Taking the grandkids camping . . . sort of


There are probably some experiences people shouldn’t try for the first time when they’re over 65, but I really wanted to go camping out West. I don’t much like the notion of a “bucket list,” with its attendant connotation of impending bucket-kicking, but I knew I wanted to try camping while I’m still fit.

My daughter, an experienced outdoorswoman, organized the adventure, and came along with her two kids, ages 6 and 4. My son and daughter-in-law immediately signed on with their two kids, 10 and 8. We picked a week in August when my husband would be immersed in the most anti-camping experience imaginable, a trade show in Las Vegas.

He didn’t go outside for six days straight, working, eating, sleeping in the hotel. We didn’t go inside for a week, except to sleep (briefly).

Long story short: I’m thrilled that I went. I did it all, and now I’m done.

We drove from San Francisco to the Big Sur Campground, about three hours south. First observation: To camp you must be willing to do an enormous amount of work that you wouldn’t need to do if you just stayed home in your house.

We had tents and sleeping bags, a medical kit, a cooler filled with food, bags of dry groceries, water, wool hats and gloves, layers of silk and wool and spare shoes, eyeglasses and medications. We brought wine and cheeses and salamis and bread and peanut butter and jelly.

We arrived at the campground in the late afternoon. Look at it through my eyes: a stunning expanse of land set among giant redwoods; a picture-perfect creek burbling around the perimeter of the campground; kids in rubber tubes floating by. But I expected wilderness, and we pitched our tents right next to cars and giant RVs. It was like sleeping in a parking lot, with a serious possibility of getting run over in the middle of the night.

We got the tents set up and put wood beside the fire pit and went off on a small hike. The smell of fresh pine trees was intoxicating, and I was really beginning to relax when I saw the posted sign warning about mountain lion attacks. It said that if a mountain lion leaps at you, try to look big. I wonder how one does that.

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