Thursday, July 9, 2009


I told my mom that I was bringing my camping gear out to Arizona with me this summer so I could do some hiking and camping. She said, "Yeah, that's a great idea, and we should take your niece and nephew!" My idea of camping is filling up my backpack, hiking a challenging mountain trail, and sleeping in a remote area; none of which I can do with the niece and nephew. I was planning on going solo, but my mom anxiously misinterpreted my intentions and put together a family trip. I practically grew up on a KOA, so I can understand her confusion. Trying not to be a camping snob, I convinced myself that it would be fun to sleep outside and "ruff" it with my 7 year old niece and 5 year old nephew.

Not having much interest in site camping, I let my mom set up the whole thing. We drove about 40 miles south of Tuscon to the Coronado National Forest. The site was supposed to be at elevation, but instead it was located at the base of the mountains. It was 99 degrees when we walked out of the car around 2pm. Our "campground", was an RV park and we were the only campers crazy enough to pitch a tent on this day. My niece and nephew laughed at the meager size of my tent as their tent towered over mine. Dying in the heat, once we got the air mattress set up in the house tent, we hit the pool.

After pool time it was dinner time. We discovered a community grill next to the front office and I went over to cook some hot dogs while my mom was going to cook some canned corn on their old Coleman stove. I was turning hot dogs over the grill with my fingers when I heard, "CHRIS! CHRIS! HELP!" I casually turned around and saw my mother standing next to a roar of flames. It appeared that the picnic table was on fire and my mom was in a panic. Fortunately, I was next to the front office and I sprinted into it. I threw open the door and said, "My mother just lit our picnic table on fire!" The lady behind the counter had no idea if they even had a fire extinguisher and we both searched the room. She grabbed the phone to call the fire department when I found their extinguisher and took it outside. I'm not going to lie to you, I've always wanted to rip away that plastic cable tie and pull the metal pin from a fire extinguisher, and it felt pretty cool to finally do this for the first time. I ran out there and blasted the plastic table cloth that had blazed up so wildly.

As we all caught our breath, I was proudly grinning to myself for saving the day. A man standing near us pointed and softly spoke, "Hey hombre, your tent."

I turned around. "Shit!" Some of the smoldering debris had found it's way in the tent and the air mattress was ablaze. I blasted the tent with the extinguisher as the mattress shriveled up to nothing.

Despite the interruption, the hot dogs I was cooking turned out fine, but with the damage to the sleeping bags and tent, this camping adventure was toast. We arrived back at my parents house just 7 hours after leaving that day. I found the whole experience to be quite funny, while my mom was a little more shaken, exclaiming that she thought the entire desert was about to go up in flames. The probable cause of the fire was high wind gusts combined with a poor connection to the fuel line in the Coleman (mom's fault, not mine). My mom claims that the tent fire was my fault as the blast from the fire extinguisher (not the heavy wind, mind you) blew hot debris into the tent. She also went on to complain about the white dust I got on everything.

Oddly enough, camping with the family turned out to be just like I remembered it being as a kid. It's no wonder neither of my siblings like the outdoors.


Bill Cummings said...

I got a great laugh out of this to start the day! Man... I've always wanted to break the plastic tab on a fire extinguisher too! What an exhilarating feeling that must have been.Good to hear you prevented an AZ wildfire!

Chad K Miller said...

Great story man, well written. I remember going camping with my mom growing up. Funny thing is, the only thing I remember is the time I locked the keys in the car. Camping is a little overrated, unless you have to do it, then it is the best option.

Chris said...

yeah, car camping kind of blows. and you're right, pulling the tab on the fire extinguisher is a good deal of fun. we have one on our back porch that i liberated the pin from a few weeks ago just to see if it still worked.

Shannon Smith said...

This made me laugh. Oh, the joys of family time.

Ricky Caldwell said...

Yeah......Yeah blame mom Chris.We can't let you go anywhere without Steph. I wish she had went with you because she beat Mike and i in cornhole like she were on fire. Next time take her with you so we all can be safe

Anonymous said...

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Thanks for considering this,

Jean B. in SC

Chris Waluk said...

That would be awesome. You have my full permission.