Towards the beginning of the year, we pull out a calendar and examine the weekends in the summer. We look at holidays, festivals, street fairs, Timbers matches, then calculate the best weekends to book campsites. We do this months in advance because campgrounds often fill up for the summer. We have to be organized, like military commanders, or submarine captains, or whatever other really organized people do to be organized. #organized.
We had never been to Battle Ground Lake, but we booked Labor Day weekend, on the recommendation of some friends who visited and fell in love. This is a state park, with flush toilets and actual showers, which, even with slimy floors and creepy bugs, feels like Buckingham Palace when you are out in the woods.
We headed north on Friday before the real holiday weekend traffic started. We zigzagged through the sprawly eastern suburbs of Vancouver, then farmland in Brush Prairie, then the hills of Battle Ground. The drive was less than an hour from Portland.
I made this reservation several months ago, before we had any idea we would own a camper. Happily, all of the sites were pull-through, and it was a breeze situating the pop-up. The campground was shaded by tall evergreens and some deciduous understory. The sites were spacious, but not very private. Our picnic table was close enough to our neighbors that we could have joined their conversations.
And of course, the campground was PACKED for the weekend. I’m scratching my head about why I opted for Labor Day weekend, the proverbial end-of-summer weekend, rather than a week later, when we might have had the place more to ourselves. There were 35 sites in the loop, and most all of them had big groups or large families. It was likely there were a couple hundred people in the woods with us.
All the same, this was perhaps the most relaxing camping weekend we’ve had all summer. We have learned to expect that the boys will hate their first night away from home, and that it was a near certainty that Cascadian would wake up in the middle of the night. As unpleasant as that may be, it helped us to know it was coming.
We made steak fajitas the first night, with meat and veggies I marinated overnight. We put the boys to bed, then drank whiskey and wine by the fire. The weather was warm even after the sun went down, and we chatted until the flames collapsed down into embers. It was wonderful. It reminded me that even though Dave and I are together all the time, taking care of babies, passing each other in the kitchen, eating meals together, we have so little time alone. I miss my husband. We stayed up past our bedtime just for the novelty of real conversation. It was luxurious.
The hundreds of people in the campground stayed awake far later than us. Laughing adults, shrieking children, barking dogs. Campfires and voices echoed off the hills and through the dark trees. There was enough activity that it all seemed like a rolling babble, and oddly, it felt cozy to me. Though I did still want to slap the parents of the kids that let them scream at 11 o’clock at night.
Cask’s expected wake up call was 1:38 am. He’s not one to wake up, cry, then fall back asleep. He’s got stamina. He’ll cry for a long, long time, until his face is wet and hot and full of boogers. Usually, I can pick him up, soothe him and put him back down. Which he hates. He does not want to be put back down. I tried twice and he just cried harder and harder. We pulled him into bed with us but he did not want to lie down. He was ready to party. At 3:30 am, I tucked him into my side of the bunk, so at least Dave could try to get some sleep. I convinced Cask to lie down and I curled up around him. He patted my face and pulled my hair. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep, where ever his cherub wings would take him.
Loyal slept through everything.
I did not take many pictures on this trip. Camping with twin baby boys sounds slightly insane, and I assure you, it is. It’s a lot of work. It’s lots of planning, lots of organizing, lots of packing. And once we get there, there is all the usual extra work of cooking meals outdoors, cleaning up, and then trying to keep the boys happy away from home.
A playpen is absolutely crucial for us. Both of our guys are still crawling on their tummies. And they would both gladly shovel heaps of dirt into their mouths. So we keep them off the ground. We are lucky in that both boys really like the playpen. I think they like to sit and concentrate on books and toys. And they entertain each other, which is wonderful. It helps us from feeling like we are keeping our kids in a zoo cage.
I’ve come to appreciate camp mornings much more since knowing Dave. He rises very early, as his dad did when he was a kid, makes coffee, and starts the fire before anyone else gets up. The early morning is the most quiet time in the campground, and the easiest time to pretend no one else is around. We heard cows and a rooster off in the distance. The angular morning sun cut through the trees and illuminated cascading layers of leaves. It’s nice to be in the woods.
As I mentioned, this campground had flush toilets and showers. The sinks had warm water and soap. It made camping much easier, though the restrooms were continuously, inexplicably damp, with the occasional crawling creepy bug. It was not nature that made the restrooms icky however, it was the other people. You can’t have hundreds of people, kids, adults, all using the same concrete bunker without it becoming a house of horrors.
There was one shower stall. Sandy, goopy floor. Bugs. Skeevy shower curtain. Strangers’ strands of hair. It’s really only in moments of the most grim desperation that you’d want to take your clothes off in such a place. It became an exercise of trying to bathe while not touching anything. But I can’t remember the last time I was able to shower while on a camping trip, and I was grateful.
I was also thankful for the flush toilets, especially after my last experience with a pit toilet. The restroom was a quick stroll from our campsite, so it wasn’t inconvenient or strenuous to pop over for a quick wee. But, you know, sometimes you have to USE the restroom.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather just let everyone in the world believe I’ve never had to shit a day in my life. I like to keep my business private. No one needs to know. I don’t even like having to tinkle around other people. Even if I’m never going to see them again. So a public restroom with three stalls is problematic.
Luckily, I always seemed to catch the restroom while it was completely empty. I’d breathe a sigh of relief every time I went in.
I dislike having to USE a public restroom, but like most fully functional human beings, within the scope of the weekend, I needed to USE the restroom. You know, USE the restroom.
So imagine my horror, my irritation, my absolute annoyance, to enter the restroom and see a woman at the sink using a flat iron to straighten her hair. Maybe she was a teenager, I don’t know. But we’re fricken CAMPING, you cow twat. Why do you need to iron your hair? Are you going to a Justin Bieber concert? Are you a bridesmaid? Are catching a flight to Vegas? Why are you standing in a dank, buggy, cob webby restroom IN THE WOODS, ironing your hair?
I was wearing sweatpants. My hair was mashed on one side of my head, and flying away like Flock Of Seagulls on the other. I reeked of camp smoke. I probably had zits. But you know what? WE ARE FUCKING CAMPING OVER HERE, and it’s entirely appropriate for me to look like I just rolled around in a pile of dirt.
Fine. You are ironing your fricken hair. No, that’s fine. But there couldn’t be a more silent activity in a public restroom. And I needed to use the restroom in a way that was decidedly unsilent. And for fuck’s sake, I really don’t want anyone around to hear “the splash.” Gah. You silly hair-ironing assbutt.
Mercifully, the lady with the incredible smooth, shiny, straight hair exited the restroom just as I was having second thoughts and trying to come up with some other strategy. Crisis averted. I was able to poop in peace. And no one in the world is the wiser that I’ve ever had to take a shit in my entire life. Whew.
We had our lovely friends, who had recommended Battle Ground Lake to us, come and join us on Saturday afternoon. They also have a baby boy who is close to our guys’ age. So we took a walk with our troop of babies and visited the lake. Labor Day weekend. The lake was packed. But it is a cute little pond lined with hills all around, and walls of big trees. They suspect that Battle Ground Lake is a caldera, like Crater Lake, only much, much smaller. We put down blankets and watched as our babies promptly abandoned them to eat weeds and drag their bellies through the dirt.
We stayed for just a while as the sun baked the little beach. We took our stroller brigade back through the campground and hung out in the shade of our campsite until dinner time. We had stuffed peppers that I brought from home, then we had s’mores, which I haven’t had in years. And s’mores, if you had forgotten, are pretty amazing.
It was really the most relaxing, enjoyable camping trip we’ve taken this season. We are getting a hang of camping in the pop-up and it’s already made our trips much more enjoyable. Battle Ground Lake was a nice little campground, and real restrooms were a welcome change of pace. It’s much nicer to have to worry about strangers hearing your “splash,” rather than worrying about falling through the floor of a horrible pit toilet.
We may try to plan one last camp weekend before the weather socks in for the winter. I’ll remember to bring my goddamned hair iron.