My friend Lewis is the Children's Coordinator at a shelter in Menlo Park called Haven Family House that serves homeless families on the San Francisco Peninsula. During the summer he runs a camp for the kids living at the shelter and invited me down to participate in one of their day trips, this time camping.
I use the term camping very loosely. It could definitely be called camping in that we traveled to a state park, ate food prepared over a fire, and even went on a short hike. However, it in no way resembled the camping trips I took part in as a child. My mom is the Queen of Camping so every camping trip was an intricately planned event consisting of marathon grocery shopping trips, precise packing of the minivan, and strategic placement of tents. I mean, we weren't camping in the wilderness or anything (there were always public showers and bathrooms within walking distance), but it was as close to "roughing it" as I ever plan to get.
Anyway, when I volunteered to go on the "camping" trip, I assumed I would be herding a group of 80 kids around the woods. This sounded fun. Kind of. But mostly scary. Fortunately, Lewis squashed all of the fears when I arrived that morning. There were only 12 kids going on the camping trip....and 7 chaperones. What?! This would be nothing. I used to supervise twice that many kids in the library. We all piled into a small bus and made the very winding trip to Portola Redwoods State Park with only two carsickness casualties.
The park was beautiful! I don't know if it's because of my life spent on the Dakota plains, but I'm continually impressed by the size and beauty of the redwoods. They are just spectacular, even the relatively small ones. They are also extremely flammable as demonstrated by the roaring fires built by Lewis when we arrived.
While Lewis and I started prepping for our campfire lunch of corn on the cob, brats, watermelon, and of course s'mores (and yes, I made the obligatory Sandlot s'more joke), the kids and high school-aged chaperones started on a short, noisy hike through the trees. The kids, who returned from their hike hungry, devoured their lunch and I was reminded of how gross it is to watch kids eat. After lunch, we cleaned up our mess and made a quick trip to a nearby creek so the kids could take a dip (even though the water looked a little sketchy, not to mention cold, to me).