“We could always just pack up, go home, and pretend this never happened.”
That’s how our camping trip started, but how did we end up here in the first place?
Several months ago, we were hanging out with some friends that mentioned something about a camping trip they had recently taken. My wife made some comment about how she would never go camping, they started teasing her and eventually she ended up accepting it as a challenge.
I had many camping failures when I was younger, including the following: Several inches of unexpected snow at a campground next to a prison in Southern Illinois, a flooded tent in the middle of a torrential downpour in a New Orleans campground, a spider infestation that moved us all to our vehicles for the night, and trying to camp at the most popular park in the state on a holiday weekend without a reservation, which led to us driving home and sleeping in a friend’s backyard. Those were my last four camping trips, easy to see why I haven’t tried again in 17 years.
Over the course of a couple of months we bought and borrowed enough gear for the five of us to go camping. Several of our family members and friends were concerned (or just thought we were foolish) that we were taking our two-year-old on a camping trip, but we figured we were all in this thing together so why not give it a shot. Things were starting to look like some of my previous camping experiences as the day we were supposed to go the temperature was 30° below normal and it hailed and rained that day, forcing us to postpone for a day.
When we did finally arrive it was a little bit tougher than I had anticipated. The kids, of course, were not sitting playing quietly as I was setting up the tent, instead they were trying to climb in and jump on top of it. They also enjoyed picking up random tent pieces and wandering off with them. It was not enjoyable. Once we did get camp setup, we decided to take a walk on a trail. Partially because our kids were up late the night before and we’d had a busy day just getting there, they were crying/whining and complaining about their feet hurting, being tired, bored, and just generally not behaving that well. My wife and I did resort to telling our kids they needed to stop crying because bears drank the tears of children. That quieted them down for a bit.
There was a point about two hours into our camping trip where we almost bailed, but we decided to persevere and I’m glad we did. My wife and I knew it was going to get cold that night, we bundled up the kids in layers of clothes, tucked them in their cozy sleeping bags, said goodnight to them in the tent, then sat by the fire. As it got colder and colder we kept scooting closer and closer to the fire until eventually we decided to go to bed as well. The overnight wasn’t perfect, in fact it was pretty damn cold (getting down into the upper 30s), but with warm sleeping bags and me sleeping with a stocking cap on my head and a blanket over my face, we survived.
The next day we decided to try another hike. Once again there was a problem, the two-year-old kept mentioning on the hike, “Daddy I want to carry you. Daddy I want to carry you.” She was also fixated on talking about polar bears and bald eagles. It didn’t take us too long to figure out the reason she wanted carried or as she would say “her to carry me” was that she was actually more scared of the woods than tired. Eventually, we did have a great day of hiking. In fact, we even did some trails I wouldn’t have dreamed we would have been able to do with three small children. Other than a tick attaching itself to my wife’s face, hiking went pretty well.
Overall, the camping trip was great. It was nice to get out of our comfort zone, away from cell phones, iPads, TVs and other distractions. The family time we spent together was priceless. The kids entertained themselves well, my son really enjoyed the “old-school toilets,” and we ate more s’mores than I care to admit.
Eventually we did have to pack up and go home, but instead of pretending it never happened, I’m glad we stuck it out and made some memories we will never forget.