A year ago we took Weston Camping. He was 5. We had a blast. We played cards, we explored, we hiked, we went to a swimming hole, cooked s’mores and hot dogs. Played with the fire. He made campground friends on the little loop we camped on. Gracie joined us and we celebrated her birthday. It was sunny, warm – but not TOO warm- It was perfect. We decided to do it again this summer! It was going to be a tradition we decided.
As soon as the online reservations were released, we snagged a cabin. There were surprisingly few cabins left, so we went with what was available, a cabin in Camano State Park. Not to be confused with Cama Beach State Park Cabins. We went to Fred Myers and bought a camp stove and other necessities, a tub to store them in Sarah’s garage over the winter. We. Were. Set!
Four nights. Three full days. Lots of plans for hiking, beach time – we even brought his bike!
Pulling into the campground, we wound through steep, curvy roads until we located our cabin. We were delighted with our soon to be home-away-from-home. It was heated, had electricity, a refrigerator AND a microwave! Comfy beds, nightstands, large table for after dinner card games, workspace for prepping meals. It was perfect, although it was perched on a bluff with warning signs about not climbing down the steep hill.
Weston immediately climbed down the steep hill, holding branches as he went, sliding down on his bootie, a little dust cloud careening down the hill.
After Scott helped him get back up the hill (Yes, Scott had to go down to get him, and yes, Scott went down on his bootie too) Weston was amazingly focused and occupied with the impulse purchase of “Magic Grow” sea creatures. He did not do them all at once, which I thought demonstrated a lot of discipline. Instead, we did them all weekend, a few at a time. While he watched the little sponge pills become octopus and sharks, Scott and I unpacked the car and set up camp.
I am sure you know how campgrounds are really a series of complicated one-way loops that confuse and are meant to get you lost? Camano state park was no exception. The cabin was located on it’s own separate loop with five other cabins and a shower room. All other loops were a bit of a hike from our cabin and on deadly steep roads ending with the afore-mentioned bluff. With this in mind and the camp fully set up, it was time to break out the bike and go “exploring.”
I don’t even know how to explain how scary it was taking our fearless little six year old grandson on a bike ride in those conditions. He was a good boy though, and when we screamed, “BREAK, BREAK, BREAK!” He would try, and would often succeed, he would also let the bike skid away from him towards the bluff while he jumped for safety.
During our adventures though, he realized there were other kids! This meant that the entire rest of the trip was him negotiating more trips around the campground to see if the kids would take the bait and play with him. It was really sad, and sort of exhausting. Scott and I played with him a lot. He was thrilled with the campground scavenger hunts I brought, but he finished those in 20 minutes. We fell back on the growing sea creatures, he colored a little, we played cards a little (but only after strict conversations that we would no longer play if he kept cheating – he honored that agreement finally), and let him ride around our safe little cabin loop on his bike – he only went out of sight when he was behind the shower room, but would reappear with shouts of “Watch me! Watch me!” Which I did all the next morning, standing by the tree he told me to stand by, and clapping every single time he whooshed by.
He kept asking if I would take him to play with the other kids, I explained that it was not safe for him to go by himself, and that it would be extremely awkward for me to stand there at someone else’s campsite while he played. The next morning, we decided to take him to the Camano State Beach. Day One.
The beach was wild, and lovely, rocky and grassy. It was also deserted and lonely. There was a busy boat launch and one other family quite a ways down the beach. We flew a kite. Negotiated the hell out of wearing the life jacket if he was going to wade in the water – even calling his mom to back us up. He asked me to take him down to play with the kids in the other family. I agreed, but as we got closer I could see it was tiny little girl and a baby. I mean like under two years old. I stopped…
“Weston, you don’t want to play with them, they are too little.”
“Yes, yes I do! They brought beach toys!”
Then I realized the gig. He could care less about playing with the kids. The truth was, Scott and I had failed on the beach toy front and he was going to fix it. In the end we did not horn in on the other kids toys, instead we packed up and headed to Cama Beach State Park… “We want to see here Nini is getting married.”
We packed a lunch and headed over to the other park. This was MUCH more successful. We sherpa-ed down loads of lunch, kite, bike, water, swim trunks, life vest down a steep and windy hill to find ourself in a beachy, camp-ground carnival of sorts. It was much more our speed. We could watch Weston race his bike down flat roadways that weaved through cabins and fire-pits and playgrounds and volly-ball games.
We all enjoyed the boat center. We walked around and looked at cool old wooden skiffs and boats, but best of all they had a build your own boat. There were step-by-step directions, baskets of parts to choose from and some old school tools to build them. I think Scott had as much fun as Weston did making their boat!
After boat building, Halleluia, he found a kid about five years older than him to play soccer with. They played. And Played. And Played. Finally the other kid had to leave. Weston rode his bike a bit, and then we took him to the gift shop (big mistake….) and bought him a stuffed snake to go with his stuffed snake collection. I kept trying…. “We are at the beach. Let’s get a whale? Or an otter? Or a bear?” But no, we bought him a snake. A long glittery snake to go with the two we had back at the cabin.
After a long day, we headed back to the cabin where we relaxed with a lot of the same activities – Magic Grow sea creatures, scavenger hunt, and if I am being honest, we finally gave in and let him have some Ipad time while we got dinner ready. After dinner walk, card games, coloring, repeat. Note to selves: Tomorrow go straight to Cama Beach.
Cama Beach was fun, but had a very different vibe than the previous day. The cabins were full of some sort of reunion and a wedding was happening on the grassy field and people were there in droves with small inflatable boats. along the water, the picnic tables had camp stoves with large pots of boiling water and picnic set ups. After a bit of observation, it turns out they were setting crab-pots and having family crab boils. Looked fun, but there was a lack of kids to play with. So Weston decided he wanted to play in the water, once again, negotiating the life jacket we let him play, reminding and shouting “NOT PAST YOUR BELLY BUTTON!!”
Side note. Just for the record, because of the wedding and reunion, the only parking was WAY UP ON TOP of this winding hill, I dropped Scott and all-the-beach-bike-picnic accruements as close as I could (Which is not that close) and drove to the top to park. We made several trips to the car, having forgotten this, or forgotten that. Thank god for the bus. Which we got on, with all of our crap and sat next to decked out wedding guests – conscious that we were on day two of our sweaty – no shower -camping trip.
I promised him I would find a kid friendly place for our third and final day. Which I am proud to say I did. It seemed a little urban, but I searched YELP and a website that listed community parks. I found a lake with a playground, reportedly shallow and kid friendly.
We got there early- reviews said parking was bad – and it looked exactly as promised. There were a few families there already and Weston immediately made friends with a fearless girl his age and they chased and played on the playground equipment. Scott and I set up chairs and blankets on the sandy little crescent of beach, sure that when W decided to go in the water we would have full view of him.
When his little friend finally headed to the water, West followed her. Scott got the life-jacket and headed over, prepared for battle, and then…. blessing of blessing… Little girl’s grandma went over and had her put of a life-jacket. Easy peasy. Weston put his on, no arguing! They played a little while, but soon the giant group of rough-housing older boys tempted him away. Within minutes he was dive-bombing with them off the floating dock, splashing and chasing. When little girl’s grandma reported to us that the boys were pulling Weston around by his life jacket and choking him, Scott went out to the dock to watch more closely.
Finally. Finally. Weston came out of the water, shivering. Really cold. He had played hard, but finally had enough. The sun was out and we wrapped him in a big beach towel and he slowly warmed up.
“Were those boys pulling your life-jacket?”
“No, they didn’t pull my life-jacket, they just tried to drown me.”
Yikes, Time to go.
I do want to pause here and make an observation about this lake. It was a sunny Saturday, and clearly a local favorite. People rolled up with full sized barbecues, pop up tables, chairs, blue-tooth speakers -on one side, old school rap, on the other side 70’s rock. BIG groups of people, they would set up multiple tents, baby crips, little pens for their dogs. Dozens of chairs and the floaty toys. Oh my goodness. SO MANY FLOATIES. Rafts, unicorns, donuts, turtles, flamingos, dragons, rings…. Just so out of my Ketchikan Reality.
Anyway, after West was warmed up and ready to go, we stopped at a lakeside burger joint. It was absolutely classic with picnic tables, vinyl table cloths, umbrellas, blasting music, mediocre burgers, delicious fries.
We got back and I insisted on a shower, and so did Weston, “Look at me!” he said, “I am filthy.” The whole showering thing became a process, but at least we got up the next morning and hit the road a little less smelly.
That night Scott made his famous campfire stew, which reminds me that I should mention that we ate well on this trip. Or rather, Scott and I did. We made campfire burritos, stew, ect. And Weston had hot-dogs. Every single night. And honestly? I might have had one or two as well. Breakfasts were lovely. Waking up every morning to the smell of coffee and bacon because Weston and Scott are early birds was pretty luxurious. The two of them had pretty special mornings together too, making breakfast chatting…. watching wildlife – bunnies and even a pair of deer while I snoozed.
I think we all had a blast. But Scott and I were EXHAUSTED. Why was this camping trip so much more tiring than last year? We finally decided that maybe our little grandson had outgrown us a little. Not a lot, but just a little. He would much rather have made friends and played with them than playing a third round of Old Maid. Oh, and we camped longer this time AND last time we had Gracie with us. Gracie who piggy backed him the final mile of our four mile hike. We had spread the energy out amongst three adults rather than the two of us. Will we do it again next year? Of course. We will refine it a bit, anticipate things like beach toys and research the campground a little better. Find one that is not deadly dangerous and more importantly – has kids. Oh, and we will definitely wrangle another adult to join us.