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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

When a National Park Temporarily Closes a Trail

If National Park rangers close a trail, they are not trying to ruin your vacation no matter how much mom complains. *Ahem!* The trail is closed for a reason.

Case in point. There was grizzly bear activity noted in an area we wanted to hike one day during our stay at Glacier National Park. Whenever grizzlies are spotted at Glacier, rangers close the trails in that section. But rather than listen to Mom cry in the van, Dad took the family to listen to a ranger talk about bears.
NO! We did not see one in person. This
       grizzly pic is from google images.

Grizzly bears are more aggressive than black bears. Black bears climb trees. Grizzlies are too large and have long claws. They cannot climb trees. Grizzlies rely on their sheer mass to protect themselves and their cubs. Grizzlies can reach over 700 pounds. Black bear are only about 300 pounds.

We have seen black bear in Sequoia National Park in California when we were on a nature trail with a park ranger. A cub was off in the meadow. We couldn’t find the mama. The ranger immediately turned us around and we went back the way we came.

We’ve seen black bear here in New Jersey on the Appalachian Trail. What looked like a full-sized bear was tearing through a dead tree in search of insects not 30 feet from the trail. No way to turn around this time. My son and daughter and I were backpacking for a few days. We were miles and miles from either car we had parked by access points on the A.T.

I led the children off the trail giving the bear another ten yards’ distance. We made sure we could still see the Appalachian Trail markings so as not to get lost. Quietly and slowly, we moved through the forest, so as not to disturbed the bear’s feasting. Usually—and that’s a BIG usually—black bear will not attack unless they feel threatened. I would never want to meet a mama grizzly or any grizzly for that matter!

You’ll find an excellent and free black bear/grizzly bear identification booklet with photos on Montana State’s website. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the “Bear Identification Tutorial” box.

But back to our temporary trail closures at national parks. Trail maintenance is another reason trails may be closed. And many times you can’t see what’s wrong right at the beginning of the trail. Trees come down, trails wash away leaving no footing near cliffs. Deep snow closes trails. The danger of deep snow in spring or early summer is that snow next to the earth may melt first causing water to run underneath a top crust of snow. This weakens the snow crust, making it easier for hikers to step and break through the crust and become stuck. We’ve seen these “snow melt” ice crusts cutting across trails out west in the United States. It’s always best to avoid stepping on snow whenever possible once temperatures start to rise.   

Thanks so much for stopping by Camping with Kids. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. It’s greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Difference in Height of Mountains

            As a camping family, we always discover interesting facts about locations and national parks. The difference in land mass was extraordinary as we traveled out west in the United States from the east coast. The height of mountains is measured here in the U.S. as “feet above sea level.”  Whereas the mountains on the east coast actually begin at sea level, out west, the mountains start on the plains, which are higher in altitude. However, the western mountains are still measured from sea level.
The Tundra of the Rockies, above
the treeline. 

The tallest mountain in the Appalachian Mountain Range located on the east coast is Mt. Mitchell in Mt. Mitchell State Park in North Carolina. It is a thickly forested mountain and is 6,684 feet above sea level.

Out west, the Rocky Mountains start at about 5,280 feet up from sea level because of the plains. Mt. Elbert in Colorado is 14,440 feet above sea level. Our family found this fascinating because of the snow caught in patches in the Rockies—even in July. You can read of our Colorado adventures here

It’s the elevation, we discovered. The Rockies are bald on top, gray and chiseled, angular. It’s the tundra, a place where the weather is too harsh for tall trees. It’s too cold, too windy. Since the Appalachians are lower in altitude and worn down through the ages, they are forested and do not usually have snow on their peaks in summertime. 

            Camping gear changes with elevation because temperature changes in elevation—even in summer. When we camped at the base of Glacier National Park, we were warm enough in our 20 degree sleeping bags, meaning the bags would keep you warm in about 20 degree temperature. The weather was pleasant. Lake McDonald is 3,153 feet above sea level. You gain another 3000 plus feet heading up to Logan Pass at 6,646 feet.

            When we camped at Yellowstone National Park, we were higher up—yet we didn’t realize it. At night, we shivered. We should have brought our sub-zero sleeping bags, good in zero degree weather. Yellowstone Lake is 7,732 feet above sea level.

It is important to check the elevation when you decide to camp in the mountains or on the plains out west. Pack warm gear and clothing. If you only have light sleeping bags, bring heavy blankets. Layer clothing for hikes as weather changes quickly at higher elevations. You can find tips about layering clothing here

            Thanks so much for visiting Camping with Kids. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. It’s greatly appreciated. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Understanding the Temperature of Water

High-elevation lakes run deep and
can be quite still. But they are
The best part of camping with the family is learning something new, together. It’s true. We usually camp in the summertime. And yes, the Lees troops test the water with their feet when they can. But this trip, we learned that some water is not for dipping of feet or any other part of the body.  

The children are learning that some water is colder—even frigid—when compared to the temperature outside. And you can’t tell by simply looking at it. High-elevation lakes and rivers they are called. And they can cause hypothermia even in summer.

Case in point. You cannot swim or submerge yourself in Yellowstone Lake, the largest fresh water lake in the United States above 7,000 feet at Yellowstone NationalPark, the world’s first national park. Park rangers told my daughter that if she fell out of the rowboat, she needed to get out of the water as soon as possible. This was in July!  

Glacier water causes hypothermia. No surprise, but the geothermal activity of the Yellowstone Volcano in Yellowstone National Park heats other water so it can boil your insides!

Most of the water at Yellowstone is undrinkable because of the high sulfur content. The hot springs at Yellowstone are exquisite in color, yet the smell of the sulfur is like rotten eggs and takes away some of its beauty, according to me and my children. But the park itself is massive and not all of it is geysers and rotten eggs, as we found out. There are waterfalls and backpacking and day hiking trips.

But I liked Glacier National Park better. The water is pristine, even though we couldn’t swim in Lake McDonald, another high-elevation lake. We only stuck our feet in. The water was much too icy for us, but we could drink it! It was clear as glass, and a bed of blue, green, red, and purple stones by its banks sparkled in the sunlight.  

The glaciers are out west in the United States, another offspring of the higher altitudes. Glacier-melt lakes and deep, high-elevation lakes keep them frigid and dangerous to swim in because of hypothermia, but absolutely stunning to visit.

Thanks so much for visiting Camping with Kids. Which national parks or natural areas do you like to visit?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Storing Camping Equipment for the Season

We wrap the bed mattresses and dinette
cushions in old clean sheets and store
them flat, separate from the trailer.
          Happy New Year, Camping with Kids blog followers!  We wish you all health and safe adventures in 2017.  To that end, you might wish to check your camping equipment to be sure it’s properly stored for the season.

You want to store your camping unit after it has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Store any loose camping equipment separate from the camper, washed and indoors in a dry place.  This includes any mattresses or loose couch or dinette cushions the unit may have.
            If at all possible, it is best to store a camper or trailer indoors, like a garage.  You need a place where it is dry and protected from weather.  Snow and ice, freeze and thaw wreaks havoc on sealants and connectors and gaskets.  Even the sun can affect a camper. Sealants can dry and crack in continued sunlight.  This is what happened to the center seam in our Jayco Eagle trailer.

If storage inside is not possible, cover the camper or trailer with a unit-specific-sized UV resistant cover or a breathable flat tarp You are looking to keep moisture out of your camper. A breathable tarp is woven and doesn’t allow moisture to gather.  Mold can become a health risk in a camper.  Some tarps are UV resistant now. Strap the cover or tarp down tightly.  Winter weather can be blustery. You are trying to keep wet leaves, bird droppings, snow and ice off the trailer and hopefully bugs and small animals from making nests in your unit.

            Disconnect propane tanks and store them separately from the trailer, if you can, to protect the gaskets. If you can’t take them off, cover them well. There are soft and hard covers available for purchase.

            Take the weight off the tires of the camper by securely placing jack stands or legs or whatever lifting device you have under the trailer. Place cinderblocks or bricks under the lifting device if your unit is on soft ground. While you may want to place a smaller trailer on its legs, a larger unit may stabilize better on heavy-duty jack stands.  The main thing is to cover tires so the sun won’t dry rot them.

            These are all suggestions we do; however, you can find more details about winter storage of trailers here

            Here’s something that often gets forgotten. Make a list of things that you’ll need to replace or fix for the next season. Lists. I live by lists. Find some of my ideas for lists and schedules here.   When the kids melt things over the campfire, I add the item to my “replace list.”  When a plastic plate cracks, I add it to the replace list. A leaky potty or stove problem? On the fix or replace list. Kids too big for their sleeping bags? Replace list. Not enough forks? I think you get the idea.

Many times when families finish camping for the season, they congratulate themselves for surviving another season of camping with the family and don’t want to think about camping until next year. I understand this. We’re guilty of it too—especially when the children were little. But the better you store and care for your camping equipment, the more camping adventures you will share with your family, and the more memories you will have to treasure for a lifetime.

Do you have any tips on storing camping equipment? Any camping adventures you’d like to share?  Feel free to leave a note. It’s always appreciated.