A few years ago my lovely (and dangerous) wife and I would make at least one or two camping excursions every spring and fall. There's a campsite on Center Hill Lake less than an hour from here that meets all of our criteria: it's next to a trout-stocked river, most of the campsites are in the shade, the restroom facilities are super clean and well maintained, and (last but certainly not least) they allow adults to bring and consume alcohol in the campground. Most campgrounds around Tennessee lakes are managed by the Corps of Engineers, and alcohol is usually verboten (big time).
Our nine year-old niece has never been allowed to go camping until now, and it's one of the many things we've promised (threatened) to share with her this summer. The idea of setting up and sleeping in a tent in the woods appeals to the kid, as does the prospect of swimming and taking nature hikes along the area's trails. But nothing makes her as happy as the thought of "smores". She reminds us daily that we've promised "smores" are going to be part of the program. Smores mean more to her than permission to drink alcohol means to us, because somehow we've managed to reserve a campsite at a campground that definitely allows smores, but not alcohol. We've been warned on everything from the original reservation form to the confirmation letter we got a couple days back. Smore's the merrier... but no beer.
Of course, we assume those silly rules are meant for tourists unfamiliar with the art of drinking without drawing attention... and we're taking certain adult libations anyway. I look at it like this: if we're minding our own business, sitting around a quiet campfire (enjoying "smores"), or playing Scrabble at the picnic table next to our tent, who's going to know or care if the liquid in my cup is a rum cosmo or iced tea? I'm sure the Hooey Gods are reading this and making plans to have it explained to me by someone in authority from the park service.
I've gotten all of this shit lined up and stacked in the garage, and just to make sure everything fit, I did a test run and tried to load it into the trunk and backseat of the Infiniti. It was futile. There isn't room for half of this stuff, even if we don't try to get in the car with it. So there's the little truck we use to haul off garbage to the convenience center... and I guess we can all squeeze into the front seats, if Sarah doesn't mind having a stick shift between her knees every time we have to go into second or fourth gear. There's plenty of room in the back for everything, but it's going to be an uncomfortable commute to and from the campsite, I'm afraid.
But hey! Did the settlers have comfort in mind when they took to the Chisholm Trail? Did Daniel Boone take an air mattress with him when he cut a path through the Cumberland Gap? Did Lewis and Clark insist upon an oscillating fan for their tent at night? No! Probably because they didn't have any idea those things were possible. And if those things HAD been possible, no one would have gotten into a wagon on the Chisholm Trail, or carved a trail through the Cumberland Gap, or ever heard of Lewis and Clark, because all of those intrepid people would have been at home on air mattresses under a fan. With a beer. And "smores".
We expect this to be fun, at some point. We hope the kid enjoys at least some of the trip. The "smores" part, especially. And we intend to raise a glass (disguised as tea) at some point, to toast our willingness to do all of this for a kid who will go back to school this fall with at least ONE adventure to talk about, if nothing else. Hopefully, there won't be any snakes, poison ivy, wasps, skunks, or arrests to discuss with her class.
But first I'm going to have to explain the gear shifting thing to her. We might not get out of the driveway...