The camping season has officially ended for 2016. The temperatures are dropping and snow is predicted for Saturday. Usually, the start of school ends most camping trips.
There have been a few families that I know, who have continued to camp on the weekends even after school started. This year, the weather here in Michigan has been warm and no one was ready to wave summer goodbye.
This particular post by Bruce made me laugh and brought back memories of camping trips with my family, one in particular that I will describe below.
Camping is a great exercise for families. It builds confidence and independence in children, problem solving, team building and a number of skills one does not necessarily develop at home and results in family closeness and shared memories.
That brings me to “The Camping Trip.” Our Last Family Camping Trip. My sister and I were lucky. Our Grandparents were campers. They would also go to Florida for the winter and stay in their camper in RV parks. We sometimes got to go visit, both sets of grandparents were snowbirds. Naturally, our parents took us on many trips, including camping, canoeing, youth group stuff and family camping. The only difference was we tented.
On our last camping trip as a family, the weather forecast was perfect and beautiful. We arrived at the campground and picked out the spot to put our tent on the lot. It was a smooth dirt spot where many before us had placed their temporary abodes. Our site was also right next to the water. It was beautiful. Typically, my father and I were tasked with setting up the complicated tent (we are both mechanically inclined). I was also the oldest and enjoyed working in our basement workshop with my dad, building stuff out of scrap wood and other materials. I learned how to use tools early in life and usually help my father fix things at home. My sister was three years younger and preferred to be mamas girl. I was a bit of a tom girl (see post: My Mother Invented the Side Pony-Tail).
My father and I set up the tent, arranged our equipment, coleman stove, camp gear, sleeping bags, clothesline (do not forget the clothesline!), etc. After a camp-cooked dinner and a nice campfire, including s’mores we all crawled into our sleeping bags and drifted off to sleep. It did not last long.
A sudden storm popped up, dumping loads of water all over the campground. Our nice smooth spot was on slightly lower ground than the grass, so the floor of our tent started to slosh. We had to do something or we’d be in trouble. My father and I went out into the storm, he produced an ax from our gear, and we took turns digging a channel from our tent to the edge of the water to drain off the quickly forming pool. It worked! I loved it! We crawled back into the tent, tried to get dry, and drifted back to sleep.
The next day, we had to dry everything out (CLOTHESLINE!! Pack one!), and we probably camped for a weekend or even a week. But I do not remember any other part of the trip. These types of things teach families they can get through unexpected adversity, bond together and solve problems. Kids gain confidence, learn problem solving skills, and have a great story tell tell afterwards. It might not be fun while it is happening, but it sure is fun to reminisce and laugh about later.
This was our last camping trip, we were teenagers and got busy with sports and music and extracurricular activities. Also, this trip produced such a massive amount of dirty, wet laundry, my mother decided she was done. We never went camping as a family again. We did take trips after that, but they were more civilized and expensive (hotel).
I did continue the tradition by taking my girls camping several times after I was divorced. It was something we could do together, affordable, fun, and relaxing (most of the time). My current spouse and our children went camping together once too. I’ve never heard so much complaining! But, a strange thing happened afterwards (sand in their crevices forgotten) someone commented on how “that was fun!” We’ve never gone as a family again. Everyone has grown and moved out and my spouse works long hours during the summer, but I still go by myself. I enjoy the peace and quiet and solitude, as well as, keeping up on my problem solving, fire building, and survival skills. Go camping!
But wait until the weather is better.