Flowers and fog, hummingbirds and hail

Thick fog on the campsite Saturday morning, following a night of rain.
Thick fog on the campsite Saturday morning, following a night of rain.

We made it out camping over the weekend of July 4th and had a great weekend out. It was far from the boring blue skies, sunshine, warm temperatures that we’ve enjoyed the past few years camping over the 4th…

We spent the long weekend at one of our favorite spots in all of Idaho: a church camp in the central part of the state, deep in the Sawtooths, where I spent a summer during college cooking and working on staff. It’s a bit of a drive from Idaho Falls — almost 200 miles, the last 25+ of which are on dirt roads — but it is such a pretty and special place that it makes it worth the drive, and the long weekend camping with my folks has become a tradition.

Gorgeous weather Friday afternoon as we arrived, but we could already see the clouds piling up to the north. We made it through dinner (complex beans and fresh baked bread, both from the Dutch ovens) before the weather turned for the worse, and it cut loose with thunder, lightning, and a downpour that lasted a couple hours, before tapering off to just showering until somewhere in the middle of the night. We woke up to thick fog on Saturday morning, cool temperatures, and a tent full of wet stuff. The fog burned off by mid-morning to clear blue skies and beautiful weather which gave us a good chance to get stuff dried out. By late afternoon, though, the clouds were piling up and it was obvious we were in for another dose of weather. More thunder, lightning, rain, and hail. By bedtime, though, it had cleared off. More showers briefly before breakfast — just as we woke up Sunday morning — and then back to blue skies. (And from what my parents said after they made it home Monday, they got more rain after we left; they came home with a car full of wet gear.)

With the wet June and continued moisture into July the Sawtooths and all of central Idaho is gorgeous green — something we’re not used to seeing in July. The wildflowers are late this year, the mosquitoes are bad (but not as bad there as some parts of the state, although they tried hard to make a meal of poor Li despite the bug spray), and the rivers and creeks are all still running way high.

Li's one nap while camping was a brief "face-down" nap on Ron's back Saturday afternoon.
Li's one nap while camping was a brief "face-down" nap on Ron's back Saturday afternoon.

Li got to see lots of wildlife: several deer, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, a fish, a snake, the camp cats (pretty close to wildlife by the end of the summer, anyway). She slept great both evenings, probably at least in part because she didn’t get much of a nap either day aside from a brief nap in the backpack Saturday afternoon when we enjoyed a brief spell of sunshine to take a short walk. She loved spending time down by the river throwing rocks and sticks with Ian and splashing a bit (although it was way too cold, even for Ian, to do any wading).

Li sharing breakfast with the buddies
Li sharing breakfast with the buddies

She spent lots of time playing with “the buddies” (Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore) around the campsite, and loved that she could go wash them or wash her hands at the faucet whenever she wanted. Marshmallows and s’mores — originally planned for Friday evening, but rained out until Saturday — were a big hit. The highlight of the weekend for all of us was when a hummingbird landed on Li’s hand and perched there for what seemed like an eternity (probably only about 5 seconds); she was so surprised and so still during the whole thing…

All in all, a very relaxing weekend away from home and work, in a place and with people I love. The elements of the unknown and unusual added by the weather just made for a more memorable weekend.

Li’s First Camping Trip

Deb and Li walking near campLi’s mosquito bites are fading, but our memories of her first camping trip certainly aren’t! We spent three days over the long July 4th weekend in the Sawtooths in central Idaho and she thoroughly enjoyed it…

She saw her first deer, snakes (all garter snakes or something similar thankfully, given that the largest one was a couple of feet long and about as big around as my thumb), hummingbirds, squirrels, ground squirrels, and chipmunks; experienced the warmth of a campfire on a cool morning; learned a little about Dutch ovens and the delights that come forth from them; had her first cheeseburger, fries, and malt from the Wrangler in Fairfield on the way in to camp; had acres of dirt, sticks, and pine needles to play in; and experienced the feeling of dropping your feet into a cold river on a hot day in the mountains…

We had three great days of warm (OK, closer to hot, I’ll concede) weather. The bugs weren’t bad except in the early morning and late evening, when the mosquitoes came out. We decided these mosquitoes had never had Chinese food before, because they made more than a meal out of Li, despite bug repellent. Usually they go for Deb, but that didn’t seem to be the case this time. We also had a bit of a fireworks show on the first evening as a big thunderstorm came over the ridge around 10pm and treated us to a couple hours of thunder, lightning, an occasional big gust of wind to shake the tent, and just a sprinkle or two of rain.

Dutch oven fajita chicken with vegetablesWe did pizza in the Dutch oven the first night, and fajita chicken and potatoes the second; both turned out pretty well. The fajita chicken was one of those things where we didn’t have a recipe but just sort of started down the “What if we…” path an this where we ended up.

Sleeping in our tent with a toddler was definitely a mixed bag, but we knew that we had no idea what to expect (having been down this same road with Ian years ago). The first night went well, as Li slept very soundly (exhaustion, perhaps?) and woke up happy the next morning. Let’s just say the second night and next morning didn’t go nearly as well and by the time the night was over, both Deb and I decided that 2 adults, a toddler, and a stuffed monkey are just too many for a pair of zipped-together mummy-style sleeping bags. It’s safe to assume that we’ll probably try something different next time out.

Li and Grandma Stewart cooling their feet in the riverMy parents came up on Friday morning, and Li was delighted to get to spend a good part of the next couple days with Grandma and Grandpa. We spent some time that afternoon down on the rocks at the edge of the river playing in and around the water, watching bugs and snakes and splashing water on each other.

All in all, a great outing, and very encouraging in terms of getting Li out camping. In Deb’s words, it was less grueling than she expected (truth be told, I think I was more excited about going than Deb was ahead of the trip).