It’s almost Memorial Day Weekend. Thousands of people will be hitting local parks, forests and deserts for camping!

When you get city slickers together in the wilderness (and occasionally add alcohol) it’s easy to have a mishap — and then a great story later.

Great stories (and any photos you took) are what we’re looking for. In exchange, we’ll pick a random entry to win two camping chairs, a lantern and a Lodge-brand dutch oven from Washington Hardware and Furniture in Kennewick to use on your next trip (which will hopefully be mishap-free). The winner will be announced June 4. Standard contest rules apply.

Here’s what people have sent in so far:


Back in 2004 we went camping and we ended up in an area where is was raining carpenter ants. It was the mating season and they ended up where we were camping. It did that for two days. We had to be under the canopy and wear hats or the hoods of our sweatshirts. That was NOT fun. Plus, they like to bite. We found dead carpenter ants in our camping gear and tent the next year we went camping.

black bear

This was when my kids were around 5 and 7 we were camping with some friends who had a teenager and one kid around 8 or 9. We sent the kids on a scavenger hunt and they were on a trail and wandered too far from camp and came across a bear about 30 feet from them. The bear was up on a hill and the kids did what they were told to do if they came across a bear. They made a lot of noise and my youngest got up on the teenagers shoulders and tried to look big. Well the bear stood up, so the older kids sent my kids back to camp while they kept the bear’s attention. All of a sudden I see my kids running back to camp screening “THERE’S A BEAR, THERE’S A BEAR!” My husband and our friend grabbed a gun and took off up the trail to get the other kids. I heard a few shots and they scared the bear away. Later we found out the bear was in other campsites in the area. The kids were so scared. That is one camping trip that we will never forget.

My husband and I were helping out a friend one weekend with “outdoor cooking.” He uses all-natural ingredients and cooks in dutch ovens. We were camping near Shaniko, Oregon, so the weather can be unpredictable. It started raining in the middle of the night and when we woke up the air matrress was flat and we were laying in three inches of water. I could not believe we did not wake up earlier, but it probably was the whiskey the night before.

Flat tire while camping

The weekend started off with a bang — actually, it was more like a pop.

Packing to go camping is quite the challenge in itself, especially when you are going with our crazy group, which consisted of myself, my husband David, my sister-in-law Lisa, my 70-year-old mother-in-law Jere, my 12-year-old nephew Ethan, two toddlers (my one-year-old niece Avia, and my two-year-old son Cooper), and two dogs (a yellow lab and a black lab).

Trying not to forget anything, trying not to pack too much unnecessary stuff, and then trying to get it all in the car was exhausting. We finally got everything packed — except the kitchen sink — and then my husband, along with his sister and the three kiddos headed for the mountains. My mother-in-law and I both had to work that day so we stayed behind and planned to drive up together when we got off of work that afternoon. We had half of the camping gear, including the fire wood, all of the food, and the two dogs in my car with us. Thankfully we both got off work early because we had quite the adventure getting there.

First we got lost. REALLY LOST! We were following my GPS, which had always been good to me in the past, but this time it really messed up. It took us on the shorter route rather than going the way we should have gone. Instead of taking Hwy 12, it sent us over the mountains on a switchback logging trail. This was a super scary 18 miles on a single lane, muddy, twisty, steep trail with no guard rails and we were praying for our lives the whole time. Once on this trail there was nowhere to turn around and we thought we were going to fall off the edge the entire time. It was very steep and to add to it it was raining, which made the mud very slick and there were also huge, sharp, jagged rocks along the trail that we couldn’t avoid. Then came the pop. So there we were, lost, with no cell service, a flat tire, and two very large and anxious dogs. Do you think either one of us knew how to change a tire?! (The answer is no.) For fear that we’d be stuck if we stopped, we continued driving on a flat tire until we got to the bottom.

We finally made it to the bottom of the logging trail (alive!) and got out of the car to check the damage. This is when we really started to freak out. We had no idea where we were. Not even the slightest clue. And we had a flat tire, which neither of us knew how to change. We also had all of the food and firewood and the rest of the group had expected us to be there by now so we knew they were probably starting to get worried. We realized that we had pulled into a campsite and a man was walking towards us. This man, that we were hoping wasn’t a serial killer, turned out to be our “knight in shining armor.” He was there camping with his family and just happened to be a mechanic who had all the tools necessary for changing our tire. He even had a hydraulic jack! He changed the tire for us and told us where to go to find our camp. We really don’t know what we would have done if he hadn’t helped us.

We somehow found our campsite and that’s when the tears started flowing. What a journey it had been to get there. My mother-in-law swore she’d never ride with me again.

That night, the people in the nearby campsites had quite the party. They were blaring loud rock music and hooting and hollering until 4 in the morning. None of us got any of our much needed beauty sleep, including the two toddlers. We were all quite cranky the next day.

The next night it rained and it was COLD. So cold that we thought about sleeping in the car with the heater on, but we didn’t want to get out of our sleeping bags to get to the car. We woke up super early and were very anxious to go home. We started packing up as soon as the sun came out and began to dry everything. It took us a really long time to pack everything up and we somehow did it without killing each other. We finally got everything loaded into the cars and were ready to go… we turned the key… battery dead! Seriously?! So then we had to unload everything from the back of the car to get the jumper cables out. We get the car jumped and then had to drive 50 mph all the way home (on the correct route this time) because we were on a spare tire. We got honked at and a birdie flipped in our direction by people that really don’t like going 50 in a 65.

Believe it or not, we have actually gone camping again since that terrible trip (and the next trip included a trip to the Emergency Room!)

Back in July of 1995, we rented a small motor home for a trip to Lodgepole Campgrounds in Sequoia National Park. We were to pick up the motor home at 6 am, but the vehicle was not returned to the dealer by the previous renters until 9 am. They did a quick clean-up and sent us on our way. This should have been a clear indication of things to come… bad things… in the following sequence:

1. To get to Sequoia, you had to go over the Grapevine, a long, steep (6%) grade over the mountains. The motor home began to severely overheat which required us to turn on the heat inside to draw the heat from the engine. We were reduced to driving over the grade at a speed of 25 mph (normally 70 mph), with the heater blasting and it was already 80° (one of So Calif.’s hotter days).

2. We had noted that the rear-view mirrors on either side of the vehicle were mounted very low, requiring the driver and passenger to tilt their heads to a 45° angle to see traffic behind. While annoying, it was not until the passenger side mirror fell off completely on the freeway that a problem was created. The passenger had to physically hang out the window to check for traffic before making any lane changes. We ended up buying a mirror at an auto parts store and duct-taping it to the side of the vehicle.

3. We started the climb to Lodgepole with some trepidation, knowing it was at an elevation of 6,700 ft. By the time we hit 2,000 ft., the vehicle was overheating again and we had a maximum speed of 10 mph on a severe uphill grade, with about 20 vehicles behind us. It was obvious we were never going to get to 6,700 ft., so we made the decision to turn around — not a simple matter on a one-lane-in-each-direction mountain road, with a mountain on one side and a deep gorge on the other. Took 20 mins. with traffic stopped in both directions to accomplish.


4. We found a small campsite at the bottom of the hill and decided to camp there. My husband proceeded to hook up the black water (human waste) hose to the campsite’s connection, only to find that the dealer had not taken care of that duty in its cleanup, and the waste splashed out and over everything in a 10 ft. radius, including my husband, requiring cleaning of the immediate area and a shower for my husband. We also discovered that the previous renters had apparently stored fish in the refrigerator — again, not cleaned by the dealer — requiring much disinfecting and deodorizing before use.

5. We had 4 uneventful days at the campsite before heading home. Alas, two hours into the 6 hr. trip home, one of the inner tires blew, necessitating a 4 hour wait at a tire shop somewhere in the “boonies” for the right tire to be found and mounted.

We dubbed this the “Camping Trip From Hell” – whatever could possibly go wrong, did. The dealer promised us another week’s free rental for all our problems. The following year we were willing to try it again, but surprise, surprise, the company had gone out of business.

Camping with 4 children under 6 in an older campground. There was a storm that caused power outages and boats to get lose. We awoke to the sounds of crackling trees and branches. When we came out of the tent we saw trees starting to fall over causing us to pack up in a hurry. As we were leaving the

Flickr, McD22

campground, there was a tree that fell on the cab of a brand new truck, blocking the road for anyone to get out. We All (meaning all campers)were left no choice but to stay in the only building there. Which happened to be the bar. Not only did we have our 4 children in a bar with standing room only, they were having trouble with both toilets. So, no food, no seats, no bathrooms. But it was one of the best trips to look back on.

We were camping at our usual spot one summer, and my sister and I were super excited because this year my parents were letting us “graduate” from sleeping in the big family tent, to sharing a tiny two man tent pitched a little ways off ALL by ourselves! When we got to the campground, there were signs and warnings ALL over the place about numerous cougars being spotted on the trails and around the area so to use proper precautions such as putting away food at night, hike with a buddy, etc. Anyways, so we are all getting ready for bed, my sister and I put some cookies in a locked Tupperware container and the rest of dinner and went to bed. In the middle of the night my sister and I both woke up because it sounds like there is something walking around outside our tent. We yell and ask if it’s our parents, and no one answers. Pretty soon we hear some stuff being knocked off the table. Now we KNOW something is out there. My sister and I are FREAKING out. Now our “visitor” is growling and what sounds like some sort of scratching outside our tent. But how close it is to us we can’t tell. So being 15-year-old girls, we start to get dramatic and wonder what will happen when everyone wakes up and finds our mangled bodies. We decide we don’t like that idea and start to plan. There is lots of whispered arguing and crying and praying that we won’t be eaten before we can put our plan into action. So we finally decide that our brilliant plan will be to QUIETLY unzip the tent, and WALK to our parents tent. The key word was walk… we were hoping not to draw attention to ourselves and just sneak away. After a lot of “are you ready?” and a lot of DON’T forget to walk, we both decide we are ready to go… so I quietly unzip the tent, and get out… motion my sister to follow and the little stinker BOLTS!!! She just takes off running!!! She just left me behind to be mauled and eaten… So now I have to run… we somehow make it to our parents tent in crying hysterics, almost collapsing their tent trying to unzip it and crawling over one another to get in first. We fill our parents in, and my dad says, “Well nothing came after you, find a place on the ground and we’ll look at things in the morning.” (He didn’t sound like he believed us AT ALL). Soooooo morning comes and we go to our tent to check things out. There are definately tracks around our tent, and something else a little strange. A Tupperware container full of oatmeal raisin cookies is dirty and on the ground. The container has been clawed, scratched and dented… but not opened. You can even see pawmarks on the dirt of the tupperware. My dad examines the container and says, “Well, you definately had a visitor, but it wasn’t a mountain lion. These pawmarks look like they belong to a raccoon.” Lovely… the most terrifying night of my life and a raccoon was only trying to steal my cookies.

In September 2008, I was camping with some friends up at Tucannon (NE of Dayton). Late the first night I tripped on a rock around the campfire and landed on the fire pit! It had a grate over top, so my left hand ended up looking like a flame-broiled Whopper! I finally gave in to the pain at 2 am and was driven to the ER in Walla Walla (almost 2 hour drive!) with my hand shoved inside an ice chest. I had 2nd degree burns on my hand and spent about $550 on the visit. Then, to top it off, when we got back to the campsite the next morning, I realized I had lost a hubcap (another $80!). At least my friends were impressed that I’d come back to camp the rest of the weekend even with 2nd degree burns!

Flickr, Dave Hogg

The first time my family took my boyfriend camping with us it seemed like a regular camping trip. That all changed Saturday night when some of us were around the fire and the rest were making dinner. My young cousin found one of those monster cans with the lid and tossed it in the fire. Nobody thought anything about it… until it started to make some sort of wheezing noise. Then all I can remember is a hot wave of heat flash across my entire body and spinning around as fast as I could. The monster can had gasoline in it and exploded because it was a sealed container. I thought I was ok until I heard my family screaming at me to roll on the ground and everybody was chasing me. That’s when I realized that I was on fire! So I rolled on the ground and immediately my uncle hands me a beer and I finish it off. Good ol’ uncles. I didn’t burn any skin, only the left side of my hair and most of the back of my jacket.

Flickr, J. B. Foster

Unfortunately I don’t have pictures but last year my family and I went camping out at the juniper sand dunes. We decided it would be fun to go camping in march….So since we didn’t have a camper we went out and got generators heat lamps and free standing heaters. We also purchased a large 8 man tent 2 10×12 canopies and 1 large carport canopy the ones that are like 18×20 or so. It was a long cold weekend but on the last day as all the ladies got things ready the men went out on the dunes with their bikes. While they were gone a strong wind came out of nowhere and ripped through our camp site. It Literally threw everything 6 feet in the air when the tents and canopies crashed back down they all broke. There were other campers in the area but no one bothered to see if we were ok. We had to pay back friends we had borrowed the smaller canopies from and had to take all of our merchandise back to the store. We came out of that camping trip in the negative but it made for a great story!

When I was about 8 years old I went camping with the family and all my parents’ friends. There were 3-5 other children there and we were doing what all kids enjoy doing, playing with the fire with a stick, and clumsy me, oops, my stick broke and my hand went into the burning ashes and burnt nearly all the skin off my hand! Remind you, we were nowhere near a hospital so my wonderful mom had to play doctor. For the trip!


Since we always have enjoyed camping, there are no trips we can think of we would consider a “failure”. However, I guess one can say the time we got a flat tire ruined plans for a beautiful day on a trip in Montana a couple years ago. We were almost at a high-mountain lake after a nine-mile ride on rough rocky roads when we heard the flap-flap noise of the tire. It was necessary to climb another quarter mile, maneuvering between rocks on the road before we could find a level spot to work (which was in sight of the lake, at least). It was the first time we had a flat in 23 years, so I had to find out where the tools were stored in our SUV and remove the packed gear in the way. The “donut” spare tire was low, and we’re happy we always carry our power pack air compressor. Because we needed to drive back down the rough road and do an hour drive to Butte, we had to turn around as soon as the tire was changed. The repair shop seemed to take about twice the time we expected and we didn’t get out to camp until evening, but at least the weather was great for the day and we were in Montana.

Brad Prescott

Washington Hardware

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