"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy Campers

Tents. Flashlights. Mosquito repellant. Check, check, and double check.
For the past several years, we have gone camping with a group of families at Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu each summer. It's a tradition that has become our own G-rated, family version of Same Time, Next Year.

United through mutual friends, our unlikely cadre has bonded over ant infestations, squirrel attacks (Did you know it's possible for something to suck out the insides of a banana and leave the skin almost perfectly intact? Yes, yes it is.), rattlesnake sightings, meteor showers and lots of laughter, marshmallows, campfire stories, guitar music, Tylenol PM and starry nights.
 Not necessarily in that order.

 Sometimes it totally looks like we know what we're doing. Sometimes it doesn't.

 We're teaching the kids everything...yep. 

Okay, that about covers it...actually, I joke. 

I refer (almost) solely to my own paltry skills. Our family has the immense good fortune to tag along with other folks who could actually survive in the wilderness if called upon. (It's possible they have just forgotten to take me off the group email list and we keep showing up...)

The fact that the campsites are walking distance to beautiful beaches, tide pools and small caves is one of the reasons we synchronize our schedules and log on to Reserve America at exactly 8:00 a.m., on the first of the month, six months in advance of desired date. By 9:00 a.m., it's all over. Camping spaces at California State Parks for the targeted dates are completely booked. By 10:00 a.m., the best you can hope for are the crumbs of cancellation. It's a computer showdown. Yogi Bear-eat-bear world.

The Reserve America website has gone through several changes over the years in a futile attempt to somehow stem the madness, but really, nothing has changed. These days, when you book a site, you must choose exactly which site you would like. If you are a veteran, you may be aware of preferences. However, savvy campers, will simply grab the first spot available and pray for good luck (and perhaps pack cash and bribes as backup). If you squander precious seconds previewing available locations, you will most likely be pitching a tent in your own back yard. 

May the odds be ever in your favor.

For the past five years, however, we have found favor with the Camping Gods, AKA Reserve America, and scored a spot (a short 15-minute drive to Starbucks) under the stars.

The kids love it.

 Which is exactly why we pack extensively, unpack, pack up again, and then, finally unpack and clean up at home -all in three days time.

The stories about rattlesnakes that get bigger and more venomous with each telling, the experience of waking up on a deflated air mattress with your cheek stuck to the plastic, bug bites, sand in absolutely Every.Thing.,-great summer friends, priceless photos and campfire legends are childhood memories that will last a lifetime.

This year, as in the past, we have unanimously banned electronics in pursuit of nature, and perhaps, eye contact with our children.

However, what we will be bringing along is enough to fill a U-Haul. Since my memory and my natural camping ability are both rather low (read abysmal) on my list of personal attributes, I have Googled several check lists for camping with great success. If you have a great list of your own, please share! 

Otherwise, check out my finds:

Camp Trip, camping checklist complete with printable PDF download. Extremely specific.

Coleman Tent Camping checklist, also printable and a little more general. 

My favorite, the About.com checklist for camping gear, is not only printable, but provides little spaces for checking off as you go. Love that!

 Happy trails!

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