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  1. Even though, technically, we have camped before—we were a lot like virgins. Our family is definitely made up of novice campers and I knew that our inexperience could come as a shock to the Expert Camper we brought along for our trip to Shaver Lake.

    For several days before our trip I was nervous about the friend we were bringing on our camping trip. She is an Expert Camper and I was fearful that she would have a seizure when she found herself with us, the Novice Campers. I was so careful when buying and preparing food because I didn’t want the Expert Camper to return to civilization and tell anyone the truth about my frailties as a Camper Cook. I spent $300 at Albertson’s and I precooked 3 of the meals the day before we left—just to be safe. I bought way more than enough Marshmallows, 6 different kinds of cookies, three different types of nuts and disposable grills (as a back up plan).

    We loaded into the borrowed RV at 6 AM and headed for our dusty, mountainous campsite. The RV was loaded with food, sleeping bags, tents, stoves, propane, and rafts. Even if we knew the truth about our greenhorn level of camping skills, we would definitely be able to fool the people in the sites near us and we should be able to trick the Expert Camper into believing she had signed on with the real deal.

    We made one stop at a gas station that was also connected to McDonald’s and in the style of my Tennessee heritage, I ran into the McDonald’s with no shoes to get some Sweet Tea. Things were falling into place perfectly. We definitely had the appearance of Experienced Campers and the Expert Camper would have no stories to tell the San Gabriel Valley.

    Pulling into our Camp, the Dora Belle, we were in awe of the large redwoods. They stood guard at the Campground Kiosk to ward off the inexperienced city folk who might try to enter with their store bought fire-starters and microwave popcorn, but thankfully, I had hidden ours behind the pancake mix and the paper plates. None of us had any idea of the true strength of the trees and the way that they would lash out at us in attempt to unveil our fraudulent camping skills.

    Less than 10 minutes after checking into the campsite the tree made it’s move. Somehow the sneaky tree wedged its way between the back of the RV and the bumper. As the RV pulled away from the tree, the strong foliage-bearing brute held tight to the bumper and pulled with all its bionic tree power. When we gathered behind the RV to see the effects our hearts sank and we knew that we were in over our heads. The jig was up and I feared that the truth of our amateur camping style would soon be the Facebook status update of the Expert Camper.

    The Expert Camper kept her calm and didn’t give a hint to her mind so there was nothing to do but proceed to camp and try to win her affections and loyalty with Smores. We began to set up camp, to level the RV, build the tents and arrange the chairs around the campfire ring with the standard amount of first day fighting. When the bickering rose to it’s highest level of awkward stress, I jumped in and sent the Expert Camper with the Girl-Who-Keeps-Talking-About-Weddings to go find the lake. (Now, mind you, the Lake was not missing. I don’t want you to think that there was an Amber Alert out on the Body of Water—I was actually using their search for the lake as a distraction from the stressful situation.)

    Two of our Novice campers disguised themselves as Warriors and brought along swords to battle the trees and each other and, not surprisingly, the younger Warrior managed to break the older Warrior’s sword before they had even finished unzipping their tented dwelling. Once again, as tempers began to rise, I had to make a move to divert the anger that would surely alert the neighboring campers to our intrusion onto their peaceful encampment. I sent the two Warriors to find the Expert Camper and the Girl-Who-Keeps-Talking-About-Weddings. This could take them hours.

    Later, after we had done all the damage we could do to the RV and the campsite, the RV Driver and myself headed down to the find the lake. Maybe it was missing, after all no one had returned to tell us they had found it. It was a short downhill hike to the water and when we stepped to the edge of the protective redwoods and saw the vast green water and the looming boulders, we were again filled with awe. Knowing we would have 4 more days in this beauty not only gave us a peace, but also gave us the strength to try to move our thoughts from the damaged RV and the reality that our inexperience as campers would most likely surface time and again.

    We watched as the Warriors jumped from the huge boulder into the welcoming water and sent a prayer of thankfulness for the adventure that was ahead. In a few moments, the RV Driver and myself would leave the lake and walk into the town to find Wireless Internet service for one of the Warriors and the Expert Camper to register for college. We would later find that the uphill walk into town would lead the RV Driver to place of unwavering pain in his previously damaged knee. We would have to empty our brown and gray water on two occasions, we would open our marshmallows to find them melted, run short on lunchmeat and sunscreen, and open the RV for sleeping to all but one of the campers. In the end, the Expert Camper will have seen all our frailties and our shortcomings, and we will rely on her grace for our reputations. In short, it will be just another family vacation.:)