Family anecdotes, camping tips, how-tos, hiking with children, nature, motherhood, memories.

Adventures in Camping with Five Kids

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

--Victoria Marie Lees

Monday, July 16, 2012

Night Prowls

The next night of our rustic camping at a state park in Virginia, the older children and I went on a night prowl with a park ranger.  My husband stayed with the twins who firmly believed that nothing could get them if they stayed inside the canvas tent trailer.  Hence the reason we needed to zip up the canvas windows at night.    

So the three children and I brought flashlights and met the park ranger and other guests at the pond.  We couldn’t miss the meeting spot.  Flashlights were blinking and shining all over the place.   

The first thing the ranger told the group was to keep the flashlights pointed downward on the path and not to shine the light in anyone’s face.  This permitted our eyes to adjust to the darkness so that we could see better what was around us.  If we heard anything rustling around in the forest, he told us to shine the light at the sound and scan the area to see what made the noise. 

Our first investigation was the pond where he showed us the bullfrogs hiding in the mud.  They stopped bellowing when the light was shone on them.  We discovered deer, bats zipping through the field in search of dratted mosquitoes.  We saw luminous fungi glow when our flashlights hit it.  Oranges, reds, and yellows shone from downed tree stumps.

            We saw so many interesting things.  The children couldn’t wait to return to the camper and tell their father and the twins everything they saw.  We chattered on about raccoons and skunks and turtles as we crossed the field to get to our campsite.

The children burst through the camper door, shouting to their father.

“Daddy, I found a boy and girl kissing,” our son proudly announced.

“Yea,” the oldest said.  “He blinded them right in the face.”

“They were sitting on the bench by the pond,” our other daughter informed her father.

My husband looked at me quizzically.  

I nodded my head.  I had forgotten as our son discovered the couple at the beginning of our night journey.  All the luminous eyes of the night creatures and the bug noises and the animal movement, and what do our children remember?  A couple caught kissing in the dark.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nature, quiet?!

Friends will ask us how we can camp every summer out in nature where it is so quiet at night.  First, I try to explain that with our crew it is NEVER quiet ANYWHERE!  Although each year my husband and I keep hoping.  And second, I try to explain that nature is never quiet, least of all at night.

            We camped a few nights in the rustic setting of a Virginia state park.  No electricity.  No pool.  No playground.  The children weren’t too happy about it…at first.  But as the darkness blanketed the mountaintops of the park, they were filled with awe.  God dotted his canvas with dancing lights while we dotted our tiny space with Coleman and campfire light.  Battery-operated lamps were used inside the camper.  Fire flies danced in lace patterns against the summer trees surrounding our home away from home.    

            It was not quiet at night, even without all the children’s chatter.  A cacophony of insects sang us to sleep as acorns and sticks plunked onto our hard-shelled roof or soft sleeper ends of the camper.  We heard the bullfrogs calling for a mate in the nearby pond, and the birds settling down for the night in the trees.  Then the questions and the giggling would start in the trailer. 

            “Mom, I heard a snake slither under the camper,” our son said.

            All four of his sisters screamed.

 “First off,” I tried to explain to the girls.  “How can he hear slithering with all the bug noises outside?”

The girls quieted down.

Then I added, “Besides, snakes don’t slither under campers unless absolutely necessary.  Like maybe escaping from a fire.”

More screaming.  I started to giggle as all five children unzipped their canvas windows to check to see if there was a fire outside.

I guess this was why my husband slept with his pillow over his head instead of under, so that he could, in fact, sleep.