I went camping.
After my last post, almost moments after my last post, I went onto the Missouri Department of Natural Resources website and looked up Onondaga Cave State Park. I'd been stressing out about this camping trip--we go once a summer with the neighbors--for weeks, waking up in the middle of the night and worrying about the Meramec River. The Meramec, for my non-St. Louis readers, is a twisty little shallow river popular with float trips and waders and canoes and whatnot. And people drown every year. Without fail. And not just drunks falling off their canoes. Kids. Adults. They get caught in eddies and whirlpools and undertows and go down.
So, to either feed my anxiety or try to allay it, I kept checking back at the state park website. We went to Onondaga last year, and it was nice in almost every way--a little loop of tent campsites, close but not too close to the shower house, playground, lots of trees. Two caves in the park. And access to the river. But the river access was a little close for my comfort with my crazy 4 year old who likes to wander away and explore. You know? So I was worried.
I checked the website to see what the cave hours were and how much the cave tour cost so there would be something else to plan for (and keep my mind busy with). And there, on the front page of the state park website, it read: "Onondaga Cave State Park is temporarily closed due to flooding."
I alerted the neighbors and we began to make back up plans with other parks--the Missouri DNR website is really quite good, with campground maps and park descriptions and so forth. But the hope was still alive that Onondaga would reopen.
On Wednesday, I called Onondaga and threaded my way through the phone answering system: press one to hear the cave tour schedule, press two to speak to accounts receivable, and so on. Finally reached a person.
"Hi, we have camping reservations this weekend, starting tomorrow night, and I was wondering if you were planning to be open."
"Oh, sure, we're going to reopen tomorrow afternoon (Thursday)."
"Well, can I ask you a question--the lower loop, the tent sites, were they underwater, or was the campground closed just because of safety issues or the gate or--"
"Oh, it was underwater all right."
"Yup. Bring your waders. It's gonna be muddy."
I reported this conversation to neighbors and we all decided the Dead Fish Campground was not where we were looking to spend the weekend. Mosquitoes, dead fish, rancid mud...that campground needs a good dry 2 weeks before I'd go back.
So we looked at our other options. St. Francois, Wakonda, Hawn, Sam Baker, Mark Twain, what's in Illinois, anyway? We settled on Wakonda, up near Quincy, Illinois. It was a former gravel quarry (what could be more stupid, I later thought. Digging for gravel). All the quarry pits had become lakes, and the company, after all the lucrative gravel was sold, deeded the land to the state. So there were 6 lakes and trails and a campground right on a lake--which didn't bother me the same way as the Meramec. It was over two and a half hours away, but we thought, hey, we'll take a look up there for a change and do something different (we always camp southwest of St. Louis, near creeks and rivers).
I'm not saying that there was one big mistake this weekend that made this the Camping Trip From Hell, but there were lots of little decisions, little circumstances, and little mistakes that added up. Mostly circumstances. We had a good time. But it was kinda overwhelming.