>> May 17, 2013
If you have never gone camping as a family it is certainly something to consider. It is the most bonding experience you will most likely ever have since it is sort of like being on a Survivor television program without the cameras being there. That might be just a little stretch but it sure seems that way for us city folk. This is also especially true if you do not have a family history of camping. This was the case for me and my family. We actually started to camp because of low funds in the bank account and wanted a vacation. How hard could it be, we thought? We have so many memories of camping trips that we often laugh about and sometimes cringe over when they come up in conversation.
We have been on several camping trips over the years and they all come with a story. There is never a dull moment when it comes to our family camping trips. If you are avid campers, successful campers, perhaps this makes you wonder what is wrong with us. We never seem to have it all together, we never have the right supplies, and we have just never learned exactly the right way to camp. Maybe we should study up on camping techniques but then I think it would somehow lose its magical bonding juju that has kept us going over the years.
Our camping experiences started when my daughter was only three years old. I was a single parent and did not have a lot of money. My mom and I were talking about taking a vacation but neither one of us had too much money. It was summer and we wanted to go somewhere cooler than Texas and decided on going to New Mexico. I had heard some co-workers talking about a place called Cloudcroft, New Mexico and along the way we were going to stop at Carlsbad and see the caverns. We figured out the finances and we could afford the gas, take a cooler filled with food, and camp along the way. You can do a lot of things when you are low on funds if you put your mind to it and you don’t mind roughing it a little. We had a garage sale, made a little extra money and off we went on our adventure.
We were not up to driving long distances with a three year old on board so we made frequent stops and only drove about eight hours a day. We had to camp a couple of nights before we got to our destination and putting up camp and taking down camp is quite a chore. We had to stop and stay over one night before even getting out of Texas! My mom was fifty two and even though I brought her some padding she had some aches and pains that seemed to multiply each morning. Now that I am in my fifties I fully understand what she was dealing with. My daughter had a blast doing everything. She was a lovely traveling companion until it came to sleeping. We put her in the middle of a three man tent for safety. It gets cold in the dessert at night and especially cold when we made it to Cloudcroft, with an elevation of 8,600 feet you can imagine and that was summer! We dressed her warmly, maybe too warmly because she continually rose up her little legs and pulled the blanket off of us all night.
The mornings were the worst part, getting up to weather in the thirties and forties with frozen dew drops on the outside of the tent. Everything felt a little damp and it was certainly hard to get up and start the fire. Everyone else in the camping park was in an RV and were looking at us like we were crazy. Our closest neighbors felt particularly sorry for my little girl and invited her in to have hot chocolate and watch cartoons while we made breakfast. And guess what the only thing she remembers about that trip now that she is grown? Yes, the cartoons and hot chocolate. This is why we took the trip, the memories. I think she has a small memory of the giant rooster that got territorial with her and chased her every time she got near him. On the day we left the park we found out that is why the camping park cat only had one eye, ugh.
After I remarried and my son was born we tried camping again. My husband let it be known that his idea of camping was a hotel with a pool so we were on our own. My son was a very active boy who loved to hike and fish so I figured this was the way to go. With my dear mom in tow the kids and I braved the adventure called camping again. We had a larger tent this time and did not go so far from home. We found out that the state parks are the safest, nicest places to go so we made reservations at one a couple hours from home. They had a wonderful fishing lake and lots of cool shade trees and hiking trails. What I did not know until we arrived is that they also had much more than that. When we were setting up camp my son was getting antsy so my daughter took him for a walk to check out the lake. She was seven years older than him and very responsible. When they came back she looked a little pale and my son was very excited as he exclaimed, “They have alligators here mama!” I looked at my daughter and she assured me that this was true. The excitement was mounting.
The regulars told me that if you do not bother the alligators, they will not bother you. Who in their right mind would bother an alligator? Certainly not me. We found out something else that trip. You have to put your food into your car or up in a tree if you do not want to be harassed by the local wildlife or be totally without breakfast. We were up in the middle of the night taking care of this oversight but we had missed one bag of cookies in the corner of our tent. All night long we were kicking at the tent and I even got up with the flashlight to chase the varmints off but it was to no avail. In the morning we found a small hole in the tent and the cookies. They never made it in but they were willing to die trying!
When my children got a little older we went on a camping trip just the three of us. We had actually made reservations for a cabin at a state park but were too late in making the reservations and could not get the cabin the first night of our vacation. We decided to stop at another state park for the one night in our tent. It was a small three man tent and we had our two tiny toy fox terriers with us. We got into the park late and set up camp and unknowingly set up our tent on some rather annoying roots. We had a small dog cage for our dogs and had to bring that into the tent because they were barking at everything that moved. Can you see it? A three man dome tent with a thirteen year old boy, twenty year old young women, one old lady, and two dogs. The smell was not great, the roots were awful, and it was terribly humid and hot on a summer’s night in Texas. I think we all managed to fall asleep finally when we were awakened by a big dog that started to bark an alarming bark. The next thing we heard was a shot ringing out through the thick night air from a very large gun. The dog went silent, the voices stopped, and we sat up and looked at each other in horror. Who got shot? Was it a wild animal, the dog, or something or someone else? It was still dark so we all just kind of stayed put and tried not to breathe until the first sign of light. That was the quickest I have ever seen a camp come down and we were out of there!
When we made it to the other camping park with the cabin we were so thankful. It had a small air conditioner, a table and chairs, and bunk beds. This was the life. No indoor plumbing but we were smart and had gotten one near the potties. The only thing we had not done was get some fire wood to cook with that first night. We had found the cutest little grill at a local store. It was a tin throw away kind of bottom filled with charcoal and a small metal grill top so we thought we would just grill up some hot dogs real quick. Like I said, it was small, so we set it up on the picnic table outside the cabin and started her up. The hot dogs were coming along real nicely when my daughter started telling me she smelled something burning. I said, “Sure you do, it’s the coals.” She mentioned it again and did some investigation this time. She got out the pot holders and moved the tiny grill. It seems we had set the picnic table on fire, but nothing that could not be put out with just a little bucket of water! Thankfully no one noticed.
We talk about our camping trips from time to time and how they brought us closer together as a family. You can’t get much closer than sleeping together in a three man tent. Not only that but when you are depending on each other without the comforts of home it really makes you appreciate and support each other in ways you don’t get at home. I am so glad we have these times and memories to share.
This post is contributed by Christine Maddox. Currently she is pursuing her Master’s degree from University of Texas as well as blogging for www.4nannies.com. She loves to write anything related to parenting, kids, nanny care etc. She can be reached via email at: christine.4nannies @ gmail.com.