If you asked my kids about me working from home they might grumble about the stretches where they are so bored and I’m on my computer or in my studio and am absolutely no fun at all. They might say I say we will go to the river in one minute and it’s always more like 15 minutes. If you asked me about working from home I’d tell you it’s a family business in the truest sense. I’d tell you I try to get my work done in the early mornings but if I have things to do midday my daughters are mostly fantastic to have around while I work — sometimes super helpful and sometimes intolerable. They get bored and ask to watch a movie and I say no and then they figure something out, together. And I believe that figuring-it-out-together is a big reason they have such a close relationship. If you asked my kids about getting out camping with me midweek, they might tell you that I pull the car over when I pop into cell service so I can check orders and reply to emails and that is annoying and I take FOREVER. If you asked me I’d tell you that I am so grateful that I can work from my tiny handheld computerphone in between hiking to a waterfall and finding a campsite while they rock out to Lady Gaga in the backseat, dirty feet hanging out the window on a sagebrush-flanked road.
Last summer’s suffocating wildfire season has really shoved us all to seize the moment this year. I feel it, just like everyone else I know. There’s no taking for granted a warm, sunshiney day. There’s no let’s go next weekend when we could go now. Hard as we might try, I don’t think we can ever forget the oppressive smoke that settled in our valley, ash raining from the sky. Disorienting and mountainless views, shadowless world. Waking to our kids’ raspy coughs at night, our home smelling like a campfire despite the HEPA filter’s hum in the hallway. No relief. No rain. No outdoors. Stuck.
I had a window on a Tuesday and I took it, tossing our gear into the car, loading up and heading out. Our first stops were a bust: tents pitched in all the places we wished to pitch a tent. But my girls know this story well. The ending, so far, has always been the same. We find a great place to camp. It’s there, waiting for us.
In fact, our most dire experience of no-place-to-camp and the sun setting and my kids melting down is one of their now-favorite memories. Because of ramen.
This was several years ago. I bet they were 4 and 6 ish and we camped a few nights on our way to Yellowstone and then we got to Yellowstone and everything was full. All campgrounds, all surrounding secret stashes were full. All motels were full. They were over it and I felt guilty about my non-planning ways. I decided to call the KOA one more time (I had called everywhere in the park and outside the park several times because cancellations always happen) and – lo – a site had just opened up.
By all accounts, we’d won the lottery with our tiny sun scorched square of earth wedged between two motorcyclists and an RV. I’d been scouting spots where we could pull off and sleep in the front seats of the car. The night was warm and sticky. I had a sinking feeling that our air mattress had a hole in it but I blew it up anyway. Dozens of kids squealed on bikes and on foot down the dirt roads that bisected the campsites into a perfect grid. I pitched our tent in the middle of the carnival and settled in for the night. We met all our neighbors — people traveling from every corner, all landing here, on this night.
The air mattress did indeed have a hole in it and my aching back was really eager to get up and get moving the next morning. We had planned for a day in the park and the next night in Cooke City. But the family two doors down had a daughter named Jasmine and she invited the kids over for soup.
This Next-Level Cup of Noodles. My girls still talk about it all the time. Jasmine’s family orders is by the case from Japan. I’ve looked and googled and cannot find it. It seems this instant soup only exists in this story and it gets more delicious each time it’s told.
We weren’t nearly as desperate last week and we found a site pretty quickly. We landed at Holland Lake — not the remote experience we’d set out for but absolutely spectacular none the less. And potable water is a major bonus. Add in SUP rentals? Score.
We were all thrilled that we got one of the best sites in the whole place for a tent: right on the edge of the campground with an expanse of forest behind us. I smiled quietly at my girls’ enthusiasm for the location. They know what I look for. “Mama, the perfect hammock trees!” “Mama, look! There’s a ton of kindling over here!” “Mama a flat spot for the tent where we can look up at the ponderosas!” It was private and quiet, the perfect amount of sun and shade. No cell service. I immediately began scheming how we could stay two nights.
We swam in the frigid snowmelt, wondered about lipstick shades, overcame a fear of sunken logs, finished Island of the Blue Dolphins, listened as birds sang to the hammock’s metronome, washed three forks many times, built and enjoyed beautiful fires, navigated the disappointment of peed-on pajamas, snuggled close in sleeping bags and talked until our eyelids wouldn’t let us anymore.