Monday, June 11, 2007

I have sand in my shoes.

Warning: This is a long post. Bring snacks.

If there is anything I hate more than anything else in the world, more than world hunger, more than intolerance,
more than that insipid song "I hope you dance," it is getting sand in my shoes. I can walk on a beach --- barefoot. But once sand, shoes and feet become one if there is any little particle of grit it makes me as crazy as Ann Coulter at a gay wedding. Not rational, but adamant and angry. So, then you may wonder why this past weekend I agreed to go camping in the desert -- a place known for sand. One word: Ryan.

Ryan loves camping. He has all the stuff and has no problem just throwing his tent in the back of the truck and going. His motto is "if you didn't pack it, you don't need it." My motto is "if I didn't pack it, there better be a Target near by." It isn't that I haven't been camping before, I went several times in high school. I also went backpacking once, even though I have flat, flat feet and ended up walking bow-legged for a couple of days. The way my friends got me to go was by telling me that after we went backpacking we could go to a bar in Idaho where THEY DIDN'T ID!!! To this day I don't regret it. If I had lost a toe I wouldn't have regretted it. Ahhh, Molson... But I digress. I do that a lot.

Ryan had pretty much given up camping since he met me. I think he's gone three times in the past six years. That's like me only eating pizza three times in six years. That is how much Ryan loves camping and hasn't been able to do it. So, last Thursday, we packed up the truck and headed south.

When I saw the packed truck it reminded me how much I love my husband. He had packed everything I could possibly need -- and some things we would never need unless we decided to live outside. He had gotten all of our favorite salty and sweet and partially hydrogenated snacks and packed a dozen D
iet Pepsis in ice. He even had gotten camping bowls and filled them with food and water for Sally in the back. I felt I was in good hands.

We got on the highway and I fell asleep. Really. Two miles out I was gone. It just happens to me in the car. It's why we can't live any farther than we do from my office. But Ryan was just so happy I don't think he even noticed my only response to any question was "mountain" which, surprisingly, I seem to say a lot in my sleep. Weird.

My camping family.

By the time I awoke we were almost to our destination. Zion's National Park. Ryan had told me tales of their wonderful campgrounds with running water, showers, toilets and perhaps water slides. I was more than ready. However, we both forgot one thing -- other people like to go camping too. By the time we got there all the spots were gone. We tried a commercial campground that looked like something out of Disney -- but they wouldn't let us camp with Sally. Dog fascists. So, that left one place -- outlaw country.

Outlaw country is technically National Forest Service land set aside for this type of thing. They have fire pits and roads -- just no toilets. But when we pulled in Ryan asked another camper "do you know if we can have fires here?" His response? "I think this is pretty lawless country." I was finally the bad ass I always wanted to be.

Camp went together better than I ever imagined. Did you know they have tents that just pop up? Or sleeping bags that fit two people and a mangy dog? Or that you can drink wine while camping? I was delirious with wonder. And then something amazing happened -- I built a fire. Fuck you, Jack London. I had no idea I had this talent. I might actually change careers and become a professional arsonist. I mean -- check it out.

Ryan cooked steak, potatoes and corn. It was quite possibly the best meal I have ever eaten. Of course, I was hyped on sugar and a little weirded out -- so don't hold me to that. Sally even got her own steak -- which actually led to problems later -- but I don't want to get ahead of myself. We drank wine (out of a jug, after all, we were camping) and peed in the trees and laughed and told stories that no one else would think were funny, but we found them hilarious. I don't know what time it was when we crawled into out sleeping bag with our dog and went to sleep looking at the stars through the flaps in the tent. However, I do know it was one of the best night's sleep I have ever gotten. Of course, then I woke up -- and realized I had sand in my shoes.

I had purposely brought tennis shoes to avoid this situation. But the sand in our campsite was so invasive it had seeped it. And in the cold light of day with no wine and no stars I felt it acutely. I am a little ashamed to admit this -- but I actually went and sat in the car cleaning my shoes out while Ryan made breakfast. Yes, I will never win Mrs. America. But that's also because I like immigrants.

My mood was appeased when Ryan brought me bacon and rolls that had been fried in the bacon g
rease. It was like a bit of cholesterol soaked heaven. However, this was where the Sally problem came into play. There was no plate for her that morning -- just a bowl of dog food. She took one look -- and tried to bury it in the sand. After all, she was a steak dog now.

We packed up camp and set out towards the park to see the sites -- and to wash our dishes a
nd selves. We pulled into a campground on the premise of "looking around" and then jumped out of the car at the nearest spigot and turned to washing. After ten minutes and half a bottle of Dawn we felt brand new. Really, I felt like grease couldn't stick to me if it tried.

Our options in the park were limited because we had the dog. We could only go on one loop -- and even there hikes were limited. Still, it was beautiful and we got in a bit of hiking. I saw three lizards, two rabbits and a chipmunk on one hike. How much better can it get than that? I'll only bore you with one picture of Zion's majestic scenery -- for now.

We went to lunch someplace totally forgettable and then decided to head out into the back side of the park -- up towards Kolob reservoir. Here the hoards of tourists disappeared and a winding back road took us up to a gorgeous body of water. I asked Ryan as we were leaving if he wanted to bring his fishing pole, but he did
n't think there would be anywhere to fish. When he saw the huge Rainbow Trout he realized he should always listen to me. They were huge. They were so big there were signs advising fishermen to throw back anything under 18 inches long. After a short time sitting on the rocks and looking at the water Ryan decided it would be fun to go skinny dipping. I thought it would be too cold. He thought the water felt just fine. Oh, yeah, until he hit it. He emerged red faced and panting and ready to come out. And then he tried to convince me that it really wasn't that bad and I should try it. Yeah, right.

Before. Don't ask about after.

On the way back to camp I admitted to Ryan that I was dreading going back -- because of the sand. After he stopped laughing Ryan asked me why I could walk on the beach if I hated sand so much. And then it hit me -- I didn't have to wear shoes at camp either! I mean, really, who was going to care if my webbed toes were on display. Ryan has seen them -- and Sally has nothing to talk about with her wonky feet (she has six toes). Once that problem was solved I could relax.

For dinner that night everything was shoved on a fork and stuck into the fire. So, basically we had sausages and marshmallows. We offered Sally some of both, but she instead decided to find the one camp where steak was being served that evening and beg off of them. They did comment though on how polite she was as she gazed at them with her big puppy eyes and tried to suck her stomach in to show her ribs.

Steak couldn't touch the delicious invention Ryan and I cooked up though. Think of S'mores -- and now imagine them made with chunk Chips Ahoy cookies. Even better? Two marshmallows instead of one. In our sugar induced delirium we eve considered hitting the road to spread chocolate treat madness across the country. They were that good.

Overall, I had a really good time. Hitting the road with my husband and my dog, seeing beautiful sites and only brushing my teeth once were experiences I would welcome again. And next time, I just won't bring shoes. Problem solved.


Ellen said...

This makes me want to go camping! Sounds like a lot of fun!