For those of you who want to know how to be a camping family, here’s your helpful list:
That’s it. That’s seriously all you have to do. For some reason, however, it has been Y E A R S since I went camping last. This is wrong on so many levels.
I grew up camping. We camped all along the California coast and Wyoming mountains, and several of my near-and-dear memories are from camping as a family. Up into my early 20s, I was even organizing camping trips with others. The time I almost died hiking to the top of Boulder Basin was a camping trip I organized. Then, we just…didn’t camp.
It isn’t like we didn’t have camping equipment, either. We did. Even after we had Little Miss and I vowed to give her a childhood of outdoor experiences, we never went camping. It’s a little tougher to find decent camping areas close to home here than it was when we lived in Wyoming, but even living in Wyoming wasn’t enough to get us out of our married home and into the wilderness.
This year, I decided, was going to be different. Little Miss and Little Man were going to grow up with as many camping memories as I could give them, and it was going to start now.
Except somewhere between our move last year and organizing storage, we lost our tent. Or “lost” it. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying he wasn’t exactly broken up over the fact we couldn’t find our tent.
We borrowed a tent (and a couple of bed rolls) from some friends of ours, though, and we forged ahead with planning. Well, I forged ahead. My husband couldn’t understand why my camping desire, which had been dormant for so many years, suddenly seemed insatiable. “We’re not a camping family.” he said.
I did as much of the prep work myself as I could, to alleviate any burden from anyone else having to wear themselves out before leaving for the campground. I was so proud of myself for everything I remembered and packed. I also couldn’t find my husband’s sleeping bag. Turns out it was “lost” somewhere with the missing tent.
After I loaded up our minivan with our essentials, we had to make a pit stop at the store to buy my husband a sleeping bag. Thankfully, it ended up being less than even what the sale sticker said it would be.
We chose a campground close to home. For our first excursion as a family, not knowing how the kids would do, I thought we’d better be able to get home if we absolutely needed to. Once we arrived and found our reserved spot, we got the kids out and set to work.
This is where our first crucial lesson was learned. In the future, we cannot let Little Man out of his car seat until we have set up the tent. As soon as his feet hit the ground, that kid was gone. Every direction, in, around, on top of, or through every single thing he could get to. Had it not been for the good Lord providing a very friendly family with outgoing children camping right next to us, who could help us corral our children, Brent and I might still be trying to set up the tent in between our tag-team efforts of rounding up Little Man.
After the tent was set up, I got everything we needed situated inside of it, and easy-as-that TWO HOURS HAD PASSED. I couldn’t believe it. Between chasing the kids, setting up, and getting everything ready to prepare our dinner, it was well past our normal dinner time. I roasted some hot dogs and while Little Miss praised my camp-cooking abilities, hubs was disappointed I didn’t bring ketchup. But YOU’RE WELCOME FOR ME COOKING YOUR DINNER OVER AN OPEN FIRE.
The kids ran. And ran. And we chased. And chased. Finally, when story time by the fire wrapped up at 9:30, it was time to call it a night. We got the kids and ourselves inside the tent seconds before the heavens opened up and poured rain for the next several hours. The rain was noisy, the trains passing the campground were noisy, and the snores in the tent were noisy. I think – if I did my math correctly – I got seven minutes of sleep that night. Coincidentally, while I slept those seven minutes, I had a dream we were all being evacuated to a Century 21 realty office (which doesn’t exist anywhere near the campground in real life) because tornadoes were about to rip through the campground.
It wasn’t the most restful night I’ve ever had.
The next morning was freezing cold, misty, and windy. We dressed in layers and I cooked us breakfast over the fire again. Hashbrowns, eggs, mushrooms, and cheese. It was delicious. I boiled water so we could burn our mouths on sub-par camping instant coffee, and it was a big success. I’m just now feeling the roof of my mouth again.
That morning, my bathroom visit introduced me to an entire herd of daddy long leg spiders, most of which were congregating by the one and only hand dryer in the restroom. If you know anything about me, you know I struggle mightily with anything that has more than four legs and/or wings.
I won’t even go into detail about how I maniacally lit a tick on fire after it fell from a tree on my hand at the campsite. Die, devil bug!
I let my hands air dry in the freezing cold wind that morning. After breakfast, we didn’t see much point in sticking around to suffer in the cold much longer and started the process of packing up. As we buckled our seatbelts to leave I exclaimed, “We did it!” and hubs replied, “Yay!” I added, “One night!” He laughed.
I assure you, however, this was the first of many camping trips we’ll be taking as a family. You can’t beat the memories made or the times shared, and I’m thrilled and excited to be able to do this with my kiddos.
We ARE a camping family.
But I am keeping a ready-flame with me at all times. Beware, devil bugs. Beware.