You know how I sometimes write about a super top-secret campground? It’s not a secret anymore.
For years I’ve been going with my family to the Cal-Wood Environmental Education Center. It’s 1200 acres of pristine woods were bequeathed to the Denver School System so all fifth graders in the Denver and Boulder Valley school districts have a two-night outdoor experience.
Loony has a friend on the board of Cal-Wood who organizes a 4th of July Butterfly Count up there and sometimes we do overnights in the cabins or in tents. It has been a wonderful family tradition.
Year after year I tell myself that I’m going to look into booking the facility for me and my friends, although I wasn’t sure it was possible. The summers are completely booked with all manner of camps that return every year (church, large groups, and Cal-Wood’s own summer programs) but during the school year it is only used for academic programs Monday through Friday which leaves the weekends open for private events.
I hounded the main office until I got enough info to move forward and I sent out this email.
I needed twenty people to make it happen and was shocked when within a day it filled to capacity.
I guess I wasn’t the only person who thought it was a good idea.
In fact, people were so stoked that I added a second day and ended up with 53 people on Friday and almost 90 people on Saturday. WOOT!
Cal-Wood is just a 35 minute drive from my house and while everyone agrees that camping is fun, all moms will agree that it is a shitload of work.
Between the packing, shopping for groceries, food prep both at home and on-site, the car stuffed to the gills and uncertainty about the conditions, it’s a colossal amount of work.
But at Cal-Wood there are heated cabins, a lodge with a dining hall and a staff to prepare all meals. Seriously, why would anyone say no?
Good thing my friends like a good time.
It wasn’t that big of a deal to organize the event, it was mostly sending out emails, invoicing and collecting money. Each person had about fifteen variables which made billing a little challenging but it’s nothing that a merchant website can’t fix (hint, hint Sideboob).
I wanted it to be relaxing for parents and completely exhausting for the kids.
On Friday we rolled in around 5:00 and had dinner and played games.
The lodge was great for the kids. It had a large, carpeted meeting area where kids could roll around and have fun. I banned devices for the children (naturally I needed mine so I could document) and they didn’t seem to miss them at all.
Instead, the made the most out of what they had: board games, cards (which can be weaponized FYI), home-made Twister and giant Jenga blocks. Add some totally chill parents and the lodge practically exploded with fun.
Those less eager to sustain crotch injuries played board games and Heads Up in the other room.
I went to bed around 9:30 as the kids raged on in the lodge under the very relaxed, yet capable, supervision of Jake and Dodi.
The next morning we had eggs, bacon, vegan sausages and breakfast potatoes. Then everyone was invited to participate in the one staff-led event. Archery!
Those who weren’t, um … arching (?) were invited to a fishing derby at the stocked pond. The staff left out 15 rods and tackle for anyone to use.
Archery and fishing went from 9-noon with lunch just after. Saturday campers trickled in and most everyone arrived in time to play Capture The Flag.
I don’t have many pictures because I was taking a break and the action happened in the wooded area about 300 yards from the lodge.
I made Jake and Jason the team leaders and randomly assigned everyone else. Jason said that by not asking if people wanted to play, there was a much greater participation. From little kids to adults, everyone was in it. I didn’t play (lunch hangover) but I loved relaxing on the deck in my Vag Bag and watching the teams tear across the field in hot pursuit.
The game went on for a few hours and I was exhausted just watching them run all over the place. I had a headache from the glass of wine I drank with lunch so I got a little O2 thanks to Rob so I would be ready for the night.
People started limping back just in time for dinner.
Here’s the summary:
- It was the most fun ever. Life changing.
- The kids looked like they would be okay but many wives were worried that their husbands were going to end up in urgent care for all the full-on running they did.
- The girls were great assets. They climbed trees to hide and had really good strategies that were equal to or better than the boy strategies.
- Little kids are great for putting at the tip of the wedge formation. They are perfect for sacrificing so others can get through. Hey, it’s war.
- You can also trick the little kids into coming close by saying you see a baby snake and then you can put them in jail but then they cry so there’s that.
- Speaking of jail, Rose is the most ruthless jailor. Sean (who studied human rights law) is filing a suit against her for violating the Geneva Convention. She told him to suck it up because if he wants to know real suffering, he should try doing time in a Brazilian prison.
- Given that there was almost no pre-arrangement of rules or strategy, it went really well. I’m pretty sure that no one will forget that afternoon of playing with their friends and parents.
Dinner was fajitas, rice and beans, a salad bar and dessert. Afterwards the kids figured out an 0ff-label use for the Vag Bags.
Do you hear all that cackling? It’s me.
I swear I haven’t laughed this hard and this long in years, not even during the queefing experience. At one point Orneric jumped onto the bag, landed with a thud on his side and I fell over, unable to breath because of my hysterics.
I’m not sure whose idea it was but I planned a dance party for that night. And by planned, I told Cory that he was deejaying and then didn’t do a single thing more.
I thought he was going to load up a playlist on his iPhone and call it good but no.
He brought his studio monitors, turntables and was ready to rock the house. Fiona brought glowsticks, bracelets and sparkly things to add to the rave atmosphere and Marc brought a ton of lights.
The evening started out as more of a family dance party and turned into an intense EDM dance fest. It was so much fun.
I shut the music down at 10:00 (we started at 7) because even though we didn’t have any neighbors and no staff on-site, I didn’t want to chance pissing anyone off. We were all having so much fun that I wanted to make sure that we get welcomed back. I figured that blasting music until 2AM might be a strike against us.
I cleaned up the dining room (AKA destroyed evidence) and went to bed around 11:30. I won’t lie, I had a terrible night of sleep.
It was hard to shut the party down and I was feeling pretty bad about being a wet blanket. It was stressful.
As much fun as I had, I won’t do the dance party again. It was too hard to shut it down without shutting EVERYTHING down which didn’t go over well with the kids.
To quote myself, “Guys, I don’t want to be a dick but you all have to get your butts to your cabins. Now.”
I felt like a shrill harpy trying to get them to go to their cabins and all that achieved was moving the chaos to where people were trying to sleep. It’s better having the lodge available for people to stay up in until they are ready to turn in. Plus, I felt like a host and was full of concern about noise, potential spillage, mess, etc. so it wasn’t fun for me except when I was dancing.
So there was that, but I was amped when I got back to the cabin. MPT was in her bunk and I asked her how she was doing.
“Yeah, I’m eating chips and Twix in bed and am in heaven.”
I thought I misheard her. Chips and Twix?
This set me off on another laughing/asphyxiation jag which was hard to come down from. I managed to get to sleep eventually but then the one unfortunate thing that happened was that a few kids got sick. As in both of my kids.
Scratchy was feverish and came to my cabin to sleep around 2:30 (I put all the boys together, perhaps not the best idea). He was exhausted and emotional and pretty much kept me up with his tossing and turning.
I went to the lodge to get him some ibuprofen and ended up crashing on the couch from 3:30 until 6. Again, it was hard to get to sleep but at least I could listen to podcasts until I nodded off.
The next morning we had breakfast, hung out, hiked and relaxed.
There’s a lot of wonderful hiking nearby and we loved watching the 6th graders take off without being compelled to do so by us, and without us accompanying them. I loved seeing them be independent. I also loved being able to hear them off in the distance and shout DINNER!!! at the top of my lungs and not worry about what the neighbors might think.
We headed home after having lunch on the porch while soaking up the autumn sun. My kids were totally beat. Itchy had a bad GI bug (use your imagination) and Scratchy’s throat hurt and he pulled a groin muscle running around. They both were sore and limping from all the tumbling, wrestling, tree climbing and fun.
I loaded the kids up into the van (including a HUGE bag of recyclables that I didn’t want to leave up there because it would have been incriminating). We drove down to Boulder, dropped off a kid that we brought along and then happily landed at home.
Scratchy felt good enough to go to school today although Itchy threw up last night so he’s home with me now. One other kid got pretty sick and I’m hoping that illness won’t be the legacy of this camp.
I had such a great time, my boys will never forget this weekend (although I hope they forget being sick) and everyone was so grateful for this time together.
It’s not a big deal for me to organize as hospitality is my wheelhouse and I’m always astonished that anyone is willing to sign on for an untested adventure with me. It wouldn’t have been the same without the incredible families that came. I loved watching parents teach kids how to fish, shoot arrows, dance and play together.
I’ll definitely do this again soon.