As a kid our family used to go camping quite a bit. Between tent camping and the old camper with bunk beds we saw most of Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. There were four of us, my parents, my brother and me. There are pictures of me as a baby getting a bath in the camper sink and my father still tells the story of the 20-inch trout he caught that I threw back in the river because it was dying on shore where he left it for a later meal.
I want to give my own spawn these same memories. I want to create my own horror stories that I retell over and over, hopefully to my own grandspawn someday. On Memorial Day weekend, while my publisher was away on a mental health sabbatical, I decided to load up the spawn, the cousin-spawn, a dog and a truckload of supplies and head up the Boise River. I tried to make reservations at a campground a week ago but what was I thinking? Memorial Day weekend? How naive was I?
We drove up Highway 21, taking a right which led us past Arrowrock Reservoir, and took our chances on finding a spot by the Boise River. There were surprisingly few campers in the campgrounds and a few spots were actually available. Unofficial camp spots along the river were only 25 percent occupied and we settled in one just below the Loftus hot springs.
I had learned a few tricks about camping with kids from my own father. One, bribes to do camp chores work. Two, keep the spawn hungry and the bribes work better. Three, stories about bears and bigfoot keep them from wandering too far from camp. Four, bring extra clothes for the spawn, especially when camped near water. Five, as best you can, keep track of any camp tools the demons escape with. Six, it’s better to help the spawn go number two in a hole in the woods than suffer the consequences of telling them to go for it. Seven, fire burns. Eight, a separate sleeping area (tent) for the spawn is a necessity. Nine, dirt and sand will get everywhere so get over it. Ten, you can’t eat too many marshmallows. Eleven, do not change your dog’s diet by feeding them leftovers. You’ve still got the return journey home. Twelve, you have to remind the spawn to move out of the campfire smoke plume. Thirteen, escape camp on a short walk at some time without telling them where you are going. This reminds them that they need you to get home. Fourteen, never feed them anything you won’t mind cleaning up after regurgitation in the car. Gummy bears: no. Bread: OK. And finally, bring lots of paper towels.