Life Lessons and Campgrounds

“Powdered creamer is highly flammable.  I don’t recommend using it when you’re camping,” said Josh as he stood in our kitchen pouring real cream into his coffee.   

Josh, our oldest son, is our go-to-guy for gear advice as we plan and pack for our multi-month adventure in Wander.   Josh started taking backpacking and camping trips the summer after he graduated from high school.  Later he moved onto climbing/camping trips in Washington, Wyoming and Colorado.  Last year, just before he turned 25, Josh planned a backcountry climbing expedition to Alaska.  All of his pointers are based on personal experience. 

“How’d you learn that?” I asked, but Josh just shook his head, then waved his hand to indicate it’s not a story he’d like to tell. 

I understand his reluctance to share.  Our first week in Wander was a life lesson fest. We’re still trying to decide, if ‘what happens in the van stays in the van.’  Until we do, we can share a story or two. 

On our way home from Colorado I used the Rand McNally atlas to find and select campgrounds.   In Nebraska we stayed at the Mormon Island State Recreation Area.  That’s where I learned if you can see the freeway from the campground you can hear it too.   I wish that was the only lesson we learned that night.  

My family and most of my friends know that I’m a Fitbit addict. Although, I’ve made a solemn vow to neveragain join a stepping contest, I will walk over or around anything or anybody to hit my daily 10,000 step goal.  That night, after we paid our fee and pulled into our assigned site, I heard Joe mumble something about grilling sausages for dinner.  I still needed 4,000 steps, so I wasn’t really listening.  

As I fast walked through the campground loop, I watched the moon rise and reflect off a small lake.   What a great way to end a day, I thought, taking just a few moments “to commune” with nature As I passed by our campsite I did see flames shoot up out of the portable grill that Joe set-up on a picnic table.  I remember thinking, I do hope that is a metal table.

Once I reached the 10,000 mark, I returned to our site.  I noticed that Joe had moved the grill.  Still wearing my good mood in spite of the light rain now falling from the moon lit sky, I slid open the van door.  A wide-eyed Joe, took one look at me and said, “New rule, we both stay with the van until our campsite is set-up.”

 “What happened? Is the picnic table wooden?” I asked.

 “Yes, but that wasn’t the problem! I used lighter fluid on self-lighting coals and almost started the tree above the picnic table on fire.  You weren’t here.  I couldn’t find anything.  I singed my hair moving the grill.” 

 “Are you okay?”  

 “I am now.”

 Looks like waiting until dark is not the best time to try and reach my step goal.  Or maybe an even better rule is to set-up camp while the sun is still shining so we can see and evaluate our surroundings?  John from Tonto Trails, our man that knows all things about life in a camper van, did tell us to drive like a granny and park before dark.  Turns out his off-road advice applies to campgrounds within sight of interstate highways.