In which we camp....
"The smell of pine trees, the campfire glowing, the marshmallows cooking, and the breath of crisp cool air are some great things I like about camping but my favorite one of all is camping underneath the stars with lights so brilliant it brightens up the deep blue sky making you feel a sense of peace and tranquility amid the great outdoors."
The sign was carved out of wood. The words Promise Land were glued onto the sign in big wooden block letters that were painted a bright yellow. The edges of the sign were zigzagged with a strip of light blue that looked slightly faded in the sun. This was where we settled to camp. The Promise Land.
As the car turned into the parking lot, I saw a big grassy field. Next to the parking lot was a one-floor, flat roofed, dirty looking white house. On the grassy field next to the white house, there was a large sign that said The Tabernacle. As the car drove onto the grass, we eventually stopped under a small tree near a small creek that ran through the camping site.
“Where is the registration desk?” Mom asked as she got out of the air conditioned car. We watched as she walked over to someone to ask. In a minute she was back.
“They said it was in the main building.That big white one over there.” She pointed at the building next to the parking lot. We had to get to the building to register before we could set up our tent. And that meant getting out of the air conditioned car. I reached for my sunglasses, tucked away in my bag and waited for my brother, Thomas, to get out of the car.
“Holy cow, it’s hot out!” My brother yelled outside of the air conditioned car.
I scrambled out to see if he was right... Not really.
“It’s not THAT bad.” I said to him with a small roll of my eyes. That was until I stepped out of the shade. Well, it wasn’t that bad without the shade either. You just had to keep moving. Walking at a brisk pace through the parking lot, we rushed to the entrance of the building. And there had to be two doors.That first one looked like it had a sign but it fell over or something. The second one didn’t have anything on it. We tried the second one first and it wasn’t it. That’s when we see someone take that sign that fell over and put it back up.
Camping Registration it said. Annoyed, we opened the first door and was welcomed by a blast of cold air, even cooler than our air conditioned car. The air conditioning was nice and as we stood there cooling off, my little brother, Daniel, saw the snow cone machine. He tugged at the corner of Dad’s shirt and pointed at the machine.
“ I want one of that.” He half-whispered shyly.
“What do you want?” Dad bent down a little not being able to hear my little brother’s whisper.
He pointed at the snow cone machine again and whispered a little louder.
“Snow cones.” I say, noticing that confusion on Dad’s face.
“Oh. You want a snow cone?”
My brother nodded. I looked at that flavor sign.
“There’s Blue Raspberry, Orange, Watermelon, Cherry, Cotton Candy, Grape, and Bubble Gum. Which flavor do you want?”
He pointed at watermelon.
“Watermelon. I want this one.”
I told my dad:
“He wants watermelon.”
My dad looks at the person selling the snow cones and asks for a watermelon one. Then he ask if Thomas wanted one and he asked for orange. I had a grape one. With new snow cones in hand, I walked out of the registration building into the heat and back to the car. Someone from the registration desk was giving Mom a tour of the camping grounds and we waited near the car, where Dad found a small bridge that lead into a small island in the middle of the stream entirely shaded by trees. It was the perfect camping ground. But it was unfortunately taken already. The car rumbled to life again as we drove around the camping grounds searching for a place that would be near the bathrooms and also was consistently shaded by trees. Eventually, after driving past the canoe house, we settled for a small area between a large pine and a wall of trees. It would be a squeeze, but the tent would fit.
* * *
Standing outside in the sun wasn’t easy. If the heat wasn’t bad enough, my feet started to hurt from being in the sun for too long. I had to stand in the shade that was pretty miniscule. The tent was dragged out of the trunk after everything in front of it was unpack, including bags of food and sleeping bags. Setting the tent down, we opened the case and dragged out the flat canopy tent. The tent spread out into a pentagon with each corner cutting into the trees. I grabbed the bag that had the sticks that supported the tent and dumped them out onto the ground. A pile of gleaming red foldable sticks rattled on the ground. I started straightening them out, connecting them together one by one and then my brother guided them through the tubes in the tent and straight through, into the big black centerpiece. Dad secured the sticks in place. Mom was watching when she suddenly noticed that one of the sticks was so much longer than the rest.
“Wait, why is this stick so long?” Then she picked up a another stick. “This one’s a lot shorter.”
Dad looked at the two sticks in comparison and switched them. Mom seeing that there were still two long sticks on the ground, wondered,
“What do these two sticks do?”
We all had no idea at first. Then both me and my brother thought it was for the windows, and it turned out we were right.
We didn’t know where the stakes were and so we thought they were the little short metal sticks on metal rings that were attached to the edges of the tent. We tried using them and they would just come up and the tent would slip again. Frustrated, we thought it was the sand at first, being that we built our tent on compacted sand. But soon we found out that the stakes were actually in a separate bag in the in the tent bag. Finally finishing the tent, we stood there for a little while resting. I saw our beach umbrellas lying on the ground and decided to put them up. Putting up the umbrellas was not as easy as I thought it would be. After multiple attempts at it, I sat down with the umbrella lying on the ground, giving up. The compact ground would not let the thick pole of the umbrella go any deeper than 2 centimeters which was nowhere near the deepness needed to keep an umbrella standing. Dad, seeing the problem took the umbrella and jammed it as hard as he could into the ground. It stood.
Being all setup, we all stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to do.
“We shouldn’t have come so early. There really isn’t that much to do here...” Mom looked around at the camp. “Let’s take a walk.”
Following Mom, we walked past a large pile of wood surrounded by a circle of logs. It was the bonfire that was not yet lit. We turned onto a large wooden bridge that extended across the wide creek and walked to the other where there were a few wooden cabins and picnic tables. Behind the cabins was an open field that stretched until a line of tall grass where the camping grounds ended. The entire area was for camping and a few tents were already set up there. Walking along the dirt road that followed the line of cabins bordering the creek, we reached a grassy field that turned back over the creek and back to the other side. We stopped on the middle of the grassy road to look at the creek, now only a small strand of water moving sleepily along into a slightly wide pool of water. Mom noticed some fish, but they swam away too fast for me to see. We were met by Thomas who happened to come from the other side of the grass road and it turned out that the grass road led straight to where we were camping. Walking back to our tent we didn’t know what to do. Mom took out the paper she was given when we register and looked at the activities part.
“It says you can go canoeing in the small creek. Only 3 dollars for half an hour. But I don't see anyone at the canoe house...”
“Maybe it’s at the main building.” I suggested.
“Alright, you can go check.”
“I wanna row a boat!” My little brother tugged at my shirt complaining. So I took his hand and we both walked back across the parking lot and into the main building. It turned out that you had to ask the people in the main building from a slip to rent a canoe and then they would send a person out to get a canoe for you.
* * *
Thomas joined up with us as we were handed paddles and life jackets. A green canoe was dragged out of the shelves and pushed to the edge of the water. We all climb into the canoe and Mom pushed the canoe into the water. I sat in the back, Thomas in the front and Daniel in the middle. Being the tiller wasn’t that easy. My brother was a terrible rower and Daniel couldn’t row at all because he was too small. It was hard for me to constantly change back and forth between sides and we constantly ran off course. Thankfully the water was calm so we didn’t have a current to paddle against. The area of the creek that could be canoed on was rather small. On one end, tall grass stalks grew high and a low bridge blocked the way. At the other end, the creek narrowed into a thin sliver and ran through a small sewage tube before reaching the other side, where the water was still and dirty. The creek, being so still, smelled pretty bad. First we canoed towards the long stalks, running into land sometimes. I had to constantly yell at Thomas to row harder because he wasn’t rowing enough. After reaching the stalks, turning around was a struggle. I tried paddling one way just to have Thomas paddle the other and it turned into a battle of who could paddle harder. It was a struggle and we splashed a little, causing Daniel to get a little wet. He didn’t like getting smelly water on him either and started whining and yelling at us not to get him wet. We finally turned and was rowing smoothly back towards the other side. The large wooden bridge that we crossed while taking the walk now loomed over us as we canoed beneath it. We almost ran into one of its large wooden pole as we rowed because Thomas kept on rowing on the wrong side of the canoe and I had to push us away from the pole multiple times with my paddle because we were so close to land.
After turning around and passing through the bridge, we decided to head for the other side. There was another group of people that were also canoeing. As they got neared our canoe, they starting scream,
"Ha! We're the pirates and you're the British and we're going to steal all your money!"
We laughed and rowed a little faster so they wouldn't catch up. At the other end of the creek, we first passed the small island where you could camp on. Then, as the creek turned, we reached a small split in the creek. One led to a small dead pool where the water had obviously been sitting there for quite a while. The other led to a another pool where a smaller, uninhabitable island stood. The island was close to the far side of the creek and it was so close, it could barely fit a canoe. We met Mom on the other side where the island wasn't and she took pictures of us rowing the canoe.
Wanting to take a challenge, we decide to go through the small area of the creek between the edge of the creek and the island. The water there was shallow and it was hard to control a canoe in such a narrow space. The edge of the island was also covered in spiky bushes that jagged up against our boat. At one time, we kept running into a tree that was in front of us being that it was really hard to turn. We finally passed the tree, just to find out that we were barely in water. There was a log that was in the water and the shallowness of the water pushed it up against our canoe and we were practically banked up against a tree. There was nothing to push against but spiked brambles and one of the thorns cut three of my fingers, all in one line.
"Push harder!" I shout at my brother as he paddled, trying to get us off the log. I tried pushing at the mud beneath us but we couldn't move. For a second, I actually thought we would be stranded there not be able to get back to land until someone came to find us. Then, with a large scraping noise, we finally broke loose from the stubborn log. Paddling out of the circuit, we decided to row back towards the bridge. We clambered onto land half an hour later splashed with smelly creek water, hoping the log we got stuck on didn't make too much of a scratch on the canoe.
* * *
While we were going to rent a canoe, our friends Yang Yang and Wei Wei also arrived. They had a huge light green tent that apparently could fit eight people. After rinsing off my feet in a small, dirty shower in the back of a musty-smelling, overheating, leaky public camping bathroom, I rushed back to our tent, unfortunately stepping on the sandy ground with my wet flip-flops. With sand-covered shoes, being worse off than before I rinsed them, I ran to back to meet my family and grab a paper towel there to wipe my shoes off. Yang Yang and Wei Wei were there already, asking their parents nonstop if they could go canoeing, being that they saw us go canoeing that they thought that it looked really fun. Their mom told them that they could go with their dad after they ate.
Canoeing for so long, we were getting hungry and we all sat down on little mats, with an upside down box as our picnic table. Mom brought cold grilled chicken that was soaked in barbecue sauce (bought from a store) and some chips. Yang Yang's mom brought cut sausage, corn and sweetened popcorn. There was supposed to be a shared picnic with everyone who came here to camp, but Mom didn't think that it would really happen so we ate by ourselves anyways.
I grabbed the camera that was sitting in the car and started capturing pictures of everyone. There was at least one picture of everyone.
After our little feast, Yang Yang and Wei Wei both dragged their dad to the main building to rent a canoe. I walked back to our tent to grab my sunglasses I left there and by the time I got back to the dock, they were already back and clambering into the canoe. Both parents somehow fitted into the boat along with Yang Yang and Wei Wei. Daniel, wanting to canoe again, climbed in with them. Thomas just wanted to squeeze in because there were so many people in the canoe and he thought it would be fun to canoe with a lot of people.
I watched them with my parents. They struggled at first, having a hard time being in sync with each other. Sometimes they would end up turning around in circles or just not move at all because everything was so chaotic. In eventually, they were able to row together and started racing with another group of seven kids who all squeezed in one canoe. We could hear them scream and laugh as they plowed through the water trying to beat each other. Later I found out that they raced three times and beat them the first two times. Then apparently they lost because the other team had a ridiculous head start. Even then, he said they almost caught up.
They canoed for only one circuit. It was hard to tow along six people with only three rowers, even if the other three were only little kids. Soon, they were back onto land and the canoe was returned.
* * *
I thought it would be a good idea to blow up the beach ball and play beach volleyball with it on the sandy volleyball courts. Unfortunately, two people was not enough to play volleyball. Next to the bathrooms was a playground. On the other side was the volleyball courts. There was a large concrete platform that faced the bathrooms. A lot of kids were gathered at the playground, playing with each other. There were two wooden swings, both which were the type where a kid sit on each side and they would swing back and forth. Daniel loved going on them, but he was afraid of going too high and would always start screaming as the swing started getting higher and higher. Eventually, Mom had him get off the swing because his screams got so obnoxious and loud.
“Can I have 8 volunteers come and meet me at the playground to set up a few tables? I repeat, can I have 8 volunteers come and meet me at the playground to set up a few tables? Thank you.”
We all looked up, little surprised. I saw the person who spoke, put down the microphone of the loudspeakers and walked over to the playground. We stood there and a few people showed up minute later to help with the setup. It turns out there was going to be a group picnic.
Surprisingly, I didn’t really want to eat anything really and only was looking forward to the watermelon because it would be a nice refreshment in the heat. Each watermelon slice was huge and by the time I finished my two slices, I had watermelon juice running down my face. I sat on the concrete platform for a moment before I saw something that would have definitely made Thomas very happy: Soda, especially coke.Thomas was already at the table, mixing different sodas together, “cocktailing” them and drinking them in large gulps. I laughed as I poured myself a cup of soda. I looked at all the and had a sudden urge to eat something hot. Minutes later, I was stuffed with hot pepper noodles and soda.
Originally, there was going to be dancing, but no one wanted to because of the heat and so we ended up all watching Karate Kid. Then, in the middle of the movie, someone stopped it to see if people wanted to finish the movie or light the bonfire. Everyone wanted to finish the movie. Unfortunately, I never actually got to see the very end of the movie.
* * *
It is dark out by the time the movie ends and the fire is lit already. Everyone rushes to the fire, where people are handing out sparklers to everyone. Little fireworks are lit and everyone ooh’s and ah's as they light up the night. The sparklers send bright sparks that look like little fireflies that float gently onto the ground. Everyone shares the fire from a sparkler to light another and chains of bright sparklers shine in the air. As the fireworks and sparklers burn out, kids rush near the fire with a stick in one hand and a marshmallow on the other. Some have giant chocolate flavored marshmallows, other have small fluffy white ones. Sounds of laughter fill the air as children have fun roasting marshmallows, sometimes taking turns, sometimes having three one a stick. Some children laugh as their marshmallow catches on fire and burns up, eating it in one large gulp. Others try to quickly blow it out as the fire spreads across the marshmallow like a plague. There are children discussing roasting techniques with each other, a professional sound in their voice. Some just stand there, a simple stick in their hand, a marshmallow at the end of the stick,and the stick over the fire, roasting a white fluffy marshmallow.