The Dungeon of Spit

“Oh we don’t need stakes. It’s not going to rain.”

Rookie mistake. The sound of rain pattering on the tent is a lovely sound; the sound of rain pattering inside the tent not so much.

We went on our first camping trip of the summer last weekend. I’ve always wanted to go to the Dungeness Spit, a 300-foot wide spit of sand, logs and birds stretching five miles out into the Straits of Juan de Fuca. My 5-year-old thought it was called the Dungeon of Spit.

As we pulled into the campground I was reminded, once again, that going camping is always worth the effort. Big trees, quiet, the smell of the sea, campfires companionably glowing at other sites.

We got in just before dark, so quickly set up camp (hence the ill-advised staking decision). The kids stood on the picnic table looking out over the gray ocean as we brushed teeth. Brushing teeth outside in the cold dusk is worth the effort of going camping.

I woke up to rain and puddles in our tent. I stayed put, smashed between the kids on the completely deflated air mattress, so that I wouldn’t miss their faces when they realized they were waking up in the tent. “I told you it would rain,” my 5-year-old announced, as if there hadn’t been an 11-hour gap from our conversation before we fell asleep.

That first cup of coffee made over the begrudging campfire (I find the camp stove alarming and won’t use it) is always worth the effort of camping.

Other than staking the tent, there was nothing we had to do for the day. No chores, no errands, no demands. Nothing scheduled. The rain stopped mid-morning and we hiked down to the Spit. Someday I’ll hike out to the lighthouse five miles out. This trip, we got about 100 yards. So many rocks to throw, so little time.

“What are we going to do for the rest of the afternoon?” my partner asked after lunch. And then promptly fell asleep, pathetically curled up on a camp chair in his damp sleeping bag.

And I thought about the benefits of being bored. At home, I’m always doing something. Even when I’m doing nothing, I’m doing something: reading, gardening, thinking about gardening, checking email, yelling at children. When we’re camping, I’m really doing nothing: just sitting somewhere beautiful and being.

It makes me feel different. Calm. Expansive.

The kids are never bored on camping trips. They spent most of the afternoon building a mud castle with a moat and drawbridge, decorated with flowers and ashes from the fire pit. Nothing better than dirty kids on a camping trip.

We fell asleep that night to the sound of golden eagles fighting or playing or whatever eagles are doing when they tutter in that sweet, incongruous small-bird voice.

I got up early on Sunday morning for a run. I had no idea what time it was, except that the campground was asleep and the air and sea were still gray. The puppy and I ran along the high bluffs over the ocean. Some of my favorite life moments have been on quiet runs on camping trips (albeit tinged with my fear of being eaten by a bear); those runs are always worth the effort of getting out of the warm tent and being in the morning woods by myself.

After breakfast, my partner and I began slowly packing up while the kids played in the woods. “You’re jolly today,” he said. (Jolly?)

And that, I thought, is the benefit of being bored.

Note to anyone thinking about going to the Dungeon of Spit: The Dungeness Spit is a wildlife refuge, so too many rules for our demographic: no dogs, no jogging beyond a certain point, no picnicking beyond a certain point, no taking sticks or stones home with you. Great for birds and birders, which is as it should be.