So by the time we got up to the campground, the waves had left snow caps on the mountain tops all around our campsite. We were surrounded by twisted Ponderosa pine trees. The mountains brooded over clouds that scudded by, dark and dripping with rain. It was beautiful, bone-chilling, but it got better.
Friday was as full as expected. We had a ton to do, so we just did it. John and I packed up for the camping trip, and I put together all the dyes for the tie-dyeing setup. John also got together a bunch of the things that we needed to dye with and to keep the kids more or less undyed. The dyes had to be mixed and put into squirt bottles, and there were five different colors. Each color had mildly different mixing instructions and I had to figure out how to make it so that the bottles would come out even, too.
It was cool to look up the instructions and figure out what to do.
We packed up the van with all the camping stuff and all the dyeing stuff, had some lunch and then went to Jet's school. While I went to fill the buckets with warm water in order to dissolve the soda ash in, and when I went, the rain poured down, hard. John had setup some paper outside, but there were big puddles on it by the time I came back.
It was still raining when the parent helpers came out with all the shirts and we stuffed them into the buckets of ash solution. We built a bunch of smocks, got the gloves out and the moment the kids started coming out of the classroom the sun came out again. Then we cycled through fifty second graders in an hour and a half. It was pretty impressive. It was really good we had two other parent helpers, as we were able to go through them pretty quickly, everyone just jumping in where the kids needed the most help. It stayed clear for the whole of the time the kids were out, and got so sunny and hot I had to shed my sweater.
That was really good.
The kids managed to get them all done right before the bell rang and the rain started again as we were cleaning everything up. All of them were able to get home on time, no problem. The teachers said that all the kids were really happy and thought it was the coolest thing ever. The parents that were doing the washing up of the shirts, after, said that they were happy to get some advice on how to do it. Finally, given that the rest of the dye wasn't going to last forever, they gave us the last of the mixed up dyes to do with as we wish.
So we stopped by home, dropped off the dyes, all the dyeing stuff, and Jet's school backpack and everything. Then we headed up into the mountains, through waves of rain.
When we got there, it was cold and windy and raining on and off, so we got the rain fly up above the picnic table first, and then put Jet's tent up in between waves of rain. I put extra layers on, but both of the boys stayed in their shorts and t-shirts. I even had to hide in the leeward side of the cars for a while just to get out of it. The bathrooms were pit toilets, nicely maintained and lit at night; but completely unheated as well.
There's always this point in time, when I go camping where I fiercely and completely mourn everything I left behind. It's this time when I hate just everything about where we are, what we've left behind. I wanted, for a fierce hour, the heat of our home, the shelter of our house, the food in our pantry, the entertainments at home, the bathrooms that I could go to without standing in line and being half-frozen by the wind.
Dinner helped. The family sharing our campsite got a bit pot of vegetarian chili going and that helped immensely. Then quesadillas and all the kids were fed, and that helped a lot, too. Jet just went and played with all the other kids at all the other sites, and I brooded alone for a while, but there were so many things to do to set up the site, our beds, the food, the cooking area, and everything else, that I finally got out of my funk. It always amazes me, a little, that everything can fit into the van along with us, and it all expands into so MUCH stuff. The chairs by the campfire were comfy and warmer. And after one rain gust, it started steaming. I added wood, and blew on it with my limited lung capacity, but managed to get it going again, pretty strongly.
Watching the fire helped, too. I always love watching fires. And when the full moon came out between the black trunks of the pines, it was huge and glorious and so bright and so close it almost looked like we could touch it. Then we heard the bugling of the elk, the low cry of owls, and I suddenly realized just where I was and I settled to enjoy it.
Good thing too. The night was so cold (turned out to have nearly hit freezing where we were) it was nearly impossible for me to sleep, especially with the whole breathing thing still kind of going on in the back of my head. I think my own fears and thoughts made it worse than it was in some ways, in other ways, knowing WHY I felt like I wasn't getting enough oxygen made it relatively simple to just breath harder when I did wake up and get more. So it became almost routine. I'd just wake up from lack of air, consciously take a lot of deep breaths fast, and feel better, and then go back to sleep again.
Saturday was something of a blast. We all just had breakfast in our various ways, packed up lunches, and then all drove to a picnic site and ate lunch. A bunch of young ducks found us, and bothered the kids' table for food and it was very cute seeing the ducklings all around the feet of the kids, that is until one started trying to steal Jet's sandwich from his hands and he got bit at least twice by teasing them with it. Hopefully that taught him something about teasing them with his sandwich, but I never quite know.
Then all the families and over a dozen kids between five and ten-years-old went on a five mile hike out to a particular part of a river where it pooled by some huge rocks. It was about two and a half miles out and two and a half miles in, and the kids did great. It was really funny to have lots of people giving us really bemused looks as we all straggled past them. But it worked really well as all the parents watched out for all the kids, and with their friends there, the kids didn't stop. They just kept going and no one asked to be carried or anything. That was pretty impressive, especially for the two five-year-olds.
We got to see huge tumbled boulders, a stream that meandered by the side of our trail. There were trees in the rocky face next to us. There were berry bushes and bear scat, elk traces and chipmunks.
The walk itself was pretty level, with some uphill going out and some downhill going back. We had a snack break halfway up and one at the pool. But the hike back was really, really fast, and at one point we saw a huge buck elk with more than a dozen points to his rack eating in a meadow with a cow. There were three other cow elk in another meadow and suddenly we all heard that whistling bugle from another bull. His head went up and he and the cow looked around to see what it was that was calling. It was all framed by a grove of high altitude aspens that were just starting to show the faintest hint of yellow.
The colors are going to be spectacular, just not quite yet.
We managed to get back to the campsite at about 5:30, and John and I made dinner for our crew. Just mac and cheese and hot dogs and a veggie saute with zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and peppers from our garden. It was really tasty when it was hot, and the kids snarfed down all the mac and cheese.
Then, as it got dark, there was one huge gathering of all the kids, all the marshmallows, Graham crackers, and Hershey's bars all in one place, and we had a HUGE s'more cookout with everyone that wanted to do anything. It was great, an hour's sugar mayhem and it was all over. I was really pleased to actually have given out an entire bag of marshmallows.
It was much warmer on Saturday, but Jet decided he wanted to sleep with us. So we rearranged everything in the van, and out of the wind we got good and warm and slept better against the cold. But I felt like a hot dog in a package, all squished against both my boys, so that when I had to turn around, it was harder than I wanted. But it worked out pretty well. The next morning was pretty lazy, too. Pancakes for breakfast and the steady work of tearing everything back down and packing it up to go. It was fun watching the ravens and chickadees moving in on the grounds to clean up after we were done.
All three of us woke up with a head cold. Probably something we'd caught the previous week, and it only bloomed when we were out in the cold and up high in the dry. We weren't miserable, but we were all pretty obviously sick.
Everyone else went on a hike, but we were pretty much done by the time lunch time rolled by and they all rolled out. So we headed down and stopped in Lyons at Oscar Blues and ate there. The burgers were divine, and the fries and root beer floats even better. I even got sweet potato fries. *laughter*
Then we unloaded everything when we finally got home, and all jumped into the hot tub just to relax sore muscles after everything else we'd done. Showers for everyone and clean clothing and I got caught up a bit. Then we hit Noodles and Company and I had chicken noodle soup for dinner, that really hit my sick spot. And I'd found a coupon for a free LikeIt sized ice cream at Cold Stone, so the three of us went there for dessert.
A spot of homework for Jet, some catching up on the computer for me, and then I put Jet to bed, reading Winnie the Pooh stories. They are a really fun read, and Jet loves them a lot as Christopher Robin is just about his age, now. It's perfect.
So we're home and sick, but recovering. I don't miss the 100 yard walk to the restrooms, but I do miss the mountains and the pines and the wind through the branches. I do miss seeing the ravens soar in the drafts and the sound of the elk making their first moves towards their mating season antics. It'll be beautiful when the mountainsides go up in a blaze of gold.
This morning, when walking Jet to the bus stop, we saw the trees in the neighborhood were starting to turn. Gold and reds and oranges, soon all of old Longmont will be ablaze. It should be a fun fall...