Taking the grandkids camping . . . sort of

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We hiked on. It was a walk that ended at a beach, a stunning landscape of rocks and crashing waves. Of course, no one can swim in the northern Pacific without a wetsuit, and the great whites are kind of a buzz kill, but the kids had fun on the beach.

Back at the campsite, we made a dinner plan. This being Northern California camping, we had a reservation at Nepenthe, a trendy restaurant a few miles away. Think $25 entrees. Set on a cliff over the sea, the place attracted elegant women driving expensive sports cars and men with just the right amount of shabby chic to disguise their immense wealth. It was as if the entire Silicon Valley was in Big Sur for the weekend. These people weren’t camping out unless it was at Clint Eastwood’s Carmel estate.

Back at the camp site, day was done. People were in their tents and RVs. I noticed it was dark. Not just dark but a total blackout, with just a sliver of moon in the sky over the trees. Where had I put my toothbrush? How would I brush my teeth? What if, heaven forbid, I had to go to the bathroom during the night? Turns out there were communal bathrooms and showers.

We slept, we ate well, we played in the creek and we toasted s’mores over our campfire. Still, I don’t get it. A campground  does have some amenities, but it also has other people who cook smelly food and play music at night and bring their annoying dogs. The idea seems to be that you drag as much equipment — food and lights and tents and blow-up mattresses and portable stoves — as you can to make yourself comfortable when you could just stay home and not have to walk a quarter-mile in the dark to pee.

That’s the unromantic take on camping.

This is what I choose to remember: my four grandkids, sitting around the campfire at night, stuffing their faces with marshmallows and chocolate. They ask for a “Grandma Randi story” and I tell them one:

“Sabrina, Jacob, Elijah and Emi, when I tell you stories, they always begin the same way, with you four cousins, who love each other so much, going on an adventure. Well, kids, you’re living the story. Here you are together sleeping in a tent by a river. Put your arms around each other. This is a moment to remember.”
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