My family and I have just returned from our 2nd Annual Camping Extravaganza at Bull Trout Lake near Stanley, Idaho. This year we camped for five days.
It takes a lot of stuff for a big family to camp for five days. It was piled outside.
It was piled inside.
My brother-in-law Mike was joining us in our camping adventure for the first time, and he came over to meet us and caravan for the two and a half hour drive. He was a little taken aback by the sheer quantity of stuff I had assembled for our trip.
He said something like “I thought we were just going for a few days. No one told me that you were MOVING there!” What a smarty-pants.
So I got back at him. I made him load all the stuff.
We had rented a travel trailer for our trip this year, so once we got that and the pickup loaded to the gills we were ready to head out.
Of course, we took all three horses.
We made it to Stanley in good time and got the horses settled in first thing.
Batman immediately started whining that he wanted to watch movies. Our travel trailer was equipped with a small television, and he demanded in increasing volume that I put a movie on for him. He said he was soooooooo booooooorred!
Instead I set up the badminton net and gave him a racket. He started hitting the birdie back and forth across the net all by himself.
He never mentioned the TV again.
Annabelle pursued her own interests too, putting a halter on Grumpy and climbing on him bareback.
We sat about preparing camp. It took no time at all to get everything set up.
Uncle Mike put up his tent and sat outside in peace and quiet for a moment.
In a couple of hours Brother Rob and Mel arrived with Benson and Emma. They had so much stuff stacked on the top of their car they called themselves the Clampets.
Rob hummed the “Beverly Hillbillies” theme song while everyone helped unload. Well, just for a minute, anyway.
Rob carefully raked the ground where he had decided to set up the tent.
And a group effort eventually got everything set up perfectly……
right on top of a giant pile of biting ants. We talked about moving the tent, but finally decided to just take action.
Mel sprayed and sprayed the fly spray we had brought for the horses. I guess it worked, because they never complained about the ants.
WE MAKE NEW FRIENDS
About the time we all got settled in we saw a huge beautiful motor home towing a Jeep pull in to the campsite right across the trail. It was truly a sight to see.
I thought for just a moment that our friends the Points were surprising us and arriving with her mom and dad in their travel ensemble. But then I noticed the Texas plates. Nope, these were strangers.
But not for long.
In just a few minutes a beautiful little girl came skipping over looking for kids to play with. Three year old Piper was absolutely adorable.
The kids took to her right away, especially Annabelle. She introduced her to all the horses and her toys. Piper seemed interested in the horses, but she was clearly a little scared of them.
We were ready to head down to the lake to let the kids swim, so we invited our new friends to go with us. We were even going to let them ride in the Redneck Limo, but for some reason they decided to drive their own car.
When we got to the lake we found a nice little spot near the beach to park, and the kids piled out. Uncle Mike immediately started earning his keep, coaxing the kids into the cold mountain water like the Pied Piper.
Speaking of Piper, she did try the water, but as I mentioned, it was really, really cold. She curled up on her Mama Donna’s lap instead.
After the kids were suitably frozen we all headed back to camp for some dinner. Piper and her Papa, John joined us for a while longer. We had learned that our new friends were traveling the country full-time in their luxury coach. John is an attorney who specializes in securities work for independent filmmakers, and a sought-after speaker who travels all around the US to address groups and help them with their legal and financial needs.
John and Donna have full custody of Piper, who is Donna’s granddaughter. It was obvious that the couple doted on the little girl, and I was impressed by how well-adapted they all seemed to life on the road. Of course, Piper is always on the lookout for friends to play with.
And she sure found them here. She was at our camp first thing in the morning, ready to play. She joined right in with the big girls in hauling water for the horses.
She even helped the kids gather firewood.
I told John that I was going to saddle Reno, and asked if Piper would like to ride. “I don’t think so.” he said. “She has never been near a horse before and I don’t think you will get her on him.”
We worked up to it slowly.
It took a little coaxing but eventually we got it done. How cute is this?
Once we got her on, we couldn’t get her off.
And her adventurous spirit even rubbed off on her Mama and Papa.
John looked perfectly at ease on Grumpy. Well, except for the barrel racing saddle and short stirrups.
Donna had done quite a bit of riding in her younger years and she hopped right up like she had been on a horse yesterday.
We walked around the campground loop and talked. Donna and I discovered that we had a very similar background. She had been working at Apple Computer during the same time frame as I had been at Ascend, and we shared stories of the highs and lows of the Silicon Valley hay-days.
Piper and Benson trailed along behind, holding hands. They were adorable.
We had so much fun visiting with our new friends, but they had to leave for a lecture in Boise so we bid them farewell. We hope to see them again someday on their travels through.
LIFE AROUND CAMP
We quickly settled into a routine of sorts around camp. Like home routines, the camp days were delineated by mealtime and planned daily activities.
The early morning campfire was always a welcome sight when I emerged from the trailer.
The kids drank hot cocoa and the adults coffee. Winston ran around trying to eat off of everyone’s plates.
Speaking of eating, Desperate Hubby was the primary food preparation guru. His assistant Mike helped too.
Breakfasts were bacon or sausage, with huge helpings of hash browns and eggs cooked to order.
Dinners weren’t too shabby either. It makes me hungry just looking at it.
A couple of nights Aunt Mel took charge of dinner. Her spaghetti was just delicious.
Uncle Mike’s table runner provided a touch of class to our little camp kitchen.
Which apparently Uncle Rob thought we needed, since he didn’t even trust us not the eat the bait.
The kids had several camp chores that they carried out with remarkable enthusiasm.
They were in charge of hauling water for the horses three times a day.
And gathering firewood.
By any method necessary.
One day they found this giant stump and worked for what seemed like an hour to get it back to camp. It was really, really heavy.
When they finally got it back to camp and sat it down Batman made an observation. “It looks like a Flying Pig, mom!”
And the Flying Pig it was.
I thought it was so cute that I demanded the Pig be spared from the fire, and Pyromaniac Brother Rob reluctantly agreed.
The Pig served a very useful purpose as the Camp Drying Rack for the duration of our stay.
And then I made Desperate Hubby save room for him in the back of the truck. The Flying Pig now lives in the gravel bed in front of our house.
Really. Come on by and you can see him.
At night all the kids settled down in our trailer with us. After the first night they were so tired that they actually went to sleep peacefully with no fighting. It was heavenly.
The boys shared a bunk.
As did Emma and Annabelle.
Desperate Hubby got his own bunk because it was too small for us to share. I slept in the teeny tiny bunk above his. I didn’t mind.
BATMAN GROWS HORNS
I have to take a second here to tell a funny story about my little boy. We really tried to be good about putting bug spray and sunscreen on all of the kids during our trip. But we obviously missed Batman’s face on the first evening, and he got two very symmetrical mosquito bites on each side of his little forehead.
By the second night Batman sported two large bumps on each side of his skull. He pointed out the bumps to me and I exclaimed “WOW! You must be growing horns!”
No more thrilling words has my little boy ever heard.
He snorted and tossed his head. He proudly told the other kids about his sprouting horns. Benson was so alarmed that he said he did not want to sleep with his cousin. Not if he was going to grow horns, that is.
Poor Benson didn’t calm down until Mel took him aside and told him it was just a joke.
But it wasn’t a joke to Batman. He carefully felt his horns every few minutes to see if they were growing. He made me lift him so he could look in the tiny mirror in the trailer. He was positively ecstatic about the horns. He told tales of how large the horns would grow, and refused to wear a hat because the horns might poke through.
After a day or two he became concerned that perhaps the horns weren’t growing after all. He was disappointed about that. It wasn’t until we got home and he looked in the bathroom mirror that he sadly said “Mom, I don’t think they are horns after all. They are just bug bites.”
When his dad got home from work that evening he said “Dad, I am not growing horns after all.” Desperate Hubby feigned surprise. “Really buddy. No horns huh?” Batman said no. In fact, he said “Dad, even if I asked Santa Claus for horns I don’t think I would get them. I am not meant to have horns.”
It was a somber evening for Batman. But he’s recovered.
The kids and men spent a great deal of time lakeside. Bull Trout Lake itself was freezing cold, so they searched around until they found a nice little lake down the road that was much warmer but without the moss and icky stuff that resides in a lot of warm lakes.
It was beautiful there, too.
Our Swim Master, Uncle Mike, wasted no time getting the kids in the water.
After Uncle Mike hauled Winston out in the deep water where he couldn’t touch he let the poor traumatized dog swim back. Amazingly enough, Winston was still willing to go in the water after a stick.
Over and over and over again.
The fetching looked like so much fun to the kids that they got their own sticks.
And thus was born an amazing and fun new camping game.
Kids That Fetch
We threw the sticks out for them over and over, further and further. Safely ensconced in the comfort of their life vests they fetched again and again and again. It was a wonderful way to wear them out.
Every kid fetched.
And Benson even took the game up a notch by walking on all fours for a remarkably extended period of time.
With all this time at the lake there was a little actual fishing that went on.
And a couple of fish were caught. Batman loves to hold a nice slimy fish.
Actually, this is might be the same fish. Maybe they only caught one.
Anyway, the lake provided hours of entertainment.
BUT WE PLAYED OTHER GAMES, TOO
They included, as previously mentioned, several Badminton tournaments.
A little Horseshoe action.
Intellectual stimulation was provided by the occasional game of Checkers.
And hours (it seemed like) of BB Gun Range Practice, supervised by Uncle Rob. He is a police officer, you know.
The kids hardly ever beat him.
Annabelle loved to shoot Emma’s pink BB rifle. She was pretty good, too. No empty can was safe around our campsite.
And we can’t forget Uncle Rob’s famous rock juggling.
And of course I would be remiss to leave out our nightly campfire entertainment, provided by Desperate Hubby after he finished his cooking and cleanup chores.
Even with all this campsite fun, we did have time for a few major excursions away from our campsite.
TRAIL RIDING, KIRKHAM TRAIL
I was itching to get out on the trail, so on our first full day we saddled up the horses and headed out to the Kirkham Trail Head. We had three horses and four riders, so Mel and I took turns riding Spice and walking. I really needed the exercise, so I wanted to walk most of the way. So did Mel, but she was a good sport about it.
The ride started out well enough. The beginning was mostly flat ground which wound through the marshy area near the creek. Spice wasn’t crazy about the little wooden bridges that crossed the marshy areas. They weren’t more than two feet wide, and had no rails.
We had to cross two of these bridges to get to the high country. We got Spice across the first one but I could tell she was pretty nervous. When I led her across the second one she panicked and slipped off the edge, pushing me partly into the murky mud below. It was icky.
We soldiered on, with me trying not to think too much about the return trip and crossing the bridges again.
The trail was breathtaking once we started to climb. We went through acres of burned down trees whose skeletons stood like sentinels guarding the new baby trees growing up. It was a little eerie.
Up on top we could see forever. If we would have kept going on that same trail we would have made it all the way to Lowman.
We had been riding for a couple of hours already, though, so we turned around and headed back.
Toward the bridges.
I was leading Spice as we got to the first bridge and she made it across OK, but she was considerably agitated by the unknown elements lurking just under her feet as she clonked across the wood.
As we started to cross the second bridge disaster struck. Spice walked carefully, but stepped just off the bridge with one hind leg. That leg immediately sank in the deep mud. The mare panicked and floundered, pulling the reins out of my hands and falling off the bridge with all four legs, bolting away from the bridge through the muck.
I caught her and held on to her beside the bridge. I told Mel to go on across with Grumpy and Emma. Then disaster struck again. Grumpy, who had made every prior crossing with the aplomb he has shown as a superstar trail horse, started over the bridge. Emma was scared, and I am not sure exactly what happened, but Grumpy fell off the bridge too. He floundered trying to get to his feet in the deep mud. Emma fell off. Right under his feet.
I am usually very well composed under adverse circumstances, but in this case I lost it. I started screaming, watching my 10-year-old niece on the ground next to the shod scrambling hooves of a 1,000 pound horse. Grumpy is smart, though, and careful. Somehow he managed to miss stepping on Emma.
We all re-grouped. I decided that there would be no more bridge crossings that day. I took Spice and walked up and down to find a place to cross the creek. Once I found it, it took me about twenty minutes to convince Spice to cross. She was trembling all over with fear from the bridge, but she is a veteran water crosser. Once I got her in the creek she stopped for a nice drink.
Then it was Grumpy’s turn.
It took quite a bit of coaxing but I finally got him across too. He jumped the whole thing in one big leap.
Then it was time for Reno. I walked back over the bridge to him. I attached the long lead rope I had been using to lead the others across the creek to his bridle. As I started to lead him toward the creek he took off, marching across the bridge all by himself, with me following him.
He is such a cool little horse.
We made it back to camp safely, exhausted from our ordeals but still grateful for the beauty we had seen that day.
So we decided to do it all over again.
TRAIL RIDING, BENCH CREEK TRAIL
This time we couldn’t talk Emma into going along. I can’t say that I really blame her.
It was just us three girls that headed out. And Winston. At least nobody had to walk this time. Except Winston.
This time we headed in the opposite direction, to the Bench Creek Trail. Another rider we had encountered the day before talked of the beautiful views from the top of the trail. He told us there were no bridges to cross this time.
He was right on both counts.
The trail started out flat, then wound high up on the ridge of a mountain.
The terrain was so steep that the trail was a zig-zag, going from one switch-back to another up the side of the mountain.
Once we got to the top though, the views were nothing less than spectacular.
But a little smoky.
Of course we had to pose.
All of us.
Our ride home was without incident. It was one of the most beautiful trails I think I’d ever seen.
Until the next day, that is. When we embarked on
THE EPIC HIKE, WARM SPRINGS TRAIL
The horses were tired a little sore from their strenuous climbs the previous two days, and even Winston wasn’t interested in doing another ride by day three. With all the hiking and swimming he had done he was Dog Tired. Har har.
I had one more trail in mind though, and despite going for a five-mile run after our trail ride the previous day, Mel was more than happy to humor me by agreeing to go for a hike. My experience the other day trekking along with the horses made me remember how much I like to go for nice relaxing hike, so I was thrilled to head out.
When we set out on a moderate climb up the side of a mountain, we had no idea of the wonder we would soon experience.
We’d hiked about an hour or so when we saw a few butterflies. A few turned into many. Many turned into hundreds of thousands. They covered acres of meadows on the side of the mountain It was breathtaking.
They ranged in color from a bright orange to a more mild version of that same color. Every one was beautiful.
We stared and stared at them. I had seen the migration of the Monarch Butterflies in California before, and this was a similar phenomenon. Although these butterflies were the same color, they were much smaller than a Monarch and they were spotted rather than striped. Whatever they were, they were simply beyond words.
Beautiful. Just beautiful.
After we played with the butterflies for a while, we continued our hike. We came upon a huge tree that appeared to have been felled by lightning. The base of the tree was so big we could actually sit inside it.
Se we did. The bright orange vibrancy of the wood was truly a work of art.
We hiked further. Past bushes with a mysterious red fuzz growing on them.
More fallen trees.
And lots of beautiful flowers.
We crossed a couple of streams. One small, one bigger.
We hiked into a high mountain swamp to examine hundreds of lily pads floating serenely in a pond surrounded by tall, tall trees.
We finally walked back to the campsite in the heat of the afternoon. Mel’s GPS watch showed we had hiked just about 6.5 extremely steep miles. I was sweaty and tired. My breath came in heaves and I felt like my legs might collapse at any minute. Mel trotted along the trail as if we were just starting out. She is a goer, that girl.
We walked into the camp to see the unexpected sight of the children giving poor beleaguered Winston a bubble bath. That’ll teach him to wimp out on a hike!
Rob and Mel headed out that evening for home. We woke up early the next morning to a light drizzling rain.
The kids sat under the camper awning playing with their pet worms.
We loaded up the camper and the horses and headed home. The smoke that had been a beautiful plume in the previous four days now pervaded the valley.
We made it past the fire controls near Banks and home in good time. The kids were tired and ready to be back.
But Batman said what we all were thinking.
“I can’t wait to go camping again, mom!”