Experiences, anecdotes, tips, how-tos, hiking, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Kids

Camping with kids is like pitching a tent upside down. Both are bound to fill with laughter and raindrops.

--Victoria Marie

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Family Interests

If you start camping early enough you can mold your children's interests to mirror your own. My husband and I enjoy nature in all its facets and always enjoy learning something new. Hence we were looking for ways to educate our children as well as entertain them on vacation on a "tent" budget rather than an "Airstream" budget. Thus we visited national and state parks and participated in the park ranger-guided hikes and scavenger hunts which taught us about the flora and fauna, the geology and history of the parks. We also attended the park ranger craft demonstrations where the children always brought something back to camp, old granny apple dolls from Shenandoah National Park and fishing pole sticks from Peaks of Otter.

As the children grew older, we added one special event to our explorations and adventures per vacation--remember we had seven to pay for, and it got more expensive as the children matured and the events became more complex. We allowed the children to have a say in what we did. As a family, we enjoyed tubing down the rapids in the Great Smoky Mountains, horseback riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and white water rafting down the New River in West Virginia, to name but a few.

However, free activities abound to the observant camper who sees what the locals are doing. We've had snowball fights in July in tee-shirts and shorts in the Rocky Mountains, swung from ropes tied on a huge swamp maple tree out into a roadside river in Vermont, and, when the children were teenagers, jumped off a 30 foot cliff into a deep, tannin-colored river in the Adirondacks. I was petrified, but that's another story.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reasons for Camping

The reasons to camp are endless. To see the world, or at least the continental United States and Canada, although we did take the camper, van, and family on an ocean ferry to Newfoundland. My husband and I wanted to see the country with our five children in tow and not spend our life savings doing it. Driving to our destinations and camping in state forests and national parks, sometimes without electric hook-up or showers, saved loads of money. At primitive campsites, we would use a Coleman lantern to light our camp and flashlights to walk to the toilets and sinks. These campsites were used sparingly as the children enjoyed the amenities at commercial campsites; pools, hay rides, playground equipment, and yes, showers. However, we did enjoy those star-filled nights at primitive campsites without all that light pollution. We garnered nightly entertainment lying on blankets in a field or on the beach of a lake, gazing up at those forever twinkling jewels, as if God speckled the night sky with a milky-white paintbrush just for us.

Another reason to camp is to spend endless hours with the family. Oh dear! I meant quality time with the family, of course. Free from the television and telephone. Free from the computer and work and extended family obligations. Free from home maintenance and outside activities. No hurry. No rush. Stories shared, games enjoyed, conversation given, discovering what your children are thinking. Camping requires much time on the part of the parents driving to the destination or the next destination on a multiple stop vacation, setting up camp, preparing endless meals on a two-burner stove where only one burner really produces a boil and everyone likes something different to eat. Close quarters with your immediate family and all the dirty laundry; there's nothing like it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How we Began

If your family is looking for an inexpensive way to see the United States, consider camping with the kids. For years my husband and I toted five children around the States in a fifteen-year-old spray-painted, garish green station wagon and a thirty-year-old pop-up canvas tent trailer with purple paisley print patches on the tent screen door. We slowly upgraded our camping gear, little by little, year by year, new screens for the canvas tent door, lanterns instead of hanging wicker lamps, and a port-a-potty for those late night or early morning tinkles. A screen house kept most of the bugs out during mealtimes, although the children continually jumped the zipper out of alignment. We learned about water hoses and extension cords and adaptors to be able to hook up at campsites.

As we ventured farther from home on longer journeys, we splurged and purchased a three-year-old conversion van to go the distance but needed adjustments to be able to see the tiny trailer tucked behind the boxy van. Then we decided to go all out--a brand new Jayco Eagle pop-up tent trailer that could sleep all seven of us in one unit without making my poor son sleep in his sleeping bag on the floor while his parents and four sisters slept on the three fold-out wooden platforms of the old trailer. Now, occasionally, once the children were a little older, we did allow them to sleep in the old trailer by themselves while my husband and I used the conversion van with the doors facing the tiny trailer tent doors, but this always made me nervous. I would sleep, and I use the term loosely here, facing the trailer, staring at it, waiting for a sound. By daybreak, when I saw the tiny tent trailer wiggle on its spindly legs, I knew it was time to get up--no matter what hour the clock said.

Why not let me help you to be able to experience the joys of camping with the family. Learn from our experiences; how I occupied children on long road trips, where we went, what we did. Pose questions; share memories. Shall we begin?