6:30 a.m. I’m just going to give up on the “we should all get a good night’s sleep” comments already. That’s all I have to say about that.
6:32 a.m. I mean, not to go on about it, but it’s just WRONG when my kids get up before I’ve had my coffee. I’m just sayin’. That’s all.
6:35 a.m. What REALLY gets me, though, is that my fake niece has NEVER, in my experience, woken up before 9 a.m. on a camping trip, and let me tell you, we have been on PLENTY of camping trips together (hence the fake relative status). And yet I can DISTINCTLY hear her voice cheerfully calling to the 12 year old, who is rummaging around, for some reason known only to her and the Almighty, directly below the spot where my bed in the camper hangs over the trailer hitch. If I believed in karma, my faith would be shaken, because I am sure I did nothing to deserve this. Snarky thoughts about Cameron’s Mom notwithstanding.
7:00 a.m. The Boy Scout Husband has rescued me with a giant travel mug of the Magical Elixer of Wakefulness. All is well with the world. I told the kids to go play over behind Cameron’s campsite. Luckily, they have all been raised better than that and simply rolled their eyes at me.
7:15 a.m. I cannot avoid the siren call of the Camping Meal Spreadsheet, which tells me we are 24 hours overdue for a sumptuous repast of potatoes, eggs and bacon. Fortified with enough caffeine to jump start a Jeep, I will begin pulling the ingredients out of the food boxes. All of which look alike, I might mention, (other than the ill-fated lidless green one) and since we pack them in the van each night and pull them out each morning, they are placed in different places in the campground every day. So finding ingredients is a little like playing a shell game.
7:45 a.m. Having found most of the ingredients, I am ready to fire up the camp stove. It is at this point that all the years my friend Cathy and I spent pouring ourselves into the raising of our kids culminate into a brief, yet blissful, moment of fulfillment. The 12 year old and the fake niece just asked if they can help with breakfast. I gave myself a few seconds to savor the moment, gazing off into the trees, breathing the cool morning air and celebrating this small yet poignant victory, during which time the 12 year old and fake niece undoubtedly exchanged uneasy glances, and then I began barking orders like a drill sergeant. Well, the newer, more enlightened, critical-thinking-skills-imparting kind of drill sergeant, anyway. The ones that think bellowing is a last resort. I’m all about the last resort bellowing. You can ask my kids. I don’t think I’m convincing anyone here so I’m going to move on now.
8:00 a.m. Breakfast is cooking. The niece and I are sharing one camp stove while the Bacon Master Husband and the 12 year old are using the other. The 10 year old wanders into view now and then, just long enough to check on the status of breakfast but not long enough for anyone to come up with a job for him to do.
8:45 a.m. Breakfast having been consumed, the 10 year old can avoid work no longer and has been drafted into clean up duty. To his credit, he is not complaining, other than a gargantuan wrinkling of the nose at the bacon grease.
10 a.m. Not really sure what happened between the cleaning up of breakfast and now, but I have a vague impression that it involved a second cup of coffee and a couple of incredibly comfortable camping chairs in an indescribably luscious patch of sunlight. The children are playing happily up the hill, something to do with light sabers, pine cones and Ferengi Rules of Acquisition,
10:15 a.m. Piling into the van to drive back up the fire road to the site of yesterday’s hike, since SOMEONE forgot to bring her cell phone yesterday and INSISTS that she be taken back there so she can take a photo of that one really cool rock formation and set it as her wallpaper. In her defense, to those of you with smart phones who are wondering why she couldn’t just upload the photo the Boy Scout Husband took yesterday, you must understand that she is the proud owner of the cheapest phone Verizon offers on the pay-as-you-go plan. You have smart phones, she has a room-temperature I.Q. phone. One that takes tiny, grainy photos that render as a postage stamp sized image with pretty colors that coalesce, with the help of reading glasses and a magnifier, into a shape that suggests a close approximation of the object portrayed therein. But she had to have one of these photos as her wallpaper, because even if no one else can figure out what the heck it is, SHE will know, and SHE will remember how much fun it was that day, hiking with her friends, darn it. She is going to stop talking about herself in the third person now and get back to the diary.
10:45 a.m Mission accomplished. Feeling smug and self-satisfied. Children are scratching their heads and asking each other why we just did that.
11:00 a.m. Heading down the winding road from Green Valley Lake to Hwy 18, en route to the friends’ cabin. As we approached a certain hairpin turn in the road, I shared a memory from my teen years when I camped with my youth group. One of the boys brought his motorcycle and was kind enough to give me a ride on it. I remember this hairpin turn well because I was yanking on the front of his jacket screaming, “Slow down, Marty, we’re not going to make it! MARTY! SLOW DOWN!” To which he calmly yelled back, “Just lean into the turn. And stop pulling on my jacket. You’re going to make me lose control.” Ah, fond memories of yesteryear.
1:00 p.m. Having collected the friends from their cabin (availing ourselves of their incredibly comfortable couch for a few minutes before once again steeling ourselves to face the Great Outdoors), we are now heading out on a hiking trail at Heap’s Peak Arboretum.
2:00 p.m. Heading now to Lake Arrowhead in search of lunch. I know, I know, we should have gathered nuts and berries in the woods, but we claim ignorance due to our status as city-dwellers. We can, in our defense, sniff out a Starbucks in 2 minutes flat. You just have to know your environment and develop the skills to survive in it.
2:45 p.m. Had a lovely time eating food that I didn’t have to prepare. Since between the 12 of us we have a veritable plethora of dietary restrictions, we went to three different restaurants and arranged to meet together at the bandstand. As I approached the picnic table area with the two older girls, I was a little unsure of where to go until I saw Roger subtly gesturing to us. Well, okay, he jumped up on a table, waved both arms frantically above his head and bellowed, “HERE! We’re over HERE! Girls, we’re here!” And this is why we are friends.
3:00 p.m. Heading down to the waterfront to take some photos now.
4:30 p.m. By now, having spend two days in the hot, dry San Bernardino Mountains, we are all thoroughly tired, sunburned and suffering from chapped lips. I gathered the kids together to help me demonstrate what happens when you get a group of people in this condition together to pose for a photo.
4:45 p.m. Heading back to the campground. As we drove through the hairpin turn, Alan shrieked in a high-pitched voice, “MARTY!!! Slow down, Marty!” The 12 year old instantly replied, in a deep voice, “Stop pulling on my jacket and lean into the turn.” The 17 year old, who wasn’t with us the first time, looked utterly mystified, so I had to tell the story again. I have a feeling I’m going to regret sharing this little tidbit of Julia lore.
5:00 p.m. Checked the spreadsheet to see what’s for dinner. It says hamburgers. I’m still full from a late lunch, and I’m a little suspicious of the state of the burger patties, which have sat for two and a half days in a cooler that is now bereft of ice. Opting instead for grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, which were slated for lunch today. Or tomorrow. Or something like that. Whatever. I have a feeling the spreadsheet won’t recover from this.
7:00 p.m. Since our friends have left the mountain for the concrete jungle of Gardena, I pulled out the Camping Surprise the 17 year old and I prepared before we left, just in case the kids suddenly got bored (read: to ensure that I am able to sit in my camp chair and read a book at least once on the camping trip). It was a bag of brand new art supplies. They fell on them like a pack of piranhas and gleefully churned out comic strips until bedtime. The 10 year old’s comic dealt, predictably, with the imaginary world that goes along with his gigantic pack of trading cards. The 12 year old’s dealt with A Stampeding Herd of Boxen. She has obviously watched far too much Brian Regan.
9:15 p.m. The lure of the independence of tent-sleeping has apparently waned in the face of the warmth of the trailer. Both the younger kids have opted to take their usual bunks. The 17 year old is the die-hard hold out; having conquered her trepidation of bears and hornets, she laughs in the face of the wilderness and flaunts her tent with pride. Being a smart 17 year old, however, she doesn’t go so far as to forgo her twin-sized air mattress.
9:30 p.m. Worn out from the day. The campground is blissfully quiet. However, having learned my lesson, I make no predictions about the quality of our sleep tonight.