha had each won the library's Read Your Way to Fenway summer reading contest, where they wrote an essay about their favorite book and then each won a Red Sox hat, backpack, and tee shirt; three tickets to Sunday's game; and three hot dog vouchers and three soda/water vouchers. The game started at 1:35, but we had packing-up to do in the morning, and things were a bit of a rush, though we did all end up making it for most of the game.

So after packing up camp, while Judy, Robert, and Marcus hit traffic and consumed only the leftover Polar Seltzer seasonal flavors (yetis, dragons, unicorns, and mermaids, oh my...) and a Costco-sized bag of Doritos (courtesy of Sarah and Sean), Samantha and Helen and I had a smooth and easy train trip. There was no Great Dome Car on this leg of the trip, however, but somehow we managed to make do. We got into North Station right on time and took the Green Line to Kenmore, where we leisurely got bagels and cream cheese and lots of water and a clean bathroom stop before heading over to Fenway. We spent awhile watching the kids playing "Shipping Out to Boston" on the fiddle and bucket-drums outside the stadium, and then went through security and found our seats. Our entire section was the library prizewinners and their guests, some 1600 donated tickets, and we saw at least thirty kids/families that we knew. Eventually Judy and Marcus joined us, and then finally Robert jogged over, after having parked the car all the way down by Longwood and hustled back. We had some of our free hot dogs, and Marcus got a Sprite, which is a huge treat for him. I took the girls to the little-kid playroom downstairs inside, where they got "First Visit to Fenway" buttons and where Samantha watched a magic show and a puppet show, Helen played with all sorts of toddler toys, and we did dress-up with baseball uniforms. When that area was about to close, we went back upstairs for the Seventh Inning Stretch and the end of the (extremely dull) game. I am not a Red Sox fan--as anyone who hears me sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" knows: it's "Root, root, root for the Mets," right?--but it would have been fun if they'd won. Still, even if they didn't win, I just was rooting for something interesting to happen in the game. This game? Well, there were no wacky plays, no spectacular against-the-wall catches, no stolen bases, nothing of interest whatsoever, as far as I could tell. But if it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not: we had lovely seats, lots of activities to cycle through during the game, and the kids were thrilled to be there and to have won the tickets.

From Fenway, we went to my parents' house so Judy could visit with Aunt Mary a little, and then we came home, to mountains of laundry and putting-away to do. Still, successful camping trip? Definitely. We're not sure where we'll all camp next year, but sign us up!


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Created: 8/29/17. Last Modified: 8/29/17.