OK, Night Two is actually the one at the end of Day One, so I have to start there. Oh, yeah, I have to start there.
Thursday night, Thanksgiving night, all of you were rubbing your tummies and picking turkey from between your teeth, complimenting mom about the great pumpkin pie and being thankful for fill in the blank . And we were being thankful that all the sleeping bags and other items were now dry and ready for a second go at camping, as well as for the good food and fun day of hiking and seeing nature at its best. All good things to be thankful about, full bellies, happy times with good people, life is good. Ahhhhh.
The evening was chilly. We had expected that. The forecast was for temperatures in the upper 30s and lower 40s for Thursday and Friday nights. We all gathered around the campfire again, warming our toes and tushes close to the fire as the temps crept down. The kids roasted marshmallows again, with the added pleasures of Hershey's chocolate bars and graham crackers! And this time several adults joined the fun, including myself. I had three marshmallows, roasted to perfection. Kirk did the first one, and I learned that he likes his the same as I do, toasty brown on the outside, puffed up BIG, and almost liquid inside. I did a couple more myself, and I succeeded in not dropping them into the fire! Yay, ME!!
I decided to go to bed fairly early that night. By 8:30, the air was already very chilly, and I just figured it made sense to get into the sleeping bag before I was really chilled. And I was tired, not at all exhausted, but tired. Besides, the "young folk" might like some time to themselves without someone's mom hanging out. So off I went with the dogs.
I actually fell asleep rather quickly. As the night before, the babies were both beside me, wrapped up in a comforter. I didn't try to put them inside the sleeping bag because China is always hot and panting, thanks to the Cushing's Disease, and Ali just doesn't like being confined. I woke in the night, no idea of the time, and found that they both were shivering! Poor babies! And it was, indeed, very chilly outside the sleeping bag. Inside, I was cozy as a bear in hibernation. So I decided to see f I could get them to go inside the bag with me. I unzipped the bag and lifted China in, putting her between my calves while I rearranged for Ali. She wasted no time ... she scampered to the very bottom of the bag and curled up into a little ball! Hmmm. Guess she was cold! Then I pulled Ali in, cuddling him next to my stomach and chest, allowing him to have his nose near the opening, and zipped up up. I thought I'd probably have to rearrange and/or let them out at some point. I wondered how I would keep them warm if they insisted in getting out of the bag, but decided to cross that bridge when it arose.
Some time later I had to go to the bathroom. WHY on this cold night????? I crawled out, covered the kids, and trudged to the bathroom. It was cold, but I was OK with my jacket over my fuzzy jammies. When I returned I was surprised to find that both dogs stayed where they were, inside and warm! And they stayed there all night long, not willing to challenge the elements again!! Keep in mind I clip their coats short in the summer, but I've been letting it grow out since August, and their coats are thick and protective now. But apparently not enough!
Morning rolled around, and I crawled out of bed around 7:00. It was really cold, and I didn't want to get up, let alone put on those cold clothes! I remembered what we did when I was a child and lived in Colorado, in a big old house with no heat on the second floor where the bedrooms were. We had choices: (1) Grab clothes and run downstairs where Daddy had built a fire in the big coal/wood burning cook stove and the pot-bellied stove, and dress next to the warmth of the fire. Yeah, not gonna happen here. I ain't barin' my butt to dress next to the fire in the campground!! (2) Dress really, really fast and endure the discomfort of cold clothing. Admittedly this uncomfortable sensation lasts just a few moments, but not a happy option, never the less. And since I can't stand up in the tent, dressing wouldn't be "quick," anyway. (3) Pull clothes under the covers, allowing them to warm for a bit, then dressing in the warm bed. OK, my best alternative, but dressing under quilts and blankets as a child was easier than dressing in a sleeping bag with two irritated, sleepy dogs getting jostled around. Somehow I got clothing on and was OK, but didn't avoid getting chilly air or material against my skin several times. Whew. It was done.
A couple other adults were out and groggily staring at the firewood. There were still hot coals, so it didn't take long, with some leaves and pine needles to help, to get the fire blazing again. And what a relief!! It was colder than a well-digger's a..... It was really cold!!
I'm sure the cold was relative, but it was uncomfortable. My plan to layer worked well, but is there ever enough to make one comfortable when one's day starts with acrobatics inside a sleeping bag with two dogs and cold puffs of air indelicately caressing one's most personal body parts???? I think not!!
Soon the coffee and breakfast burritos softened the edges of my angst. I felt almost human again, if not completely happy. Everyone was up by this time, the kids eager to do "stuff," and the adults deciding what was the plan of the day. It was decided that they would go visit some "nearby" caverns. "Nearby" meant an hour drive. OK, now I'm game for adventure, but I've been in the car a lot over the past four weeks, including the 5:48 hour drive here (in reality, it was about 7:30 hours with all the necessary errands!) and I just wasn't in the mood. I would have loved to see the caverns, but .......
I stayed and kept the dogs, including Mai Tai, with me. I kept the fire going (should I be dramatic and say, "I kept the home fire burning"? Ah, but that phrase is likely lost on most of you), walked the dogs several times, worked sudoku and puzzles or read, all day long. It remained cool throughout the day, so the dogs were happy to stay in the tent a lot while I sat by the fire. When they did come out, they wanted to sit next to the fire, too. And sat, we did!
Some of the camping neighbors dropped by to say hello, to see the dogs, to compliment me on getting the whole campsite to myself so cleverly! Nice people, mostly Floridians and a few Alabamians(??). BTW, the Panhandle of Florida has another name. I have friends who live in that area, and I commented to them that it didn't seem like most of Florida to me, and they laughed. No, they explained, people in that part of the state often refer to it as "Lower Alabama." It was a pleasant day, quiet, and except for the breeze and smoke, just what I needed. Actually, dear readers, I'm sorry to tell you that this was a relatively boring day. sighhhhh.
The one excitement of the days was when Ali and one of the neighbor's dogs decided to go at it. Ali was testy with other dogs all weekend. The vet says that being on a leash puts him in the "one down" position; someone else is in control. He, therefore, has a tendency to try to prove he's tough, the top dog, if you will. So he and the other dog got nose to nose at the meeting of our two camp sites without either of their owners realizing they could get that close. I grabbed his leash and yanked him away, and the other dog's man did likewise. However, as we were so preoccupied with these two dogs, little Mai Tai decided to come to Ali's aid and she tore into the dog like a banshee!! Mai Tai weighs about nine or maybe ten pounds. The other dog was a mid-sized mutt, probably about forty or forty-five pounds!! Well, while holding onto Ali's leash I tried to grab Mai Tai's, and managed to pull her away, too.
The guy was astounded that the tiny puff ball that is Mai Tai jumped in like that! He said, in that unmistakable Alabama drawl, "Whoaaa! She's a spitfire, isn't she?" I put my dogs back in the tent for a cool off, and talked with the man who was very concerned about their well-being. I assured him that they were just fine and apologized for their behavior. He said who knows what started it and not to worry. We agreed that we should both have been paying more attention. Fortunately all were leashed. One of these days Ali is going to get into something like that, proving that he is the big kahuna, and he is gonna get really hurt. Up until the camping experience, he has done amazingly well with all dogs along the way. I'm careful about walking him at rest stops where there are other dogs. Somehow this just threw me for a loop.
The wind blew most of the day. It wasn't a hard wind, but enough to stir the smoke in every direction. Admittedly, most of it went one direction, so I sat upwind from it, but it swirled into my face from time to time.
The direction it blew the whole time we were there was into the tent area. Of course, it did! Keeping the tents zipped helped, but it didn't stop the infiltration of smoky air into the tents, the sleeping bag, the clothes, everything. (Terri even noted this morning as she got ready to leave with the kids that the car was smoky smelling. It was parked across the trail, twice the distance from the fire as were the tents.) And frankly, by this time, I was beginning to feel the effects of it. My eyes felt irritated most of the time, my nose was itchy and dry, the nasal passages raw, and my sinuses were beginning to cough as if they were smoking cigs up there in my head! Alright, that's an exaggeration. They weren't coughing, just wheezing. I'd been taking my allergy med, and I can't imagine what it might have been like if I hadn't. As it was, I was blowing my nose with uncomfortable frequency.
When the kids (everyone under 60) came back they had cool stories about the caverns. As I said, I'd liked to have gone, but the caverns need to relocate themselves about 30 or 45 minutes closer, thank you very much. But they had a good time and rubbed it in my face that the caverns were actually warm inside, enough so that they had to remove their jackets. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever.
We had dinner and sat again around the campfire, because you didn't want to get too far away. It was cooling off again. Another cold night ahead, but reportedly not as cold as last night. It was supposed to be four degrees warmer. Again, it is all relative. And this is Florida for goodness sake!
I chose again to turn in fairly early, 9-ish, I think. So the babies and I went off to bed and slid into the sleeping bag. The smoky sleeping bag. China, again, snuggled down in the foot of the bag, and when I started to put Ali next to me, he struggled against my efforts. I thought he was going to sleep outside the bag, but to my surprise, he turned around with his tail toward my face! I thought, well, this might be a problem, my little furry friend; but he scooted down in the bag and wrapped himself around my knees! Alright!
Sometime toward morning, they were both wanting out of the bag. Both were panting, so obviously, they were warm enough. I unzipped the bag, and they came out, stretching out on the comforter beside me. I pulled it up over them after they got cooled a little so they wouldn't get too cold. There they stayed until morning.
OK, now, I'm as willing to try unusual things as the next person, but by now the fun of it all was beginning to fade. I'm filled with smoke, have been chilly the bulk of the time, getting tired of crawling on hands and knees in and out of the tent, hunched over from dressing/undressing in the confines of the tent. And did I say I was tired of the smoke? Oh, OK. We have made it through Friday night. Is it time to go home? Is it time to go home??
Yeah, it is. After coffee and breakfast, we began the packing process. Oh, but wait! I'm getting into Saturday morning, Day Three! OK, you have to wait for that!!