Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nerd Camp V

Every year, a group of our friends gets together for a weekend-long camping trip. We call it Nerd Camp. In 2005, the first year we did this, there were 10 of us, and the original intent was to play a game of Dungeons & Dragons while camping. The game never took place, but getting together and eating, drinking and sleeping our butts off did. Now, five years later and with twice as many attendees, Nerd Camp has become a three-day party tradition. Nerds and non-nerds alike converge on an unsuspecting state park and proceed to wreck havoc on approximately one acre of protected woodlands. When we leave, we leave behind no trace of our existence.

We have never camped in the same spot twice. At first, I was trying to find us the perfect spot. Stumpy Meadows was infested with mosquitoes, Black Butte was too hot and had no trees, Salt Point was too cold (for me), Clear Lake just sucked all around. Now, I think I’m just on a pilgrimage to visit the group site of every State Park in California.

This Year, we stayed at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park in Calistoga, so far, my personal favorite. Even though it got pretty warm during the day, it was a beautiful spot with lots of trees and hiking trails. The nights cooled down to a pleasant temperature and we were not harassed by park rangers for being too loud, which we were.

Kortnee and I and our respective dudes showed up at the campsite first, picked the perfect spots, and commenced with the drinking. As the camping crew trickled in, so did the revelry. The only thing we managed to accomplish on the first day was setting up camp, drinking and eating- exactly the way it should be.Andy slaved over a hot grill for hours and produced the perfect New York Strip for 10+ carnivores. I made a pot of vegetarian chili and Kortnee made her famous Campfire Balls. Of course, no camping trip is complete without the obligatory S’ more. My Ol’Man toasts the marshmallow to perfection! He is a S’ more aficionado.

The next day was Saturday. We woke up late and ate a delicious breakfast of French toast with Brioche and fresh fruit that our foodie friend Taryn made, num. While ccoking up eggs and bacon for the meat eaters, Andy experimented with heating up some leftover stake in the bacon fat. He called it Stakon. It was absolutely delicious.

After an appropriate level of relaxing, we decided to hit the trail for a hike. We trekked a short distance to the pioneer cemetery where we saw a collapsed gravesite. Creepy! Then, we headed to the nearby Bale Grist Mill. The mill is a cute place to go if you have kids, but not much of a destination point otherwise. Our hike was a total of approximately one mile and we were hot and hungry when we arrived back at the camp.

A group of the guys hiked their own trail. They called it the Keg March. They walked a total of 7 miles, 3.5 at a steep incline, with a “mini-keg” of Heineken. The point was to climb to the top and back, all while finishing off the mini-keg. Mission Accomplished. They were back four hours later with sunburns and buzzes.

Our friend, Rochelle celebrated her birthday on Saturday, and seeing as how we were not able to be with her, Kortnee came up with the brilliant idea to have the guys send her a very special birthday greeting.

After a lunch of Taryn’s grilled veggie Panini and a lazy afternoon of beer and dice games (or Munchkin), we decided to head to the public pool to cool off. After all, we were covered in sweat and dirt and we needed a place to clean up. The Napa Valley State Park has a public pool on its premises and since that is the only body of water nearby, it makes for a nice afternoon swim. We waded around in the deep end until closing time, and rinsed off at the free pool shower. Once we were cool and relaxed, we cooked up homemade pizza on the grill for dinner and finished off the night with more relaxing, drinking and campfire conversation. Oh, and S’ mores too.

Unfortunately, check-out time at California State Parks is noon, so you barely have time to heat up some coffee, make breakfast and drink one last beer before you have to pack up and go. This time, we managed to close up shop and disappear in record time, 20 campers worth of crap was taken down and packed into cars in one hour and fifteen minutes. Way to go everyone!

Nerd Camp V was a huge success, and I am already scoping out the perfect site for next year. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Good Night Camping.

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