Family portrait by Leo (hurriedly), March 2008: John, Buddy, Leo, Ondine, Roy
John and the boys spent the weekend at Indian Hills camp with the Cub Scouts! They left Friday shortly after school. Indian Hills Camp is just a half-hour’s drive away, tucked away in the hills of Jamul. They’d been there once before, in May, also with the Cub Scout Pack, and were looking forward to another weekend of camping there! The weather forecast called for clear, sunny skies, with some clouds and fog possible Sunday morning.
They arrived well before dark. Pack 951 had reserved three campsites, 18, 19, and 20. John picked out a spot against the back fence, far from the hustle and bustle, and set up his tent. Roy and Leo mostly set up their tent; they decided to forgo the rainfly for the view, which was quite obscured by the canopy of oak trees. Roy and Leo were, once again, the only kids in their own tent. As people arrived, the tent city slowly encroached on John, out in the campsite suburbs, until it was almost all filled in. In all, there were more than 40 people participating!
We moved fire rings to have a centralized campfire, which was great. John fed the boys, plus a few strays that wandered by looking hungry, then settled down to read Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope, the fourth book in the “Barchester Series.” He’s working his way through Trollope; the novels are interesting studies of social networks, as current today as they were in the Victorian times when they were written.
The boys had their s’mores, then brushed their teeth and vanished into bed quite early. Other campers were surprised at that; John would have let them stay up until they dropped, but they dropped earlier than usual rather than later because of all the activity.
Saturday morning, the boys rolled out at their usual 5:45, chipper and ready to go. John made oatmeal for breakfast, and then, having the entire morning in front of them, they set off to the playground with various other kids from the Pack and John settled into Trollope.
The first planned Pack activity was at noon; archery. Both Roy and Leo participated in that. The next activity was the zipline, which only Roy did – he’d been looking forward to it for weeks, Leo just as adamantly not.
Here are some photos from the day. First up you see the Bear Den Boys and sibs gathered around lunch and a Bakugan game. Then, theres Roy doing archery and the zipline. And last up is Leo watching Roy do the zipline.
John was surprised to learn that what he thought was Black Oak was in fact the Engelmann Oak, a rare tree. Where the more common Coast Live Oak has smooth bark and prickly, compact oval leaves, the Engelmann Oak has dark, ridged bark and smoother-edged, longer elliptical leaves. (The California Black Oak has similar bark, but lobed leaves.) About 80% of Engelmann Oaks are in San Diego County, with the rest spread over a thin belt from Pasadena to San Diego.
We saw a couple piles of sticks, which were Wood Rat homes. And, we learned about the different sages – the prickly-looking California Coastal Sage, the oil of which was used by natives as an insect repellant, and the longer-leaved White Sage, which was boiled into a tea that was used as a cough syrup and sore-throat remedy.
The Pack had a grand dinner together that evening, with hot dogs, hamburgers, and potluck. Our Den brought salads. Roy had a burger, Leo had a hot dog. And, surprisingly, they both turned in shortly after the s’mores – even earlier than the night before!
John tried to have an early night, which turned out to be a good thing. Because …
At 2 in the morning, he awoke to the sound of something that sounded like raindrops! He peered outside; what he thought were raindrops were in fact leaves falling, along with a steady mist. He looked around the inside of his tent; it was dry. He snuggled back into his sleeping bag, secure with the weather forecast. The drizzle started to plop down heavier.
Now, when it rains on a campout, the morning reveals two groups of people. The first group had the right gear, the right set-up, and the sheer good fortune to stay dry. They are the Smugs. (“Oh, we stayed nice and dry, it was so very dry inside our tent that we had to take our bottles and sprinkle some water about just to keep from drying up entirely.”) Then there are the Survivors, who overcome tremendous hardship in a struggle to become Less Wet. (“Oh, we had a good eight inches of water in the tent, the air mattress was floating! We had to keep everyone balanced to keep from tipping in. The dog nearly drowned. A worse night was never spent by man or beast.”)
John was comfortably in the Smug camp, when he remembered that the boys’ tent didn’t have its rainfly on. His mind instantly leapt into action, shifting from the former group to the latter. He peered out his tent. The drizzle was rapidly turning into rain. He’d have to remember to tell people that. He grabbed his car keys, put on his shoes, and hunched to his car in his T-shirt and underwear.
Many other people were out, messing about with their tents and pulling things in. They were too busy – or too polite – to comment on John’ choice of attire.
John got the fly on the boys’ tent just fine – but the mesh tent top had already been filled with water droplets so when the tent shook the water all fell on the boys in their own private rainshower. Roy awoke and in a flash found a way to blame Leo. “Leo!” he yelled. “You peed on my sleeping bag!” Yes, never let it be said the Kuraoka men wake up in a fog. We know whom to blame.
Anyway, after making sure the boys were okay, John returned to his tent. At about 3 a.m., the rain started in earnest, really pouring down, getting harder and harder. John flashed his flashlight to the boy’s tent and called out to them. “Roy? Leo? How’s it going over there?” “Good,” they’d reply. And two tousled heads would poke out of the door, peering back at John like two damp raccoon brothers. “Are you wet?” John asked. “Yes,” they said. “Is anything dry?” “No.” A pause. “So, um, is everything okay over there?” “Yeah. We’re good.” Then the two heads disappeared back into their tent.
Apparently, from the time the rain started until morning, Roy and Leo amused themselves telling ghost stories.
Anyway, the rain finally let up around 6, but continued to fall off and on. We ate breakfast and started packing up our soggy gear, including a recently deceased AlphaSmart 3000.
John has now killed two AlphaSmart 3000s through sheer abuse. This one spent the night in a canvas bag on the picnic table. The bag of course soaked through, and the AlphaSmart died, taking with it a couple nearly completed press releases. Sigh.
They were among the last to leave, having two tents to pack up and two kids to marshal.
Now, Ondine had been busy during all this time. She’d been painting the kitchen and Leo’s room and Roy’s room! She painted one wall of the boys’ rooms a deep royal blue, which was intended to be the trim color in the kitchen. But, when she got it on, she realized she’d picked out blue and gold – Cub Scout colors! So, she had to re-paint a bunch of trim in an orangey-gold color.
Barbara came over to help; Bill stayed at their house and cleared out two rooms there in preparation for their own remodeling project! Wow! They’re having a bathroom put in, and a back bedroom and bathroom turned into a master suite.
Ondine had been working until midnight, prepping, taping, and painting. She tried to relieve her mind with Jane Eyre, but Brontë suddenly threw a vampyre into the story! So there she was in a quiet, dark house, alone, with thoughts of a vampyre lurking close by. Tap tap went the gaping cabinets, holes of darkness within the darkness. Tap tap. Tap … tap.
It was a good thing Buddy was around for protection. Seriously, a vampyre could trip over him and sprain an ankle or something.
Anyway, she awoke Sunday morning to the sight of a steady rainfall. A new horror dawned, the realization that John and the boys could be home any moment, all soggy and tired. She had just finished putting some doors on the pantry when they arrived.
We spread out a dropcloth in the living room and flaked out the tent to dry. Also, all the wet stuff. John’s car remained somewhat packed as there’s no place to put any of the stuff that remained dry.
John tried disassembling and blow-drying his AlphaSmart, but it obstinately remained dead. He found a $20 discount on the new AlphaSmart Neo through NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month event, and bought a replacement. This will be his fourth AlphaSmart! Well, it’s a tool, and a heavily used one at that.
Monday Roy was down with a cold – a cold that had started last week and been lingering in the background all weekend so its emergence to the fore was not unexpected. John got back to work Jane Eyre dismissed the vampyre. Ondine continued painting. The house continues to look like we’re moving – we expect people to start showing up at our front door mistaking our living room for a foreclosure sale. (“How much for the wet tent? How about those pots and pans?”)
Construction began today on Barbara and Bill’s remodeling project. It’s going very well so far!
Kudos Dept. Everyone tip your Slammin’ Salmon ballcaps to Ondine’s Uncle Les, who was honored as Executive of the Year by the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce. Uncle Les is president and CEO of the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce. Read the story here. Twice as many people have been elected President of the United States as have won the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce Executive of the Year. So it is a rare honor, and we are very proud. Go, Uncle Les!
Neighborhood gas prices are down a nickel to about $2.49 per gallon.
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