It started with a "Daddy, I don't feel good" before we even got to camp. (And by camp I mean the KOA in Great Falls, which I know doesn't even qualify as camping to some of you, but we needed an easy place to meet up with my family and this was it.) Andy pulled over JUST in time for Simon to fling himself from the car and puke in the gravel on the side of the road.
It was all downhill from there.
We pulled into Site #6 at the KOA and stepped out onto a way-smaller-than-it-looked-in-the-pictures grassy area covered in dog poop. Right where our tent was supposed to go. You know what else was waiting for us where our tent was supposed to go? A yellow-jacket nest. Before I could even get the dog poop cleaned up, the horrible, vindictive buzzing creatures had zeroed in on the most vulnerable among us: poor Simon.
While Simon wailed in pain over two stings to the neck, I frantically tried to find some ice or something to give him. Why hadn’t I packed Benadryl cream? I’m a horrible mother. Then, another scream pierced the air. My sister-in-law limped over from neighboring Site #7 bleeding from her foot. She had stepped on - of all things - a tiny American flag pin laying on the ground pointy side up.
We’d been in camp less than 20 minutes.
The first night was miserable. Every hour the sound of my brother’s air pump whirred through camp as he re-pumped his air mattress, because it, too, had been punctured by the American flag. (This is the price of freedom, people.) Then, every time one of the kids had to get up to go to the bathroom…guess what? They couldn't get into the stupid building because the code on the door wouldn’t work. Not to mention that the man in Site #5 snored so loud we thought there was a landslide, and the drip hoses strewn willy-nilly all over the ground squealed like incoming missiles in the quiet of night. Needless to say, no one got much sleep.
So we were all exhausted the next day. But we were together, and that’s what camping is all about, right? Spending time as a family away from TV and cooking implements and clean sheets.
We spent most of the day at the Electric City Water Park in Great Falls and returned to camp with high hopes of having a better night. After all, we figured out how to shut off the squealing hoses, we stuck a rock in the bathroom door so no one would have to pee their pants, and my brother patched the hole in his air mattress. Things were looking up.
Then, in the wee hours of the morning, what was this? What are these strange sounds? Is the KOA being invaded by hostiles? Nope. A church group had come bright and early to set up a day camp in the field next to our sites, of course. Because the only logical place to hold a Bible camp is in the middle of a KOA while people are sleeping.
Did I mention the automatic paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms did not, in fact, automatically dispense? And that there was an overweight squirrel casing our supplies every time we turned around?
Anyway, our third day at camp was very strange. Everywhere we turned, there were little kids in matching neon green shirts doing crafts and singing about The Golden Rule. The hot tub at the KOA splash park was about as warm as the Gallatin River. And we caught probably a hundred yellow-jackets in the traps we set up.
But that wasn't the weirdest part. The weirdest part was that so many helicopters were flying back and forth directly overhead that we went to the KOA office to use their Wi-Fi so we could check and see if we had gone to war with North Korea. I am not joking. We thought World War III had started and we had missed it. We were relived to discover there was an Air Base nearby practicing maneuvers. Then we discovered someone from a neighboring site was working against us to keep those wretched bathroom doors closed. We didn't know who it was, but every time we stuck a rock in the door, they would come along and kick it out.
A mystery was definitely afoot.
And we had two more nights to go.
(click here for Part 2)