Camping: The good, the bad, the furry

Well, the Great Camping Experiment of 2012 is completed, and generally acknowledged to be a success. There will be additional camping in our future.

We spent part of three days in Yellowstone National Park. The low point of the trip was the first afternoon when we returned to camp after a rainstorm to find our tent had collapsed and soaked much of what was inside. The spot we had chosen was now a mud puddle. We were not happy campers, to coin a phrase.

As tempting as it was to pack up and go home, we decided to tough it out. I’d brought plenty of rope, so we strung up some clotheslines and hung up all our soppy sleeping bags, dried off our gear as best we could, and mopped out the tent (after moving it uphill). There were still a few hours of sunlight left, and we managed to get four of our five sleeping bags dried enough to use before bedtime. We found a way to make it work, and we were actually fairly warm that night. The next day was sunny, and we were able to finish drying everything out and had no more problems.

The high points were our visits to Grand Prismatic Pool and to the Paint Pots. Grand Prismatic Pool is quite pretty; between the minerals in the water and the bacteria in the mud there are about five or six different colors of the rainbow to be seen. It’s quite large, and the wind was blowing big gouts of steam across the boardwalk where we stood, warming us when the steam passed by, and chilling us when it passed. The Paint Pots area had all four types of geothermal activity in one place: Hot pools, steam vents, mud pots, and geysers. We happened to arrive just as Fountain Geyser was erupting, which doesn’t happen often or predictably.

We also thoroughly enjoyed the wildlife we saw, including a bison that wandered past our camp. The ground squirrels at our campsite were always amusing, though we didn’t feed them. We found out later they are the second most dangerous animals in the park after man. Evidently quite a few people end up going to the doctor or hospital from ground squirrel bites, so we were suddenly quite glad we hadn’t tried to feed them anything.

We also saw several moose, and a variety of birds, large and small. And no bears. The kids were disappointed. I wasn’t.

All in all, we had a great time. We learned a few things, and still have a few things to learn about vegan cooking on campfires, but everything went well enough this time that we’re eager to try again. The campground was pleasant, and the rangers were friendly. The kids participated in the Junior Ranger program, which gave them quite a bit of homework to do while we visited. Not only did they have a written test over what they learned, but they had an oral grilling, too. This was no gimme; they earned their patches.

The kids didn’t want to come home, of course, but for the first time I think three days was long enough. We might try longer some time, but not until we’re better prepared. We definitely enjoyed the experience and being outdoors, so it’s only a matter of time before we go again. We may well become a camping family.

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