Who Knew Camping Was So Complicated?
“Grammy, I love canoeing! Why don’t we do this every day?” Milo asked as we lazily floated down the quiet river in our green canoe.
“We should do this more often. It really doesn’t get better than this,” I said.
When we first started off in our canoe, I could not figure out how to make our canoe go straight. We spent 30 minutes going in circles and banging into the sides of the river bank. But, I finally got the hang of things and we were (for the most part) now on tract. It was a beautiful day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and I was expecting to get at least ten miles done before stopping for the night.
The water was crystal clear and we could see all the way to the bottom of the river. Different colored river rocks lined the riverbed and the sunlight sparkled all around us. “Look, Grammy! A turtle!” Milo exclaimed. He grabbed his binoculars so he could get a better look at the turtle.
“And listen to the birds!” I said. “We are in paradise. It is going to be really hard to go back home after this adventure.”
We continued downstream, in awe and admiration for the sights and sounds of nature, for about 30 whole minutes. That’s when things started to change.
Milo was about to swap his binoculars for his butterfly net when he turned to look at me. “Um, Grammy?”
“What is it dear?” I lazily asked.
“Did you hear that?”
“That sound … there it goes again.”
That’s when I heard a rumbling sound. That couldn’t possibly be thunder, I thought as I glanced up at the clear blue sky. “Don’t worry, Milo. Maybe it was just a truck on the road?”
Ten minutes later it became quite clear that the noise was not coming from a truck.
“Grammy, look at those dark clouds!” Milo exclaimed while pointing at an approaching thunderstorm.
“This is no big deal! We can handle this. Staying calm really helps when you encounter a problem in life. Don’t be afraid. Just believe,” I said, unsure of if I was trying to convince Milo or myself of this.
“Grammy, the storm is getting closer! What are we going to do?” Milo asked, with a look of terror in his eyes.
“I am going to get out my map and find the nearest campsite. We can get off the river there and stop for the night,” I said. I calmly rummaged through my backpack looking for the campsite map.
“Aha! Here it is!” I said with relief. I finally found the map crumpled up into a ball at the bottom of my bag. “Let me see. I think we are about here. So, it looks like the next campsite is only a few minutes downstream. We should be able to make it before it starts to rain.”
Of course, as soon as these words came out of my mouth, it started to pour. “Ahhhhhh!” Milo screamed. He picked up his backpack and tried to use it as a shield against the pouring rain.
Meanwhile, I grabbed my oar and started paddling as fast as I could. “Everything is going to be okay, Milo. Just hang on tight and we will be off the water soon. Don’t be afraid! Just believe!”
It turned out that the campsite was farther away than I thought. When we finally reached it, we were both soaked to the bone. After paddling as close to shore as I could, I jumped out of the canoe and dragged it onto the riverbank.
Looking around, I spotted a giant oak tree not far from us. “Milo! Go stand under that tree and get out of the rain,” I instructed.
I attempted to tie our canoe to a tree trunk but it was a bit difficult with rain streaming down my face. Finally, I was satisfied with my knot, so I ran to join Milo under the tree.
Luckily the storm passed quickly. But, not so luckily, everything we brought with us was completely soaked. I laid our things out to dry in the emerging sun, doing my best to avoid the puddles and mud. “I guess we should have brought waterproof backpacks. Oh well, you live and learn, right?” I said.
Milo squeezed water out of his khaki shorts and shook his shoes upside down. “I did not know my shoes could hold so much water,” he said, laughing. There seemed to be a never-ending stream of water pouring out of his shoes and splattering on the ground by his bare feet. When the water finally stopped, he put them back on his feet.
Squeak, squawk, squeak, squawk, squeak, squawk. Every time Milo took a step, his shoes sounded like a group of mice frantically trying to finish a block of cheese before being discovered in the kitchen by the house cat. He walked around, examining our soaking wet things. Squeak, squawk, squeak, squawk. “I’m hungry, Grammy.”
“Me, too. Let’s check our map. Maybe there is a general store nearby where we can get some dry clothes and hot food,” I said. I reached down to pick up the map from the bottom of the canoe where I had thrown it in a panic during the unexpected thunderstorm.
“Oh, nuts,” I said as I examined our map.
Searching my face for an explanation, Milo asked, “What’s wrong, Grammy? Did you lose our map?”
I held up a dripping wet piece of paper for Milo to see. “No, I did not lose it. I have our map right here. There is just one slight problem. As you can see, it’s … RUINED!” I yelped.
“That’s just a piece of paper, Grammy. That’s not a map,” Milo said. He frantically searched through our things, flinging wet socks, underwear and pillows every which way.
“Honey, you can stop doing that. This definitely was the map. The rain must have washed the ink away. I can just make out the letters at the top of the page,” I said. I blew on the map so hard that my face turned bright red and I almost fainted from the effort. I was hoping that if it dried maybe the map would magically re-appear. But, it didn’t work.
“Is the map made of disappearing ink?” Milo asked optimistically.
“Do we have another map?”
“Again, unfortunately I have to answer, no.”
Water dripped down Milo’s face, arms, and legs and his clothes were utterly and completely soaked. He looked like an unhappy wet dog that just got out of the bath. “We are DOOMED!” Milo roared. His words echoed off the surrounding hills and scared a flock of birds out of a nearby tree. They thunderously flew past us, squawking out of fear.
“I think those birds just gave us a mean look!” I said, trying to lighten the mood. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”
“That’s what you keep saying, Grammy.”
“I tell myself this when things happen in life that I was not expecting, or if something seems scary, or I am unsure of what to do. I think we should try it out. So, whenever we encounter any trouble on our trip, though I am sure we have passed through all of our bad luck, we will reassure ourselves with these words of wisdom. That way, we will be able to handle anything that comes our way. But, don’t worry. What else could go wrong?”
I crumpled up the unusable map and put it back into my backpack. I made sure to stuff it all the way down to the bottom of my bag. “Out of sight, out of mind. We don’t need a map anyway. Besides, tomorrow is a new day and we can figure something out,” I said reassuringly.
I picked up our wet tent from the ground and shook some of the water off of it. “I will set up our tent. Then, I will start a fire so we can make s’mores. Everything is always better with s’mores, right?” I yanked the tent out of the tent bag. “At least the tent seems relatively dry!”
“While I work on this, why don’t you have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” I suggested. I tried to shake some of the water out before handing Milo the dripping wet food bag.
“I should be done with this in no time,” I said. I took out all the tent pieces and spread them out on the ground. “Milo, have you seen the instructions for the tent?” I vigorously shook the bag up and down hoping the instructions would magically come tumbling out.
“Nope, I haven’t seen them.” Milo took a giant bite of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Even though the bread is a little wet and mushy, I have to say, this is the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich I have ever had!”
“I am so glad you are enjoying it,” I said, trying not to sound annoyed.
Apparently, I didn’t do a very good job at hiding my annoyance because Milo immediately picked up on my mood. With his face covered in peanut butter he said,
“Remember, Grammy. Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”
I turned my back to Milo so he wouldn’t see me rolling my eyes. I searched and I searched and I searched for the instructions. Guess what? I never found them. So, I had no choice but to figure it out on my own. After many hours and many more temper tantrums, I finally got the tent put together.
“Milo! Good news! The tent is up!” I exclaimed, while stepping back to examine my handiwork. Milo didn’t respond so I went to look for him. I found him playing near the river. His buckets, shovels, and beach balls were spread across the sand, leaving very little room to walk.
“Grammy, I just saw a fish leap out of the water and fly all the way from here to there!” Milo cried. He pointed to some lily pads floating nearby in the river.
“Really? That is so cool! I have never seen a flying fish before. I hope we get to see … WOW … there it goes!” I cried, as a fish flew through the air as gracefully as a bird.
We watched in silence as the flying fish glided effortlessly right in front of us. Neither of us moved an inch until it became clear that the fish had moved on and was not coming back.
“Nature is amazing!” I said.
“I can’t believe how cool that was!” Milo exclaimed.
“I have something to show you, though it is not nearly as amazing as the flying fish. I finally got the tent up! Do you want to come see it?”
“Really? You got it up? Let’s go check it out. Can I set up my sleeping bag and buddies?” Milo asked. He grabbed his favorite stuffed panda bear, porcupine, and woolly mammoth from his backpack and took off running. He abruptly stopped a few feet from the tent. “Grammy … um … isn’t it a bit lopsided?”
“Oh, that’s just because we are on a hill,” I said. I pulled on the side of the tent that was sticking straight up into the air and tried to get it to look a bit less crooked. “As long as it keeps us dry, who cares if it’s slanted?”
Milo unzipped the tent and dove in head first and I followed with our sleeping bags and pillows. Milo laid his orange sleeping bag and pillow on the ground. Then he arranged his stuffed animals so they would be ready and waiting for him at bedtime.
“This is the first time I get to use my new shiny blue sleeping bag,” I said. “It is going to be sooooooo comfortable. I picked it up from the camping store the night before we left. I didn’t even have time to take off the price tag.”
Looking puzzled, Milo said, “Isn’t it a bit small?”
“Maybe it’s still folded up,” I suggested. I yanked on one end of the sleeping bag and then switched to the other end. Neither side budged.
Examining the tags, Milo laughed, “Grammy, this sleeping bag is for toddlers!”
“What? No, that can’t be right!” I said, as I took the price tag from Milo. Sure enough, in big, black, bold letters it was clearly labeled toddler size. “This is great! Just great!”
“Remember Grammy, don’t be afraid …”
Interrupting him, I said, “Please, don’t finish that sentence right now.” I stuffed my legs into my sleeping bag. No matter how hard I pulled, I could not get it to go past my waist. Finally, I gave up trying to fit into my teeny sleeping bag and instead wrapped my body in the crinkly, wet, and cold tent bag. Laying down, I felt like a garbage bag full of stinky wet garbage. “Here’s hoping for a great night sleep!” I said sarcastically.
Judge Birdie and The Meltdown: A children's book about The Golden Rule and the importance of kindness is now available on Amazon. Perfect for readers grades 2 and up who love a fast-paced illustrated story filled with humor, action, and life lessons. Judge Birdie and The Meltdown is the second book in the Judge Birdie series, but it can also be read as a stand-alone.
Set within an exciting outdoor adventure, Judge Birdie and The Meltdown takes a close look at The Golden Rule and the importance of kindness. If you enjoy mystery and adventure books like the Adventures in Odyssey, The Green Ember Series, and the Magic Tree House, then you will love Kirsten Usman’s exciting, action filled series.
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