It seems this trip happened so long ago... but as it turns out 2 kids leaves much less time for blog-posting than 1 kid...
In a marriage you divide responsibilities. Line's usually in charge of planning and writing the trip report; I'm usually in charge of carrying the heavy things and taking pictures. However trip reports involving ridiculousness and/or suffering are generally my responsibility. So, with that segue, I present the prelude to our first post-birth, 2-kid, camping trip.
A few weeks after the birth of N, our second daughter, my parents flew in from Ontario to ease my transition back to work. They are real workhorses, so our apartment was in tip-top shape. That, along with a fast postpartum recovery (despite pushing out a 4.6 kg, heavier than the 97th percentile, baby girl at home), had Line thinking we should go on a camping trip the weekend after their departure. Everybody was excited about the idea. My parents were to fly out Wednesday night, with N just over a month old.
The day of their departure my dad called me at work to report sewage was leaking into our apartment. We live in a basement suite, and one of the pipes running across the ceiling in our gear room had developed a crack. I called our building manager and the landlord came by, wrapped the pipe in duct-tape, and promised to return the next day to fix the problem properly. This would involve replacing the whole length of pipe, which crosses the entire length of the gear room, foyer, and F's room (where it's buried in the ceiling).
My landlord generally makes a pretty big mess when he does any work, so I knew I needed to be prepared. After seeing my parents off I set to work on fortifications. I evacuated all climbing gear and most of F's stuff to the living room, and hung poly-tarp over everything else. Since our apartment is small this meant that essentially all space, except for our bedroom, was either a refugee camp for our belongings or a future battle-ground. The whole family slept in our bed.
The next day Line (somehow) managed to keep the kids out of the house all day so the work could be done; I met them in the park for dinner. We came home late to find fresh sewage on the walls, floor, ceiling and door of the gear room, sewage stains all over the inside of F's play area (which they appeared to have at least attempted to wipe up with bleach) and floor. The kitchen, which wasn't even involved, had broken glass and sewage-soiled clothes on the floor as well as debris from behind the drywall (including rat poo) in the sink. I called the building manager to ask when people would be back to finish cleanup... "So, you're saying there are areas that require additional cleaning?" Apparently he was under the impression everything was buttoned up.
Line managed to isolate the kids in the bedroom while I speed-cleaned the kitchen and bathroom (also soiled, somehow) so we could put them to bed (again, in our room). Shortly after F went to sleep N woke up and needed to be changed. As I picked my way across our sewage-stained apartment heading for the change table (which, thank god, I had also covered in poly tarp) N looked up at me, smiled, and cooed. I smiled and cooed back and soon enough we were having our very first cooing conversation, right there amongst the sewage stains. It totally melted my heart, along with all the frustrations of the day.
The next morning Line managed to evacuate the whole family, without F touching anything, to our friend (and frequent saviour) Michelle's house. I knew better to trust that things would be cleaned properly so I left work early to check the place out before the rest of the family would return. I found that the centre ~1m of the obvious sewage-splatters on the door/wall had been spot cleaned away, but that was about the extent of it. I called the building manager, who started the trek over to personally help me return our suite to a livable state while I went to rent a carpet-cleaning machine. The rental experience is worth mentioning:
The clerk filled in the "time rented" field of the paperwork, then started counting with their fingers and out loud... after getting lost in space and restarting like 3 times. I look down and see that the next field is "time due back". It's a 24 hour rental.
Clerk, muttering to self: "6:30, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30..."
Me: "Um, so... what are you counting?"
Clerk: "I'm trying to figure out what time it's due back. It's a 24 hour rental."
I explained how many hours were in a day, that it was therefore the same time as now, only tomorrow, and the paperwork was quickly finished. I'd finished scrubbing the carpet in F's room by the time our building manager arrived. While he cleaned and re-painted F's play area I cleaned the gear room. I was working hard and at max cardio, and I think I was sweating more than during my bike ride home - but we only had a limited time before Line would arrive with the kids. Somehow we got the place sanitary just before their arrival. But this was now Friday night, so after putting the kids to bed it was time to start packing for the weekend.
The actual trip
Saturday morning we were both relieved to have survived the poo situation and we almost high-fived as we drove away from the apartment (close to) on time, but we didn't want to jinx it. There was still a ferry to catch. The destination was Newcastle Island, which seemed like the perfect choice - it's just a few ferry rides and a short stroll through town away, but with no cars on the island it has a really nice feel. Not quite backcountry, but not quite car-camping either. The plan was for us to pile all our gear into our new-to-us double chariot and push it on foot; N would be worn in a sling and F could choose between riding on top of the pile of stuff or riding her bike (in which case I'd chase her on foot). Our friends Ignacio and Pascale, and their twins, would join us by bike.
We made it to the Ferry Terminal with plenty of time for me to drop off the family and drive back to the cheaper parking. At the cheap lot I ran into our friend Pascale where she was attempting to assembled her twins into their chariot solo. Her husband, Ignacio, had just left to go retrieve their forgotten chariot-bike-attachment, thinking they would miss the ferry for sure. Fortunately we accidentally brought ours and it was in the car! Ignacio was called back, they rode their bikes to the ferry and I ran. Everybody made it onto the correct ferry. We even all made it to the next ferry, with F doing a mix of biking and pile-of-stuff-riding - and even having enough time for a few rounds of bouncy-castle and popcorn at a fair we passed along the way.
Newcastle was... perfect. F climbed around on rocks and played in the sand while N lay under an umbrella and continued trying to figure out how her arms and legs work. We cooked dinner on a picnic table by the beach while F and the twins explored together and ran over to the playground.
That evening, on the 'long' walk from the tent to the washroom, F was in charge of holding the headlamp. This made the darkness a lot less scary. We spotted a deer in the dark. On the way back I even managed to convince her to go into the middle of a field, turn off the light, and look at the stars. It was a great night for it - clear and dark (this was a few days before the solar eclipse, so there was no moon). These days she always wants to look for the Big Dipper, because she knows it's a thing. I tried to explain the Milky Way too. Back at the tent, perhaps for the first time, F settled down to sleep quickly. Usually she tries to use the tent as a bouncy castle for a while, something we'd feared with a baby in the tent.
The next morning F and I went for an explore/bike, but (as usual) ended up at the ocean where she popped some rockweed, watched crabs, and poked washed up jellyfish while Line and N relaxed in camp. As I kid I grew up near fresh water... the ocean just has so much going on. In the afternoon we took advantage of the low-low tide (eclipse, remember) and explored the lowest parts of the inter-tidal zone. Barely above water was a myriad of sand dollars. I'd never actually seen a living sand dollar before. If you are a sand dollar the place to be is clearly the intertidal zone between Newcastle and Protection Islands.
The way back was nice too - I ran after F as she biked past a long multi-ferry lineup of cars. Fortunately there is (almost) always room for walk-on passengers. Back on the ferry Line and I finally executed that high-five we'd been saving from the previous day.