Over the 4th of July week, my family took a quick trip to Shaver Lake. Where is Shaver Lake you ask? A fine question and one asked by my wife as well when I informed her that we would be vacationing there after the 4th. To get to Shaver Lake one need only drive down to Fresno, turn left and head a couple hours into the mountains. Eventually you will hit it. And thanks to the wonders of cement and structural engineering, voila!, Shaver Lake was formed, further fueling the markets for beer and jet skis.
After a mere two days at Shaver Lake, my wife concluded "I don't think that I'm cut out for camping." Now I could have told you that Pamela was not cut out for camping the night I met her (perhaps that's unfair -- after all, we did meet at a wedding -- how outdoorsy can you be at the Claremont?). But the thing is, she came to this conclusion after three days and two nights in a designer chalet with cable TV and DSL. Admittedly, our DSL was down the whole time that we were there, but I hardly think that counts as camping.
Perhaps the problem was that Pamela equates camping with the great outdoors. And the outdoors was a little too great for Pamela's liking. That said, I'm sure it would have felt less like camping if the great outdoors had managed to stayed out. But we had a few too many incidents of animal visitation in our brief stay. One afternoon, as I was unpacking the suburban camping vehicle, I heard a scream from inside the house -- "David, there's a giant rat in the toilet." Had she said, "David, come fetch the baby field mouse out of the toilet," I may not have run as quickly. But a "giant rat" sounded quite threatening. So I sprinted inside to rescue my wife from the perils of rabies and giant fangs (you know what good protectors we Jewish men are). When I arrived at the rat infested toilet, Swiss Army Knife in hand (I was going to philips head screwdriver him to death), staring up at me from inside the bowl was a very small, very wet, field mouse. I traded in my Swiss Army Knife for tupperware and evacuated him to the nearby woods. The mouse quickly scurried back underneath the chalet -- living to swim another day.
I suppose it is unfair to paint only Pamela as the antithesis of rugged and outdoorsy. I demonstrated my own shortcomings as a naturalist. Rather than fear of tiny little rodents, however, my own pathetic display took the form of self immolation. And I wasn't even building some grand camp fire to roast marshmallows with the kids. I was merely lighting the barbecue. Only, I'm a gas grill kind of a guy. These briquettes are pretty tricky stuff. It turns out that when I re-doped the graying charcoal briquets with copious amounts of lighter fluid, the grill's failure to instantly re-ignite was not an indication that I had applied an insufficient amount of fluid to the grill in the first place. But I took it as such, and added a bunch more. To make matters worse, rather than lob a lit match into the kettle from afar, I leaned in to re-light the briquets directly. Bad idea. As I placed the newly lit match into the drum, the entire barbecue ignited with a hiss. In the blink of an eye (thank goodness I blinked), I was Michael Jackson (minus the added petroleum-based substance on my hair). My bangs sizzled and frayed. My eyelashes singed. And my self respect moon-walked off the porch.
As we drove away from the chalet, heading back to civilization, we discovered that we are not the best mountaineers in the world either. While we managed to muddle our way through a string of complicated directions to get up to the lake, when it came time to use the same directions to navigate backwards, we couldn't quite get our act together. Asking directions from a gas station attendant in Clovis, it struck me that perhaps next time we should go camping at the Grand Californian.