I realized that I never got around to posting a couple of our favorite stories from our trip out West last summer. First I was too busy getting all of the on-the-record, chipper-yet-professional-sounding reviews written for KidsOutAndAbout, and meanwhile everyday life kept happening and, let’s face it, I was slacking on the blogging for a bit. But here’s a story that the family won’t let me forget.
We spent two nights camping along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. First, I highly recommend it. It’s convenient and it’s so, so, so much cheaper than staying at the lodge. I understand that there are families who just don’t camp, and that’s okay, but then your North Rim choices are either: 1. plan more than a year ahead and spend a ton of money to stay at a really lovely place, or 2. stay in a nondescript motel that’s not super-convenient and will require a “commute” into the park for day trips.
If you are the type of family who camps, you can procrastinate, save money, and stay at a prime location, all at a facility that is likely one of the nicest camping set-ups you’ve ever encountered. Like a camp store that’s freakishly well-stocked.
And access to the rim, just a short walk away.
And cute little animals frolicking among the tents.
Prior to our trip, I was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to pack everything that we needed in order to go camping. I mean, when we drive an hour away for an overnight, it feels like we completely pack our car. But when you strip away the non-essentials, you really don’t need to take much extra to camp. I’d say that the only absolute camping-specific necessities are a tent and a sleeping bag for each person. For our family, that was essentially one duffel bag’s worth of stuff. We also brought along two hammocks and a pan or two. There were some items that we bought once we arrived, like food, firewood, and a horrifically environmentally-unfriendly Styrofoam cooler.
There were some items that we just lived without. Instead of pillows and pads to make ourselves cozier, we lined the tent floor with towels and bunched spare sweatshirts into pillows. It was completely, completely manageable. And delightful.
Except for one little incident, when I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Now, the bathroom wasn’t particularly far from our tent, maybe about half a block, if it were a neighborhood, and it was a straight shot through relatively clear terrain, with tall trees but hardly any shrubs or brush. My point is, you could step out of the tent and look over there and see the bathroom. When it was dark at night, a light offered a beacon to full bladders across the campground. So I stumbled out of my sleeping bag and tent and walked toward it.
It all went fine, thanks, and then I started walking home. I had a flashlight, but of course it was darker moving away from the lit-up facilities out through the sleeping campsites. I walked. And walked. And I started to feel a little bit chilly and impatient. And then I realized that I was walking downhill, and I knew that the terrain between our tent and the bathroom was flat. I’d started out in the right direction, but clearly I’d walked too far. Or something.
I don’t really know what happened. I think that part of the problem might have been that people who’d had a tent set up during the preceding day and evening had left after nightfall, so a tent I was expecting to pass wasn’t there, and then anything else I passed was jogged out of order. Of course, the shorter explanation is that I have a really crappy sense of direction.
We had been camping at site #68, and once I knew I was lost, I checked for the little signs to see what the closest campsite was, and it was something ridiculous like #32. Like, very far away. So I was full-on pissed now. Pissed that I have no sense of direction. Bitter that the rest of my family was snuggled up and sleeping all cozy in their sleeping bags. I’d thought that I might be able to get my bearings and just walk straight toward my tent, but that wasn’t going to work. I’d failed the “walking in a straight line” test already, and the truth was, I really had no idea where I was. So I had to strike out to one of the main roads and check the signs for my camp road as if I were arriving at the place for the very first time ever. It took a while.
Meanwhile, it turns out that I was wrong about the whole “snuggled up and sleeping” thing. Cute W noticed that I’d left. Then he noticed when I didn’t come back. Could I have walked to the rim to look at the stars and fallen off the ledge and into the Grand Canyon? He credited me with way more ambition than I had. Then he noticed that the side with the men’s room had lit up on its motion detector. So there had been a man. . . and now his wife was gone. So as I was stumbling around the dark, Cute W was coming up with disaster scenarios, and by the time I finally made it back to our little campsite, he was gone. Hunting for me. Or possibly my assailant. Or my corpse. He checked back pretty quickly–he’d abandoned the kids in his hunt so he couldn’t go too far for too long–and when he found me I thought that he might possibly break my ribs from over-hugging or burst into tears.
Okay, you guys. I was trying to remember how far away the bathroom cabin was, exactly, when I started writing this. And then I remembered that the whole family was totally laughing at me the next day, and I took a picture that would specifically show how unbelievably short the distance was between the bathrooms and our campsite.
And then when I found the picture, I was like, holy crap, that is way too embarrassing. I mean, that is ridiculous. Once upon a time I had a contest with a friend about who had the worst sense of direction, and she won when she told me that she’d gotten lost on the way to the subway station that she used daily that was located at the end of her block. And that chick was an ABD in chemistry at Columbia University, you guys. She was smart. So, you can be smart and have a poor sense of direction, right? So, here’s the picture. . . .
But wait, this reminded me of this really cool story about people who have an excellent sense of direction, so much so that they have a sort of GPS sense within them. I heard it on RadioLab. . . you can click the link and skip to about 11 minutes in for the story. Totally worth a listen.
. . . Oh, wait. You don’t want to go listen to a story.
You want to see how incredibly close this bathroom was, don’t you? Yeah, of course. Alright, here’s the picture from the picnic table at our campsite:
You guys, shut up.