Hello, Muddah. Hello, Faddah.

Eleanor and I went to Girl Scout Camp this week.  Here’s something you may not know about me: I love Girl Scouting.  Here’s something else you may not know: you don’t have to be a Girl Scout to go to camp.  One more thing: many councils will host parent-child camp sessions, and they are very reasonably priced.

When I heard that there would be a three-day mother-daughter camp in June, I signed me and Eleanor right up.  And we had a blast!  We slept in a platform tent!

We had our trail mix stolen by a chipmunk!  We saw a deer! I forgot to bring clean socks for myself and had to wear the same pair three days in a row!

Can you see the deer that Eleanor is watching?

My fingernails turned black with dirt and I could not ever scrub them clean.  There was fire building (with pretend fire) and knife safety (with pretend knives) and knot tying (with real rope).  We ate in the mess hall and hiked together and sang silly songs in the amphitheater (Eleanor and I even sang The Spam Chant for Skit Night) . . .

The woman sitting just behind Eleanor wore a windbreaker covered with vintage Girl Scout badges from the 80s. It rocked!

. . . and some girls in our camping area formed a secret society that met in Tent #3.  They called it a “Three Meeting” and involved lots of giggling and the consumption of Twinkies.

BUT . . . the best thing of all?  HORSES.

I would say that 90% of the girls at camp were there for the horses and horses only.  All that time playing games and balancing on the ropes course?  Mere obstacles to getting into the saddle.

It’s a tough 1/2-mile hike up the mountain to get to the stables.  Since the camp is at the top of the South Fork of Provo Canyon, Eleanor and I were breathless, and she complained all the way up.

See how high up this is? You’d be breathless too, right?

But then she got to meet Pep.

And it wasn’t a pony ride we did, either.  Eleanor got to give Pep simple commands to go forward, stop, and turn from side to side.  Pep liked to stop and eat grass on the side of the road, and Eleanor was able to get him back on the road all by herself.

Pep is now Eleanor’s favorite animal, ever.  She talked about Pep alllll the way back down the mountain.

I rode a very old horse named Duke.  He’s a tri-colored beauty.

Here’s the view on the trail.  I’m really going to miss the Wasatch mountains.

The next day we played games with this gigantic parachute . . .

. . . and we had a carnival.  There were balloon animals, cotton candy, and games, but the most intriguing activity was “horse painting.”

Hilarious, no?  I can’t wait to do this again with Eleanor next year in Seattle.

Camping at Tanner’s Flat

Know what?  I’m a wimp.  A camping wimp.  For me, camping means sleeping in a tent no more than 20 feet away from my car, sleeping on an air mattress, and munching on fresh fruit, cheese and veggies from a cooler.  What’s not to love?

Brian and I decided we would try to squeeze a camping trip in at the end of summer, and booked a night’s stay at the Tanner’s Flat campground up Little Cottonwood Canyon.

We really haven’t been tent camping with the kids in over a year, so it was almost a brand-new experience for them.  They loved goofing off in the tent and making as many trips as possible to the campground bathroom, which was just downhill from us.  (When making campsite reservations, I always go for the one nearest the bathroom.)

Eleanor was thrilled to spend time gathering kindling for the campfire.  She lead William on several expeditions, a la Little House in the Big Woods.  Adorable.

Jeffrey’s main occupation was throwing multiple marshmallows into the fire while shouting “TEMPLE OF DOOOOM!” and then watching them spontaneously combust.

I was really worried Katie would not sleep well, but she was great, and slept in quite a bit.  Jeffrey, on the other hand, woke up at 6:00 and proceeded to bounce on the air mattresses as much as possible.

Ugh.  We decided we might as well get up and go hiking.

The Albion Basin is at the top of Little Cottonwood, and is very, very popular for hiking, due mainly to the scads of wildflowers:

Go ahead, sing it to yourself: The hiiiiills are aliiiiiiive with the sound of muuuuusiiiiic . . .

It’s so busy that on most weekends you have to park at the bottom of the basin and take a lousy shuttle bus up to the trailhead.  But we were on the road early enough to bypass this inconvenience and park where we wanted!  Right at the trailhead for Cecret Lake:

Oooooo, purdy purdy.  Last year, we did this hike, and it was just as pretty, but we got rained on, then hailed on.  And then we saw some moose.  This time, we were nearly alone during the first part of the hike, and saw lots of hummingbirds in this meadow:

Downtime on the trail was spent waiting for Heidi to pop out from behind a boulder with a goat or something.

And . . . then we realized that our main activity for the day was over by 11:00 a.m.  So we went back to the campsite, ate lunch, built a fire, roasted yet more marshmallows (yes, more TEMPLE OF DOOOOOM!), and packed up for home.

Need I say that sitting in full sunshine in August next to a campfire is a dumb idea?  Naps were in due order that afternoon . . .

Heber Valley Snapshots

My friends from college like to go camping with our families at least once a summer.  This year we planned way in advance (thanks to Kellie) and spent our trip up at the Heber Valley Camp, an enormous campground owned and operated by the LDS church.

(This is what the cabins look like.)

I’d never heard of the place before; it was only built over the last 5-10 years, its main purpose for providing a location for young women to attend Girl’s Camp.  The place is gorgeous — snug wooden cabins, lighted pavilions with cooking stations, showers, and bathrooms.  There are a series of ropes courses (you know, with swings and zip lines and such to build teamwork/character) AND a beautiful little lake with canoes and paddleboats.

We took advantage of it all.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera — but here’s what I remember best:

The kids roaming in packs — there were some 15-odd kids ages 8 and under.  They skittered from cabin to cabin, passing around walkie-talkies, shining flashlights at each other, and arguing over the elaborate rules involved in a game of Uno.

My kids each had a different response to toasting marshmallows over the fire pit: Eleanor would hold hers too close to the flame, then scream when it caught fire while whapping the poor mallow on the ground.  Jeffrey just like to drop the marshmallows directly into the fire, then jump up and down while watching them slowly explode.  William, on the other hand, took his father’s advice and held his marshmallow on the edge of the flames, patiently rotating it on its stick until it was nicely browned.

My job was to hand out marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate for s’mores.  Little Adam and Arwen are gluten intolerant, and kept asking about it in the most adorable little baby-voices: “Does dis cwacker have gluten?  I am awergic to gluten.”

That night, with the children (theoretically) asleep in their bunks, the grownups gathered in the pavilion to play games.  We made silly jokes and ribbed each other; it reminded me of when we were all in school together.  Loved it.

. . . that is, until it was 11:00 and we realized that several of the kids were still partying it up in Cabin A.  Aw, nuts.

What we ate the next morning: eggs, pancakes, sausage AND bacon AND hash browns AND fruit.  For beverages, cocoa with marshmallows and juice.  Collaborative meal-making rules.

Owing to some clerical error, our reservations for the child-friendly ropes course was misdirected; we ended up on a course with a zipline.  A few of the older children actually completed the course though — little Abby, her glasses decorated with black pipe cleaners to look like Harry Potter’s, stretched up so high to shuffle across the tightrope!  Her fingers barely curled around the guideline — it was amazing. Jeffrey wasn’t as interested in doing the zipline as he was in greeting people after they zoomed to the bottom.

After lunch, we hit the lake.  I stayed on shore with Katie in the shade of a pavilion and had fun watching the boats.  The sun was bright, flattening the lake into a steel-grey pan.  As the canoes and paddleboats moved away from shore, the people devolved into little sparks of color, slowly gliding back and forth in the heat.

Somehow Jeffrey and his friends Lucas and Sam ended up in a canoe by themselves.  One of the senior missionaries working the shoreline pushed them off, and they paddled about by themselves.  They didn’t do so bad, they managed their way around the lake just fine.  Although there were a few going-in-circles moments, and one time when they drifted back towards shore and had to be shoved off again.

I called them the S.S. Knuckleheads.

Time Capsule

curryvillage.jpgThis morning Brian spent time doing his latest favorite persuit: shredding papers. (Never is there a man as content and industriously blissful as my Brian with a shiny new gadget.)

He was merrily bzzzzz-ing his way through check stubs from 1998 when he came upon a fat little envelope which contained something fun — a bundle of receipts and a handwritten budget for our honeymoon.

That was back in December of 1999. We went to Yosemite National Park. Trip expenses included:

  • Gas purchased in Salt Lake City for $1.32 a gallon
  • Rental of a cabin in Curry Village for three nights: $194.68
  • The purchase of a dessert called “Obsession” at the Wawona Hotel: $4.25

Yeah, it hasn’t been quite long enough for those prices to seem quaint (except for the gas, maybe). We made our cabin reservations via the Internet, which was considered very cutting-edge and techie then, or at least to our parents. It’s been eight years, but I can still recite the Curry Village Anthem:

Wild strawberry freezes

And fresh mountain breezes

Make Curry the Camp of Delight.