Monday, June 30, 2014

Family Camping

This trip has been a long time coming. Our last camp out was 3 years ago, when such tight sleeping quarters with a 17 month old toddler had Nick vow, "Never again with kids under 2!"

Lucky for him, I've reserved campsites once a month until Oct! I never went tent camping with my family (luxurious motor homes don't count as camping), and Nick had monthly campouts and hikes with his boy scout troop. What I really like, and what our kids will learn to like, is that camping is a big P A U S E together. The usual toys don't come along. We're unplugged at these non-electric sites. And the meals are chopped and put together ahead of time. The kids feel like it's an adventure, but I also hope that they see the savage beauty of Nature, learning to appreciate the role of mosquitos, what happened at a kill site, and that those rising puffy clouds will eventually become thunderstorms. I want them to live on the edge of comfort and the edge of their needs, and have compassion for people who live at the edge daily. It makes me think of the Israelites, living as nomads in tents for more than 40 years, following their God... the one who provided everything they needed.
Campground Two Tent Set Up
What enabled Nick to survive?

One hour. Resuming camping this time around with a 4 year old and 26 month old meant traveling just 1 hour from home. Should we need to bail, we were within reach. Nothing fancy about choosing Missouri's Robertsville State Park: it had basic and electric sites, showers, one 1 mile hiking trail, river access, a playground at the picnic shelters, and lots of tree cover.

Two tents. Thanks to my brother who gave me a generous outfitter gift card for my 30th birthday, we now own two three person, three season ultralight tents. We slept one adult and one kid in each tent. Nick got to sleep with Abigail, the one who snuggles and kicks less.

Three toys. To keep our kids out of the fire and tents as we set up the site, the kids brought along some brightly colored basic toys: a mini soft soccer ball, a fabric frisbee, and practice compound bow and suction cup arrows. Abigail and I read the book Camp Out! by Lynn Brunelle for the two weeks leading up to the campout. We found it at the library. She successfully identified raccoon, deer, and domestic dog tracks on our hike and sang the songs from the book to pass the time, like The Cutest Worm.

Four meals. Pretty much we just dumped food out of gallon baggies, opened a can, or added water to oatmeal. One lunch, two dinners, two breakfasts, and snacks for two days were pre-made at home. We only got through four meals because we had to bail due to a coming intense thunderstorm. No chopping or cutting at the campsite. We were not prepared with the right kind of cooler or ice, and bought a large chest cooler and ice the second day (hey, we're car camping with young kids, not backpacking).

Five showers. Well, maybe about 2-3 each. It was about 95F at 6pm when we arrived Friday, and the overnight temperature didn't dip to 71F until close to 5am. Showers kept us cool throughout the weekend.

Meramec River, Spice Bush Trail bridge
The lowest point of camping two weeks ago, was finding ticks after our 1 mile hike. We all wore long pants and sprayed our clothing with DEET insect spray (I wore black athletic pants even though I knew better), and ticks hang out between the ground and 36"... Each kid had a tick nymph crawling near their ear, and I had a female lone star tick bite me at my waist. We'll be picking up some long khaki pants for the kids at Goodwill before our next trip!

Our next trip in July will take us 2.5h north to two lakes that have kayak and canoe rentals, a sand swimming beach, and 2 miles of bike-friendly hiking trails.

August will be 2h southwest in a park with a cave that has 1h tours.

September will be 4h southwest at a large dam reservoir lake with kayak, canoe and other sail sport rentals, pebble swimming beach, and 8 miles of bike trails. We'll camp there for 3 nights.

October is TBD, largely due to the changeable weather that month.

Did you camp as a kid? Where have you camped recently? Share a comment below for us all!

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