Wondering where we’ve been? I am usually a more prolific-poster but I took the week off with the family for a late summer vacation. For the past few Augusts, we have taken a camping trip. These started as ‘mini’ trips, a weekend away where we could get in the car and go, cook over an open fire and sleep under the stars (in a tent). Ainsley says our version of ‘camping’ isn’t really camping; it’s ‘sissy camping’. Camping for Ainsley means hiking in and really sleeping under the stars. That version of camping is not for me. Clearly.
I prefer what has become a modern phenomenon of ‘glamping’ which means glamour camping. The New York Times first covered ‘glamping’ in 2008, when the term started to enter the collective consciousness. There is even a glamping blog, The Glamping Hub, covering all things related to this adventure.
From my perspective, there is really nothing glamorous about camping, even glamping. Roughing it for me is living without a blow-dryer and fresh towels. But I am game if nothing else and for the past few years have come to actually enjoy these outings where I don’t shower for days and come home with the kids looking like orphans. What excites me about camping is the cooking. On our first trip I told Brett that I would go on one condition: I was the cook. I would choose the menu and be in charge of all the planning and supplying. I am weird I know, but I get excited about these kind of challenges. Most of the time, I do pretty well. I have earned my role as camp cook over time.
This camping trip was inspired by a recent cover of Sunset Magazine May 2011. I liked the look of that canvas tent. I could do that. The cottage on the front is at Lakedale Resort on San Juan Island. I had never been to the San Juans (I know! I know!) and thought this would be a fun new experience. However, that lovely cottage tent started at $275/night for the Standard (not even sure what the ultra-deluxe cabin with the bathroom in the sky…cue Jefferson’s theme song…would cost) and you still had to bring all your cooking equipment and food. They do supply linens though, which is a plus. They also had lakeside camping sites for $40/night and it really wasn’t much more effort to bring tents and linens, so that’s what we did. We loaded up the family truckster with all our gear and four kids and headed off to Wally World the San Juans.
That may have been our first mistake, but we didn’t know that as we all excitedly got on the ferry from Anacortes. I loved that ride. I love boats in general and anything near water. Brett and I started talking about how great it would be to have a boat on Mercer Island that we could sail to a summer home in the San Juans. (What can I say? We dream big.) Mind you, I hadn’t even set foot on the Island yet, but I was falling in love with the idea. (Of course, after camping at Kalaloch last year I was desperate for a home on the peninsula. How fickle is woman.)
Once we landed in Friday Harbor, we headed to the Resort. On the way there, we all did a double take at an animal on the side of the road. Really? Was that really a camel? When we decided to stop and check it out later in the trip, we met Mona the camel, a famous resident of the Island. She hangs out by the fence, next to her alpaca friend, and says ‘Hi’ in a camel sort of way to anyone who stops. We also learned that she has a taste for young girls as she got Ainsley’s arm between her teeth and had to be repeatedly hit on the nose to let her go, which she finally did with noisy protest. Fortunately she didn’t break the skin, but she left a good deal of camel slobber on Ainsley. And that was one of the highlights of the trip, which should give you a hint as to the rest.
We also visited Lime Kiln State Park twice with the high hopes of seeing some whales. No luck there, but the girls did explore the tide pools and had fun whacking each other with long pieces of seaweed. We left both times a little disappointed not to have seen any orcas, but glad to have seen the beautiful vista.
The other disappointment was the resort/campground. In comparison with our other camping experiences, this fell pretty far down on the list. For one, the campsites (we were in #3) are all very close together with no trees in between for privacy and none for shade. Our site had three scrawny apple trees, some reeds separating it from the lake and sat in full sun. Good thing we brought the canopy for the table. Another issue was that the site smelled like urine. Yep, pee. Not an appetizing smell for my cooking dreams. There was only one restroom for the site and it was a decent walk away. I can understand why people would relieve themselves behind the reeds, but man oh man, it stank. We walked around and checked out the canvas cabin sites and I am glad we didn’t dig deeply into the pockets for those either. Set super close together, they didn’t have the charm that the cover of Sunset gave them. I can’t comment on the cabins, but all in all, everything felt tight and more than a little worn. (A little like we were by the time this was over.)
And then there was my cooking disaster, for which I also blame Sunset. (Better than blaming the cook, you know.) From the ‘Chef’s Favorite Camping Food’ article, I planned on cooking the pot roast with summer vegetables, the bean and sausage stew and the cobbler (for which I substituted blueberries instead of peaches). This was my first foray into using a Dutch oven on coals and let’s just say I underestimated the heat generating power of those coals. The pot roast, which looked amazing half-way through ended up looking like charcoal by the time I served it. I could have cried. I think I may have cried. The bean stew ended up bland and the sausages looked unappetizingly anemic. The cobbler was a hit however, but how wrong can you go with frozen berries and pancake mix and a can of Redi-Whip?
Let’s just say that on the last night, we all sat around the campfire talking about the other camp sites we enjoyed more. And later Brett and I discussing a more civilized vacation next year instead of camping. And I, for one, am glad to be back on this Island instead of still on that one.