Baby’s first camping trip: An Element of Disaster

The camping group

We’ve been preparing for a while to take Maggie on her first camping trip, and our preparations were fairly in line with what happened and what worked. Here’s a story of our trip, mostly focused on the things that happened rather than on baby as she slept for three days straight on this trip.

Maggie’s First Camping Trip: An Element of Disaster

So we set out on Friday morning in our 2007 Honda Element with me, Maggie, ITmama, and a friend and were followed by another couple of friends also in a Honda Element loaded with our supplies (we called it the Element of Supplies) and headed toward Roan Mountain State Park.

ITMama and Maggie campingA little past Knoxville, having a sleeping baby for most of the trip, I noticed that my Element was pulling noticeably to the right, so when we stopped for gas I decided to check the tires. The right driver’s side tire was low, and I ended up using a tire inflator from the Element of Supplies on the Element of Disaster.

The tire held until we pulled in at our campsite and I noticed it was below pressure again (I have tire pressure valve caps so I can look from 30 feet and tell it’s low.) However even with a low tire in no cell phone territory I carry a 2 ton hydraulic jack and a full tire patch kit.

I jacked up the car, started removing the tire, and the whole thing collapsed. I thought the jack had broken through the – whatever the place you’re supposed to mount the jack at, I don’t know the name of it. Re-positioned as I had the wheel half off at that point, jacked the car back up and it fell again.

Maggie in the coldRoss, the driver of the Element of Supplies, noted that the jack was leaking oil and that there was no damage. So I went with the factory jack and got the Element of Disaster up and the tire off.

A plug/patch that was in the sidewall had done what plugs in the sidewall all will eventually do, it had failed. Slowly over the course of a 300 mile trip, a year and a half after the plug had been put in, it failed and leaked air out to 18PSI. I guess if you’re looking for a failure, that was a good failure.

I wanted to replace the tires then and there, they’re kind of worn and this seemed like a good time as any, but we were in a state park with no internet, no cell phone signal, hundreds of miles from home and right next to the child sex slavery capital of Tennessee (if not the US). I decided to re-patch it.

If you don’t own a tire patch kit, click this and buy one. They’re under $6. Even if you don’t know how to patch a tire, chances are someone you’re around may be able to. The patching was the fastest patch I’ve ever done. It took about 30 seconds, which is probably due to it being in an already established patch hole. Generally these take about 10 minutes of fighting with to get in.

Warm Maggie is Warm Warm Maggie is Warm Warm Maggie is Warm

Patch in, slapped the PSX-2 tire inflator on, filled the patched tire up, and put the tire back on. Lightly tightened the lugnuts, dropped the Element, tightened the lugnuts to secure (I thought,) and went about the first day of camping.

We decided to go on a walk on the Roan Mountain State Park trails. We picked one we had not been to which on the map appeared to be right across from the parking lot. Evidently that was not there any more. So we wandered around fairly lost and finally found a trail that was not suited for babies, adults, etc.

Fat paul is fatMaggie was in her baby backpack and as I recall looked around for a few minutes before deciding that the world was a boring place and sleep was preferable. I walked with her on my back and two hiking poles for extra balance because I’d done the trails at Roan Mountain before and remembered them being treacherous.

We got back a little before dark, which comes early when you’ve got a mountain and trees blocking the sun. The first night of 30 degree temperatures descended and we made our time by a fire with a baby who was alternately fascinated and asleep with our shenanigans.

We brought a baby prison with us, but ended up only using the pack and play for about 5 minutes the entire trip. Maggie slept with us on the air mattress in a snow suit basically, and spent most of the night snoring with her arms outstretched as, they sort of were forced that way by the cold weather gear.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen her sleep that peacefully. She slept through the night and on into the next day.

Jen, Maggie and ITMama at the Wooly Worm FestivalThe next day was interesting as we cooked up enough food to feed an army, ate it, and then went on to the Wooly Worm Festival (think organized two-day caterpillar race,) and cheered on random entries along with a couple hundred or so other spectators at any given time.

The day was fun, and we headed back to do some hiking. On the way back the Element of Disaster started making noises when I would turn or brake. I got out and couldn’t see anything. It sounded honestly like a tail had been pinned to the tire and it was slapping. Stopped and looked and still nothing.

Got back to the camp ground slowly, jacked up the Element of Disaster with the factory horrible jack, and discovered there were only four of the original five lugnuts left and they were all absurdly loose.

Maggie the opossum
Maggie meets Maggie the opossum

With the Element raised, I tightened as I had before and noticed that one of the lugnuts sort of stopped going in without a serious torquing. My guess was that I had tightened to that point before thinking it was about as tight as you got, dropped the Element, and then tightened with the tire in the wrong position and it didn’t push it back on as the Element is heavy. Don’t know. Tire did not have any more problems, but we’d burned through enough daylight it was camp time again, and a fun night was had by all.

That night brought Maggie being starving in her sleep. That’s not been a problem for the past few weeks, but I’m guessing the brisk 40 degree weather built up an appetite in the wee one. Several ounces of food as a snack put her back in her bundled-up-baby coma.

Day three Maggie woke up grumpy and we could not put her down. What should have been a two or three hour wake, cook, and break the camp down dragged on until after noon when we finally managed to get out. ITMama finally decided that it may have something to do with teething, we drugged her up with baby teething stuff, and about 20 minutes later the extreme grumpiness and hatred of being put down dissipated.

Carver's Gap trailheadWe broke camp, and strolled on up to Carver’s Gap to get Maggie’s first Appalachian Trail experience.

It’s kind of absurd how a 17.5 pound baby and a 5 pound 7 ounce backpack can wear you down. We climbed up hill one, and started on number two before other members of the party were getting exhausted, which was good because I had about seven more steps in me before it was time for me to call for a stop.

Wooly Worm shot Maggie at the North Carolina sign Maggie at Barley's

I at least got to look a little badass with my baby, who was snoring in her backpack most of the time.

Headed back, I think we only hiked for a couple of hours but it was fun. The trip back was uneventful except perhaps for stopping into Barley’s in Knoxville for a pizza, realizing we all looked like we’d stepped out of Ducky Dynasty (my hair was absurd, I was wearing short sleeved camo, one of our party had an American flag dolphin shirt, we’d all been three days without a shower) and telling the waitress that we’d been watching caterpillars race, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, and were from Nashville.

Definitely rednecked it up.

I have learned that babies can be perfectly happy in 30 degree weather, which I was worried about before we left and made many contingency plans. I have learned that Maggie loves being outdoors so she can sleep in new an interesting places. I have also learned to completely tighten at least one lugnut on the wheels before dropping the car down.