We decided to go camping in Live Oak campground in Orange County California, which was 12 miles from Capistrano Beach, way back when a friend of ours requested us to follow along. We said yes because it was close to the beachfront, and we loved it. We secured the campground for three nights and were excited to camp with our kids. A few days before our arrival, Disatser!!! we were informed that the campground operated dry measures due to the severe drought in California. Our friend briefed us that this was the first time the campground went dry during her 10-year camping on the site. Eventhough the scarcity of water would be tough for us, we wanted to camp.
We didn’t expect to have any running water at the campground nor running toilets or water to do the dishes and clean the camp equipment. We had to pack enough water to accommodate our needs and enough disposable paper cups and plates as well. That’s all we expected, but other unexpected events began to unravel.
The L-Shaped Tent
We bought this beautiful spacious L-shaped tent that sleeps eight people. My son wanted it, but my wife had a bad feeling. She wanted a different one, but we gave our son a chance to choose. We were a family of four, so we thought it would be great to have enough room for everyone. After visiting multiple stores to look for a decent tent, and having only found it in Walmart, we had no choice but to buy it. We didn’t inspect the tent to make sure all pieces were included. I was told that everyone should try the tent out at home to make sure it worked. I thought if we buy something from the store, it should have all the parts to set it up. I asked my wife if it was ok to not open and check. I acknowledged that it was a lazy thing on my part, and she insisted that we check but I said, “It’s ok, I think all is there, not to worry.” I was wrong, very wrong again. As we arrived at the campsite late because we spent most of our time at the beach enjoying the day before heading to the dry campsite.
Setting up the Tent
Arriving at the site, first thing first, we wanted to set up the tent. My wife opened the sealed package and pulled out all our tent equipment. She and I tried to figure out this massive tent, and finally, she had a Eureka moment. She is an avid camper, and I am not hence the moment. We then tried to find the metal rods that support the tent, I found 2 rods in a bag and proudly set those up and smiled at my wife that I was right not to open it because so far, all was good; then she asked me that she needed three more to keep the tent up. I examined and looked and looked. Checked three times inside the empty cover bag, but there was nothing, absolutely nothing. My wife started to laugh at me. She thought I was joking, but I was not, frustrated again, and looked. I couldn’t find any support beams. She asked me if I had the metal poles that hold the canopy, we were missing five metal poles as well. We didn’t have them either. Now, we have a tent with only two support beams and the tent was on the ground, with no way to make it stand. Because it was huge, it was confusing to all. It was getting dark, and no place to go, no tent to have, and the kids were hungry. We haven’t started the dinner yet. All fell on me. I was the one who didn’t check, and I had to figure something out otherwise we all would end up sleeping in the car.
Thank goodness, the campsite was surrounded by massive oak trees, and I used my boy scout spirit to concoct a plan to set up the tent. My wife left me alone and went to her friend’s campsite giving me the impression that she might be a distraction to me. She hoped in her mind that I could figure something out. Her friend told us that we could sleep in hers in case I failed my plan. I worked painfully hard for an hour and a half, totally tired and sweaty. I finally attached every corner of the tent to the surrounding oak trees. The tent was not standing straight but a deflated oval shape balloon. The only way to fix the issue was to find something to support it other than trees. I was on the hunt for small tree trunks, tall enough to lift the tent from the ground and hard enough to hold any pressure excursed by our body weights so, it won’t fall to the ground at night while we were asleep.
Finally, I found three strong branches that fit the job. I dug them up from a nearby woodpile, broke the extra branches, cleaned them up, dragged them to the site, and set it up. It stood up ok, and I was proud of myself. The tent looked more like a homeless camp. it was holding thin by so many different methods. Things were attached to everything. It didn’t look like a tent and was more like a deflated balloon. If any park rangers were to see it, he would ask us to take it down as it might be hazardous to oak trees or a fire hazard.
My wife was sort of happy because we had a working tent, and it would do the job for the night. I was praying it would not rain because it was not rainproof yet. There were so many openings that water could seep in and create an aquarium-like situation where we could become the fish in it. I remember the last time while camping, it rained so hard that we were washed off to several campsites down when we woke up in the morning.
Then came to pump up our air mattresses, and the pump broke we somehow managed to put it together to get the air in. It was not what we expected, but there was enough air to sleep. If one gets up to go pee at night, the other one may be awake as well, probably thrown off the bed and land on the ground or the nearby tree whether he wants or not. It was basically a bouncing castle. This was all we had (big sigh), and we were positive about the night.
We enjoyed the night with our friends, the kids played, and had a great time before going to bed late. The moonlight was mesmerizing, and the stars felt closer to us than ever. We woke up in the morning and the tent was still intact. Nothing fell or rained the night before. We were lucky and I was happy. We spent the morning having some breakfast before we head out to the beach for the day. We wanted to take our chances and try the tent for one more night. Since the campsite was dry, we were not allowed to do much except the campfire which is controlled. There would not have been water to put off the fire if something happens. All the faucets were closed up and dried. Even the animals such as bunnies, birds, ants, squirrels, mice, and others roamed near our campsite looking for food and water. When we work up in the morning, the campsite was ransacked by all those animals, they even took our matches for a fire, the napkins, the paper towels, and some utensils and got into the water we used to drink. It was a fun time for them.
We enjoyed all day at the beach before we headed out to the campsite hoping that it still stands. Hope that the rangers didn’t give us a ticket for the nature of our tent. Or it was taken down by the rangers. If there were no trees, the tent would have never left the ground. It was standing thanks to the trees around the campsite. The fun fact is that we took one of our friend’s campsites because she didn’t come. Our campsite was next to hers, but it didn’t have trees to set up the tent. It was fortunate that she didn’t show up so we could use her space for us to set up the broken tent. We tried to have fun and we enjoyed the time regardless of the issue. We forgot about the tent but called Walmart to exchange it for a new one which we did days after. I haven’t tried it yet. I told my wife that I won’t do the same mistake again. it will be tried before our next camping trip in August.
Each night, we cooked, and the kids enjoyed the time at the site, they loved the campfire, smores, and other games. Even though it was a tough time, we had fun, we saw so many empty campsites may be due to the dry camp conditions. One night the park ranger got into our friend’s trash looking for alcohol maybe and he saw some hard Seltzer cans then he came to see us asking if it was a friendly reminder that we would not drink. It was funny that he got into the trash to check. We were not loud, who knows, maybe the kids triggered it.
When we left early, we felt sad a bit. Camping was over, it was eerie to see a place scarce of water and panicking animals looking for food and water. We felt that it was important to protect and safeguard the precious water we have and not take it for granted as we all do.