It’s easy to get caught up in our daily life. Work, school, doctors appointments, grocery shopping, meal prep…it really goes on and on. And the day-to-day of life in America becomes such a routine and feels like such a necessity to maintain, that we lose sight of or miss out on the things that we enjoy or make us happy.
Vacation is really a life-saver. It gives us permission to carve out time for ourselves and each other and let go (at least partially) of the constant stream of responsibilities. That’s why our family enjoys camping. It’s a perfect way to disconnect from the business of everyday life and screen time (email, social media, news, TV, etc.), and reconnect with the essentials. When the focus is shifted solely to spending time together, relaxing, playing, enjoying nature and being outside, eating, and sleeping…life almost becomes easy.
Wow. We’re back in Fresno. What a day. It’s always a little weird waking up in one place and going to sleep in another, even if it is home.
Yesterday we did make it up to the kilns with our extra hiker, Luna, and she and Keana continued where they left off on our hike to the falls, singing made-up songs together and making plans for staying in touch once we all went our separate ways. Maia really was pretty much done, so I carried her on my back in the Ergo. Good exercise for me and I was even fine in my Vibram five-fingers.
After the hike, Luna’s parents welcomed us with fresh cod sautéed in lemon and butter and then we all headed down to the beach, with Anya in tow as well. And it was a perfect beach day. We played, talked, got some sun, and even saw a seal just barely off the shore. It was pretty spectacular.
After the beach, both Aliya and Maia were very tired and upset (i.e. tired out), and Keana was rearing to go to Luna’s camp as soon as she could. Aliya eventually crashed on my shoulder while Sarah navigated Maia’s needs through dinner. Then Maia and Keana headed off into the forest for a “parting ways banana s’mores party” at Luna’s camp. We decided to wake Aliya from her late nap so we could all go, and we were really glad we did. We all had fun making bananas filled with marshmallows and chocolate chips, then roasted them in the fire. The kids played and roasted marshmallows while we visited some more with Ayan, Liza, their friend Liz, and Cindy (Anya’s mom). They were very gracious hosts and we left feeling very fortunate to have found such friendly, kind, open, and like-minded people while camping.
Maia would not be parted from me for bed time, so she and I stayed out and closed camp for the night, which was pretty cool because then she got to see more stars since it was way after 9 by the time we were winding down.
Today the kids woke up mostly with a sense if excitement for heading home, but Keana, especially, was sad to leave the friends she had made. Maia was the most ready to get back to civilization and all our creature comforts, which made her the most helpful packing up as well. Keana got one last visit with Luna, and Aliya just played in and out of the car while continually asking for Mentos. Overall, Aliya really had an excellent attitude the entire trip, and was the most easy-going of the three, even though she’s just barely three.
We got packed and on the road by 10:30ish, had breakfast at the Whale Watcher Cafe in Gorda, then continued our journey back to super-hot Fresno. The heat basically sucks, but the one good thing is all our equipment dried out in two seconds.
I’m not going to lie, it was not an easy trip. But sickness and meltdowns aside, we thoroughly enjoyed being at the beach and in the redwoods, recharging in many ways apart from normal life. Having time together as a family without the interruptions of the every day is so important, and connecting with new, like-minded people that were easy to hang out with really feeds us in another way too. As it is with the rest of our life, this vacation tested us as parents and individuals, and I wish I could say we hit home runs every time. But no one does and I feel pretty good knowing we did our best and many things were much better than last year’s camping experiences. I’m pretty sure we’re making mostly positive, unforgettable memories for the kids, and look forward to many more wilderness adventures.
10:58: 3% battery on this phone. Headed to Lucia for breakfast this morning, BUT NO BREAKFAST SERVED. Blargh. Got snacks and beans at the store but definitely a big disappointment. Maia seems to be doing okay, but is really just holding on I think. Keana ran into the forest camp sites to play with Luna right after breakfast and now I think we may mobilize for a little hike up to the Lime Kilns. Going to be a perfect beach day too, methinks. Hoping there’s enough battery for a recap tonight…
Then I went to Luna’s camp. We colored a design. Then I borrowed a sweater and a pair of pants from Luna. Then we colored by the fire. Then we went on a hike with Luna. We made up a song and saw fairies! Then we came to the kilns. Then we took a picture. Then me and Luna went on the trail. We talked about what we could play and what Luna was having for lunch.
Then we had lunch with Luna. We had cod for lunch. Then I borrowed Luna’s camelback. We played scuba divers and there were sharks chasing us! Ania joined us and we went to the beach. We had a snack and then we got on top of a BIG rock. It splashed Ania and Luna. Then I went the bathroom. Then we warmed up and went on the big rock again. Then we played in the waves and saw a seal. We named it Sammelcece (Sam-ul-see-see). Luna held on to me when a big wave came. We both got very wet.
Then we went back to the blanket. Luna’s mom gave me a persimmon and I guess it was a persimmon! Then we played camels on the sand. Then we played camels in the water. Then before we knew it it was dinner time. I had tacos and Orangina for dinner. Then I went to Luna’s camp where I found Luna and Ania relaxing by the fire. Then I came and sat down with them. Then we carried Xavie like he was the king. Then Luna’s mom put Xavi in the tent. Then we played Queen. Luna was first, I was second, and Ania was third. Then we saw Xavie escaping from the tent! Then we played horsey and Xavie bit me very hard on the back. Then we made banana boats. While we waited we roasted marshmallows. I caught Luna’s and my marshmallow on fire! I got the burnt ones and Luna got the not burnt ones. Then I tried the banana boat and didn’t like it. Then I went in the tent and told stories. Then Luna walked me back to my camp site. I undressed and went to sleep.
Well, yesterday ran away and I didn’t get back to write (obviously). Maia was still feeling pretty sick, so she watched a movie on the Kindle in the tent, Aliya and Sarah napped, and Keana and I had a nice little hike exploring the forest and Hare Creek. We spent most of the rest of the day on the beach yesterday since the weather was absolutely perfect. We also made some friends, too! First we met Ayan, Liza, their daughter Luna (7) and son Xavi (2), as well as their friend Liz. And of course Luna and the girls hit it off instantly and were off to play amongst the waves, rocks, and seaweed before they even knew each other’s names. Then another little girl slowly gravitated across the beach towards them as they ran from waves, and slowly folded into the pack. Her name was Anya (10) and we met her dad Chris (an engineer/contractor) and her mom, Cindy, who happened to be a teacher who went through the San Diego Area Writing Project summer institute last summer. Quite a small world indeed. So the kids played and the adults visited throughout the day.
I think one of the highlights was when the girls had collected seaweed for about an hour then decided to make dresses out if it. Luna took the roll of designer, though they all seemed to have a vision. Keana was eager to be the first model and immediately Aliya wanted in on the action. So as the older girls dressed each other, Sarah tended to Aliya making her a little seaweed hula skirt with a seaweed head dress. As usual the adults were all staying their distance from each other until our kids basically forced us together. But through this forced interaction we discovered cool things about the people around us. Like the Writing Project connection with Anya’s mom (Cindy) and the fact that Ayan was in the restaurant business, and happened to be a former owner/partner in the Blue Ribbon chain if restaurants in New York. They were also in the process of scoping out Northern California because they were looking into moving from Boulder to here, so we got a chance to hear about their plans and offer what little knowledge we had about Berkeley and surrounding areas.
So the kids set a plan to have a picnic together at 09:00 today and it was just about that time when Luna came down from the forest to visit. We ended up feeding her breakfast and then they were off, back to the beach. It’s tough to let them be free but also keep them fed and safe (i.e. sunscreen’d, out of poison oak, and in bed before they totally melt down). And that is how last night ended: Maia in total melt down. She eventually was able to say she wanted to go to the car, so I took her and we talked. We were able to figure out together that it’s hard camping because of all the unknown variables. When she doesn’t know what’s going to happen or *how* things are going to happen, it causes fear and having to navigate all the different variables throughout the day really wears her down. Not to mention that she was still recovering from being quite sick. I think being in the car helped her get back to a familiar, enclosed, safe place and we were able to work through some if the issues, or at least better understand them. I also reassured her that we can always go home which was comforting too, even though she really didn’t want to leave. There’s a lot of complicated things going on for Maia that she’s struggling with, but really, she’s doing a great job figuring out what it is that’s upsetting her and communicating that. Even if it happens after a melt down.
But today was good. Lots of play time with friends, they had their picnic by the river in the forest, and we took Luna on a hike to the waterfalls with us. They all had their walking sticks, sang songs along the way, and even Aliya hiked on her own. We had to do some lifting to get up and down from the waterfalls, and I was bummed that I forgot a camera. But we enjoyed dipping our feet in the pool beneath the two falls that were pouring down from 200 ft. up. On our way down from the falls, trying to find a smoother route down to the trail with Maia on my back, I climbed down small crevice formed from a large log wedged against a couple boulders. When I got down and signaled up to the others to follow, I saw a pretty large garter snake coiled up in the crack we had just traversed. Needless to say, we found another route for the others, but it was cool to be able to show the kids a real snake in the wild. Then it was back to camp, knowing that we needed to get a jump on dinner.
Part of what Maia and I agreed on the night before was trying to keep dinner and bedtime closer to normal time so she could count on something. Luna’s parents weren’t back from town so she had dinner with us and they played a little more on the beach after. There was the beginning of a meltdown as we got ready for bed, but Sarah suggested I put Maia on my back in the Ergo and that seemed to settle her down. So Maia was my backpack helper for closing up camp for the night and it was pretty cool, really. She had comfort and had someone to talk to and sing me songs. She was almost asleep by the time I was ready to head in and Keana and I have been writing since. Maia and Keana are now catching up on the facts about ticks and plans for tomorrow. Sarah’s given one annoyed “aren’t you guys done yet?” so I guess I better shut it down. Till tomorrow…maybe…
Then we put on real clothes and went to the secret island. We had nectarines, a chocolate bar, crackers with honey, and sandwiches. Then we payed explorer. Then we went the bathroom. Then we went to Luna’s camp. We played on the tent pole and Luna got the highest. Then we went on a hike with Luna. We made up songs on the way there. Then we climbed up to the waterfall. We saw a worm that loved the water. Then we hiked back.
When we got to the camp sites, me and Luna ran to the bathroom. We saw a huge daddy-long-leg. Then Luna came over for dinner. After dinner we went and played in the sand. We played mermaids and humans. Then we went back to camp and Luna forgot her Camelback. Then I had three more tacos.
9:58: Woke up this morning a little before 8 and everyone was healthy! Maia made it through the night without being sick. Quick breakfast today: cereal. Really nice having minimal prep/clean-up, buuuuut, 10 minutes after finishing, Keana says, “I’m hungry, I need a snack.” So it was really a breakfast of cereal, salami, cheese, and crackers.
After breakfast, while Sarah and I sat looking at the ocean from our “front porch,” it hit me (again) what a huge strain it is having just one sick child. Maia’s part of our team and we need her in the line-up! Aside from having to do extra care and cleaning when she’s sick, her presence amongst her sisters is really an important factor in harmony for the whole family. So while we were talking, Aliya came over and said she was tired and wanted to go in the tent. She was distracted throwing rocks for a minute, then started brushing her teeth and headed for the tent. Sarah’s in there with her now and I think she really is going back to sleep. Now to see what adventures Maia, Keana, and I can stir up…
Then my friend Luna came and wanted to play. We said after lunch. I had some bread and honey. Then we headed up to Luna’s camp. We climbed on rocks to the creek. Then we decided to go to the beach. We climbed back and asked if we could go to the beach. They said yes. Luna put her swim suit on. Then we went to our camp and put our swim suits on. We went down and set up our towels. Then we played sharks. Then we went to the beach. We played on the castle rock. Then we ran in the waves. Then we started to collect seaweed. Soon, a girl named Ania joined in a became my friend. As soon as we collected a whole pile we decided to do a fashion show. We dressed myself up in seaweed first. Then we dressed Ania in seaweed. Then we made a hole called a toilet.
Then we buried Lunda’s brother in sand. Then we laid down and a big wave got us and Lunda’s brother. Luna’s brother was unhurried and taken care of. Then we decided to go river climbing. When we were climbing I fell in. Then we went back and played in the ocean for a while. Then we decided to rinse off in a secret pool. Then Ania and her mom went back to camp and Luna came with me to my site. She went to her camp site to get ready. Then I took a shower. Then I sat on a rock and waited. Then I made quarter stacks and had a snack. Soon later Luna and Ania came. We carried Maia up by making a chair with our arms. Then Luna had to go so me, Maia, and Ania went to camp site 17 to explore. On the way we saw a snake. Then we planned a surprise picnic for Luna.
I journaled during our camping trip using an app on my phone (sans internet access) for most of our trip, however, this first day I didn’t have time to get down. So this is a post-adventure recap, but the rest that follow were written while on our trip.
It might have been a record getting out of town, only 30 minutes later than we planned! We packed the Thule skybox the night before so we were halfway there. It’s amazing how all the little things add up to a lot of time when trying to get out of your house for the week—last cleaning of the cat boxes, fresh water, food; taking out the garbage/recycling; closing all the windows/doors/garage; instructions for the person watching the house—doesn’t sound like a lot, but I swear just those little things add at least an hour.
But we got on the road and spirits were high until just outside Paso de Robles. That’s when Maia began feeling sick. In the back of mind I worried that we had finally reached the point when one of our kids started being car sick on long rides. Then again, Sarah, Aliya, and Keana had just had a nasty stomach bug, so…we pulled over once going over the hill to Cambria, stopped in Cambria, then just after the windy part of the road started, Maia lost it. I’d have to say that kids puking in the car is one of my worst nightmares. Hate. It. But she did pretty good and sadly threw up a few more times in the last 45 minutes of the car ride.
We (luckily) got an “overflow” site at Limekiln though, right on the beach and under the bridge, and got to work setting up camp. It was definitely one of the least stressful camp set-ups in Team Hokama history. And since we got there so early in the day, we even had time for the beach, though it was a little foggy.
As dinner approached, it was clear Maia was not just car sick. She had gotten whatever bug her sisters had the week before. I was also feeling a bit nauseous, but attributed it to having to deal with cleaning barf pans (though Sarah handled handled most of the hands-on stuff in the tent).
So, unfortunately, the exciting start to our camping adventure was clouded a little by poor Maia not feeling well. We went to bed hopeful that it would pass quickly so she could start having fun with the rest of us.
Keana also wrote each day to capture her adventures, so I’ll be including excerpts from her writing as well. Here’s a little something from Day One:
I woke up tired today. As soon as I got used to it I tried to wake up Papa. He said, “Give me till 8:00.” So while I waited, I played horses. Then I played with Aliya for a little, then finally, Papa got up. I got dressed and went outside. Papa put on the bacon while heating the water. Then I had a piece of bacon. Then Papa put on the pancakes. Aliya got half a big pancake and I got the other half.