Labor Day Camp Out 2003  

Day 1: Saturday, August 30  


Paso Picacho Campground
Our campground this year was Paso Picacho in the Cuyamaca State Park.  Paso Picacho (or as some of the kids in our group insisted on calling it, "Pablo Picasso") is several hundred feet higher in elevation than last year's campground , Green Valley (also in the State Park), and seemed correspondingly cooler and more forested.  Everyone agreed that this was the nicer of the campgrounds, and we should endeavor to return here in the future.  That is if there is a future for the Sherwoods on these group camp outs after Keith's behavior on this one.  
Kristi enjoys time with the other Moms
Keith has a very hard time letting go of his Wilderness Ethic (or Environmental Ethos) developed 25 years ago when he hiked and backpacked extensively in Colorado and New Mexico as a Boy Scout and Explorer.  Sometimes when his backpacker mentality collides with the family car camping mentality, the results aren't pretty.  In fact, by the end of this trip, amazed at just how over the top he could go, Keith named his alter ego the "Camping Curmudgeon."
The best way to explain the dichotomy between the car camping mentality and the backpacker mentality is how the visitor to the wilderness views themself. What I disparagingly call the car camping mentality is a self-centered one: this is my one time camping this year so I have to make the most of it, and this campsite must suppport my needs.  What I call the backpacker mentality is wilderness centric: this campsite must support yahoos from the city like me every single weekend, so I must do everything to make sure it is in better shape than when I found it.
Now whether at this point you are saying "all fine and good" or you are rolling your eyes at my psycho-babble, you can surely appreciate that "it's all in the presentation."
Kristi and the moms go for a explorative walk around the campgrounds in search of Starbucks
And the presentation is what put the curmudgeon in Camping Curmudgeon.  Whether it was telling the adults not to feed the birds and raccoons or telling the kids to pick up their trash, stop throwing things in the fire, or speak in whispers until 7:30 a.m. so as not to disturb others still sleeping, Keith couldn't help but sound pedantic or holier-than-thou.  It was like camping with a park ranger, always telling you what you probably already knew, but what was more fun to ignore.
The kids fixed the Camping Curmudgeon good, though.  Stopping a pack of 5 and 6 years olds approaching the fire with twigs gathered from the ground, the CC informed them gathering of wood was not allowed.  Huh? The CC then patiently explained the signs (apparently only) he had seen, and the reason: with so many people passing through the campsite, if people gathered wood rather than brought their own, soon they would be tearing down the trees to feed their fires and destroying the campground for future campers.  The poor kids, thinking no further ahead than the 30 seconds of fun they were going to have burning their twigs, obeyed the authority figure and dropped their twigs.  But a child's desire to play with fire runs deep, and they soon had another game.  Reasoning that grass was not wood, they gleefully began pulling up tufts of the dried grass around camp and throwing them into the fire, thereby commiting exactly the environmental sin they weren't with their little twigs but that the signs (and the CC) were trying to prevent.
All 20 kids; Brad and Doug at the end of the line on the right
The Bigelows have 4 children.  They invited two other families with 4 children, and two families with 3 children.  The Sherwoods are definitely the under achievers in the group.  Here are all 20 kids lined up, with Brad and Doug on the far right.  This picture may give you some idea why a interloper from another campsite asked with a completely straight face whether we were a Catholic or Mormon group.  There was no third option offered; we had to be one or the other in this person's mind (because who else would be so crazy, was the unspoken challenge).
Brad attempts field goal over goal posts made of lacrosse sticks
The boys played football endlessly on a little patch of dirt between our campsite and another manned by campers not of our group.  Here Brad attempts a field goal through makeshift uprights created by Doug, Spencer Bigelow, and two lacrosse sticks.  You can't see the ball because, after 3 minutes of complaining about the size and shape of the uprights and arranging Doug and Spencer just so, Brad squibbed the kick along the ground.
Smores around the fire
The Camping Crumudgeon made another appearance when the children began roasting marshmellows for s'mores.  CC explained that you didn't cook marshmellows (or anything) over a flame, but you wated for the fire to burn down to coals, then cook over the even heat emitted by the embers.  Alas, this cooking hint fell on deaf ears.  You would have thought the kids enjoyed having their marshmellows catch fire?!
The single serious accident that occured all weekend happend to Brad this evening.  Brad got a small second degree burn when another child inadvertantly swung around his skewer and touched Brad with the super-heated end which he had left in the fire. It was such a freak accident (and the perpetrator so distraught) that even the Camping Crumudgeon didn't see the need to pontificate onthe obvious dangers and consequences of playing in the fire with metal skewers.  


Text and Pictures Copyright © 2003 Keith Sherwood - All Rights Reserved
Questions or comments? Write keith at virtualsherwoods dot com.