Camping at Northampton Beach

I’d retrieved M from Cape Cod on Thursday because we had a weekend family camping trip already planned before she was invited on the vacation.  I’d checked out my list of recommended places to camp, and we decided on Northampton Beach on Lake Sacandaga largely because it was one of the few campgrounds that still had lakeside spaces for last Friday and Saturday night. Cute W and I really enjoyed Little Sand Point on Lake Piseco last year, but the girls wanted to try someplace new.

It was not an auspicious beginning. You may recall that it was rainy and cold on Friday. Cute W even floated the idea of cutting the camping trip to only one night, but I was like, heck no. Of course, I was as unprepared to go as I was adamant about going. I spent Friday feverishly shopping, cooking, and prepping. J had gymnastics on Friday afternoon, and Cute W didn’t want to miss too much work, so we planned to in the early evening. This turned out to be an ambitious plan. By early evening Cute W and I were throwing things into the car in a desperate race with the sun.

As we drove north, it continued to drizzle, and we noted that the cloud cover would make for an extra-dark night. Luckily, the campground was only an hour away. We’d planned to buy our wood when we arrived, but when we caught our breath and conferred en route, we realized that we had about $6 cash between us. Excellent.

But, phew! It was still daylight when we arrived, and the camp office took credit cards for their bundles of wood–kiln dried, making it pretty much the only thing dry in the place. Our campsite (#208) was lovely:

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Unfortunately, the grate over the fireplace was gone. It made us wonder if all the cooler campers had known about the deficiency, and that’s why it was the only campsite that still had an open lakeside spot. Oh, well.

(For some reason my “More” link isn’t working properly at the moment–there is more, and you can click the title of the blog post to read it.)

Dusk was falling quickly, and getting the campsite organized was prioritized over food preparation. Which was too bad, because we were hungry.  Once the tent was up (with rain fly too, due to the not-raining-but-quite-damp weather), we finally turned to our dinner. It was a simple meal (hot dogs and kale salad and corn on the cob and chips) that we’d made simpler, ditching the corn because we were too starving and impatient to wait for water to boil in a pot that may or may not have balanced on open flames.

We sat down on damp benches and ate our dogs with a sigh of relief. It was a lovely dinner followed by s’mores, and then the kids were so tired that they put themselves to bed while Cute W and I finished our hard cider on the hammock we’d brought.

Have I mentioned our new hammock? Oh, my gosh, we love our new hammock. It’s a Vivere double hammock that we impulse-bought because it was a good deal on Woot, and at the time I was like, “A hammock, really? Okay, Cute W, whatever.” But I’ve been converted. The hammock is wonderful. It’s like having a very small inexpensive vacation home in my front lawn. In fact, I’m lounging in it right now. Which, okay, one might argue that that defeats the purpose of a vacation home, to bring your laptop, but it’s not like this is work-work, right? I mean, we’re just hanging out, right?

Anyway, the evening was excellent.

And then it was night-time.

All was peaceful until I was awakened by my super-alert husband. “I think that there’s an animal right outside our tent,” he whispered to me. J woke up, too. We listened. Footsteps, maybe? Some shuffling about? Cute W made some noise and shone a light to scare whatever-it-was away. Then he decided to get out of the tent to look. Nothing. Hey, he figured, as long as he was up, he’d take a walk to the bathroom. J hesitated for a moment, then said that she was going, too. I say “a moment,” but I’d like to define that term. She was ready to go soon enough after Cute W’s exit that there was simply no reason for me to drag my tired self out of my sleeping bag and offer to accompany her to the bathrooms that were a short walk away. And yet she’d waited just long enough that, as soon as she left the tent, I doubted that she could catch up to him, after all. And so I lay in my sleeping bag, wondering if I’d ever see my daughter again. It seemed, suddenly, to be the beginning of a suspense novel. They’d thought it was an animal outside their tent, until their 9-year-old daughter walked away and never came back. In the morning, the frantic parents combed the campgrounds, calling for her over the hush of the peaceful, dew-glistening tents, their panic rising, until a ranger arrived, walkie-talkie in hand. “We’ve located some rather large boot prints and some discarded pajamas near your tent. We’d like you to come take a look. . . .” Dun, dun, DUNNNNNN.

Forty-five minutes and the return of both husband and daughter hadn’t diminished the adrenaline coursing through my system when the three of us heard something again.

–Wait, the three of you? You ask. Didn’t M come along? Wasn’t that why you went to Cape Cod? Why, yes. She was fast asleep the whole time. In fact, at one point my narrative had included this as a plot point (Fretful, Katie laid her hand on the form of the still-sleeping 12-year-old beside her. But instead of comforting warmth, she grasped a cool pile of blankets. What? Her daughter wasn’t there! Dun, dun, DUNNNNNN.)  M has shifted to adolescent sleep patterns, so even though she slept through most of the excitement, she complained bitterly about what a terrible night’s sleep she’d had the entire day that followed.

Anyway, the three of us were awake and alert. This time, Cute W tiptoed out of the tent to take a peek. It was a skunk. No, two skunks. And they were eating my flax seed granola.

Okay, now, anyone who camps knows that you pack up your food at night so that you don’t attract animals. We usually just throw it all in the back of the car. In fact, we had thrown it all in the back of the car, except for my flax seed granola. It’s a pantry item, so it must have been pulled out in our frantic efforts to get something like paper towels. And then no one noticed that it was still out there, lying on the tarp, because it was dark.

Now, about this flax seed granola. Breakfast was the only meal that I’d expected to follow my eating plan. It’s one of my favorite things to eat, but it’s a bit of a pain in the neck to prepare, especially when I make it extra-yummy. I firmly believe that every meal that you eat while camping should be deeply yummy. Cute W was teasing me about that, but I’m not talking gourmet, I’m just saying yummy. So, for example: hot dogs. A proper hot dog meal, in my opinion, requires your condiment of choice, some pickles, and definitely beer or hard cider. But I’m getting off track. The point is, here is what I had done to prepare my delicious breakfast:

  1. Ordered flax online for the best price.
  2. Soaked the flax seeds overnight in an indulgent bath of water, pure vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
  3. Roasted the flax seeds for 40 minutes, then stirred, then roasted them for another half hour or so.
  4. Added some sunflower seeds (unsalted, organic, natch) and sliced almonds for the final half hour of roasty-toastiness.
  5. Let the mixture cool, then broke it into smaller pieces.
  6. Snipped up a couple of dried peaches into teensy little bites and added them to the mix.
  7. Added this entire batch to the last of my previous batch, which was almost but not quite enough to last me two days, thus filling a single bag with about 5 or 6 days’ worth of breakfast. I thought about measuring 2 cups for my 2 breakfasts, but I was pressed for time, so I just brought the whole bag.

And now, it was the middle of the night, and two skunks were sharing my whole bag of delicious flax seed granola under the shelter of our car. While we watched, then listened, because we didn’t want to startle them into spraying our belongings.

Oh, my gosh, you guys. I was super-bitter. For the rest of the weekend, my entire family laughed over this, making small, high-pitched skunk voices to say things like, “It’s that little bit of pure vanilla that made the flax seed so aromatic and delicious!”

The next morning, it was campfire French toast and sausages for everyone. I don’t even like French toast, dammit.

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Saturday was gloomy, but we kayaked around the lake, then took a picnic lunch to hike near Hope Falls. After we got back from our hike, Cute W and I were ready for a nap. We lazed on the hammock while the girls walked around the campground. We all wished that they’d brought their Ripstiks: it’s one of their favorite pastimes these days, and the roads were smooth and littered with children biking hither and yon. The “neighborhood” was a little more exciting than usual, with a beach, marina, small store, and mini-golf place. There was a sign at the mini-golf place saying that kids must be accompanied by adults, so all four of us were psyched when they welcomed M & J while we grown-ups dozed out of sight.

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J had come up with a great idea for dinner #2: chicken tikka masala. My sister made some with the help of Simply Asia Indian Essentials flavor pouches during our family beach vacation, and the whole family begged me to copy her. So on Friday, when I wasn’t stirring the delicious flax seed granola, I made up a double batch, one for dinner while camping, the other for an easy dinner when we got home. We just reheated the pot and warmed up some store-bought naan. Yum.

On Sunday morning, just as everyone was getting tired of the wilderness, the sun finally came out. Hooray!

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We went on another kayaking trip and found a lovely little sandy island. I was excited for a little sunbathing, but everyone else was running out of steam. And truth is, I needed a shower. Here I am sporting my super-cool new Insect Shield Bandana. It doesn’t just scare away bugs: it also hides greasy hair! I think I might be become a regular bandana-wearer.

 

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After a shaky start, it was a great trip. I especially loved all the Beautiful Sister Bonding Time:

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The girls loved it, too, and they even said that they’d like to repeat this trip next year. As usual, we took a driving tour of the campground on the way home, trying to decide which spots would be best. For example, our site was mucky, but there were plenty of sites that had their own little sandy beaches, right there. I scrawled a bunch of site numbers on a loose piece of paper. . .  and if I ever manage to find the paper again, I’ll update this post so you’ll have them, too! [UPDATE: Okay, to the best of our recollection, it seemed like sites 83, 84, 86, 88, 104, 105, & 106 were all pretty awesome-looking.]

 

3 Comments

  1. jo anne assini

    I am EXHAUSTED just reading this! And you were still working days later! Are there other people like you?? If so, can’t you band together and run our country?

  2. Debra

    Rain & 2 skunks…your a BRAVE mama! Thanks so much for the post! We are going to visit this camp ground & hopefully I’ll get a site with a private sandy beach to hang our hammock on! 🙂

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