Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thrift Store Conventions: Camping

This post is truly off the beaten path. Enjoy.

I have a theory. On the last day of school, districts across the country slip teachers, parents and children a specially-designed sleeping potion. It’s produced in uncharted New Mexico, probably near Area 51. It could be in the punch at end-of-year picnic, in an undetectable mist, or in mechanical mosquitoes that juice you up. After receiving a dose, we go to bed feeling exceptionally tired. We sleep heavily, and have a series of dreams that make for an entire summer. The next morning is the first day of the next school year. I think schools made a deal with the rest of the world for continuity to their scheme. This is done make to us believe there is a reprieve from the grind. They call that reprieve "summer."

So summer is merely a dream. I realize there are a lot of holes in my kooky theory but I’m certain many of you are nodding, thinking, “That explains a lot! Like how me move from Memorial Day to Labor Day in a blink! Yet we cover a lot of ground before we get to the New Year.” So, I might be on to something after all, no?

Here we sit on the eve of Labor Day, and because I was sleeping, I was unable to write a post on thrift vacations where my family wanders through pristine wilderness and pays next to nothing to do so.

What is available in the bank usually dictates what is a vacation. This recession has landed on my family like Dorothy’s house landed upon the Wicked Witch of the East. Though we didn’t fall into Oz, I sometimes wish we had because all I’d need is a bucket of water to blast that evil witch and get her bat monkeys off my back. And, don’t they go to a spa in the Emerald City?

I had a “dream” my family took a 4th of July vacation that cost us nothing but the gas to get there and back; groceries (we would have needed anyway); a few cups of joe at our favorite coffee stand on THIS PLANET; a Frisbee; and one dinner out. Oh yes, I purchased my $3 vintage mohair wrap and vintage earrings for $6 mentioned in the previous post "Have you been claimed?" Not bad for five days of vacation.

For those of you who don’t camp, I’m adding pretty pictures to carry you along, so you don’t leave me. Come, be an armchair traveler to the backcountry of Colorado.

The five-hour drive from Denver to Crested Butte is a vacation in it’s own right, weaving along mountain streams; up to a plain touching 10,000' where antelope freely roam, surrounded by snow covered majestic 14,000' peaks; up to Cottonwood Pass which becomes a winding dirt road; down through a tiny canyon of red rock; and off to Jack’s Cabin Cutoff to land on the fringes of the small community of Crested Butte. The ski resort is up on the mountain and is not visible from the town. I like that. Resorts are a dime a dozen in Colorado. It's nice to feel like you're actually visiting a town, a community.

We camped about 10 miles outside town on a dirt road on Brush Creek with Teocalli Peak well above 13,000', heading off the valley. (Above is the view from our campsite near sunset.) Teocalli is reminiscent of Colorado's famous Maroon Bells near Aspen. This is not surprising because Aspen is not far as the crow flies from Crested Butte, but it’s one heck of a long car ride. You can hike it or mountain bike to Aspen via Pearl Pass but it ain’t easy.

I’m guessing by now you’re thinking, this is all lovely but “Show me the thrift!”

To really do up a happy camping trip for four to six nights with a family, you need A LOT of gear. Purchased new, this can add up to a quick thousand, easily two and on up to three. My family is completely fitted for the outdoors and much of it is owed to thrift stores. Anyone who has shopped an REI or EMS knows that outdoor clothing is expensive, but a must for serious campers. Regular cotton fabrics are no-no’s. Get them wet, you’re uncomfortably wet for hours (or days) and you'd better hope that it’s not cold, because then you’re wet, uncomfortable, and cold and that’s NOT good.

Yes, it helps to live in Colorado, I find all elite outdoor gear clothing in thrift stores and it usually sells for $3.99 to $2.99, doesn’t matter if it’s adult or child. There are flashlights, Nalgene bottles, stoves, air mattresses (for le car camper), tools, daypacks, pots and pans, coolers, stools, folding tables…all cheap. And, say you get that stove home to test it and it’s a flop. Thrift stores are easy on returns, just save the receipt and get back in ten days. For items like tents and sleeping bags, go to used sporting goods stores. They sell sleeping bags in thrift stores but generally not the kind you want for outdoors.

Acquire all this, and you now have access to supremely inexpensive, wonderful vacations for years and years to come. I’m not joking. My mummy sleeping bag is 30 years old. This stuff is good and sturdy. Our tent literally blew down the side of Medano Pass while we were away for days. But, that’s another story, a real whopper.

Many of you might not view camping as a vacation. I say a vacation must meet four criteria: 1) the biggest decision is what’s for lunch and dinner; 2) you don’t know the time or what day it is; 3) you can sleep in - but don’t because you can’t wait to start the day, and; 4) you want to extend your stay. For me, that’d be camping.

The frequency of bickering between my daughters drops down from about a gazillion times a day to one to zero when we camp. There’s something about being outdoors that puts one’s soul to peace. Look at the photo to the right. Is that love or what?

When camping you find yourself doing unexpected things that contribute to trust in the family and builds self confidence and esteem. Imagine how much trust was being offered up in the photo to the left with Daddy Golightly carrying Little Pie across freezing cold white water. Imagine the trust I had to stomach. Then the celebratory aftermath of how brave everyone felt, including myself for not freaking out.

The photos should provide enough description as to what we did on our thrifted vacation. The girls are laughing above because I just flung a cow chip on the fire. It smelled very herbal. As for Labor Day, I believe we'll go a bit north before we turn into the mountains for yet another family adventure that costs us some gas and a bag of groceries.


Better After said...

Hi there! Just hopping around blogland and landed on your lovely blog! THought i'd say hi!

Saver Queen said...

Another fabulous post. Just love your ingenuity when it comes to having fun and spending time with your family - the things that matter. Your children will remember and treasure those memories for the rest of their lives. You will be grateful for those moments for years to come, perhaps even thankful that hard financial times brought out your creative spirit and lead you to take such interesting trips. I'm sure grateful for time that I spent in nature as a child with my father... they created precious memories and an ongoing love and respect for nature as an adult.

PS now I want to visit Colorado!