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

Showing posts with label camping tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label camping tips. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Some Useful Tips When Camping with Kids

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Notice the small sturdy lamp on the
deck. It has a nightlight.

            My family didn’t start right off with a month-long camping excursion. Not with five kids in tow. Nor did we have all the camping gear we have now when we started. We began camping with the kids on short camp trips to get them ready for longer excursions. And we camped locally first in case the kids really, really, really didn’t like sleeping in an old canvas tent trailer.  

            If you search the tabs at the top of this blog, you’ll find many tips for camping with kids. While I provide some information about camping equipment and how to begin camping with kids in a post entitled “Is Camping Gear on Your Christmas List,” I wanted to talk about a few things parents might not think about when starting to camp with children. 

            One of the most important things we realized with young kids camping was how they didn’t like to pee in the woods and they didn’t like the port-a-john booths. They wanted “a real toilet,” they said. “You know, Mom, the ones with water in them.”

            “So who doesn’t,” I told them. “Think of it as an adventure.”

They didn’t want that kind of adventure. They were convinced that a snake or bear would get them.

http:campingwithfivekids.blogspot.com
This is like what we have, a Century
6210 5-Gallon Portable Toilet. It’s
currently out of stock on Amazon. 
So while I was able to get the kids to use the trees to pee when we hiked, if necessary, giving them a bag to put their used toilet paper trash in, we did buy a free-standing port-a-potty that sat on the camper floor. We kept it simple; two plastic tanks, one for clean water and one for waste water. They were connected in the middle with an open shut valve. You pump a little clean water into the toilet bowel, use it, and then open the valve to allow the waste to fall into the bottom tank while flush/pumping some clean water into the bowel. Then you close the valve. There is a gage that turns red when the waste water tank is full.  

The toilet tanks are self-contained and come apart, so you can dispose of the waste water tank at appropriate waste stations at the campground or wait until you return home—if you aren’t far and the potty is not full—to dump the waste into your own toilet. We cleaned the waste water out after a day or two but always before we traveled to another campground or back home because we covered longer distances. We only used the potty at night or when there were no flush toilets available.

We bought our potty years ago, but when I looked online, I found two styles that are like ours and aren’t too expensive, the Dometic 2.6 gallon portable toilet and the XIMENG Portable Toilet. Both sit on the ground. You can find more information about camping potties here.   

Another thing parents should be aware of is that it is usually very dark at campgrounds. If you have electricity available, bring a small nightlight to plug into an outlet in a camp trailer if you’re using one or a small sturdy lamp that can sit flat on the ground and has a low light to leave on during the night in a tent.

If you do not have any electricity available at your campsite, simply provide each child with a personal flashlight. Small flashlights seem to be available at most stores. You should narrow down the choices, as in brightness, size, LED, etc., and let the kids choose their own color or style from the approved selections. My kids had fun with this step. With five kids, they chose the slender, push-button lights in a rainbow of colors. Only give the kids the flashlights at nighttime. Store them away during the day.

Children usually feel more in charge of any situation at night if they can choose to turn on a flashlight when necessary. The important thing to tell the kids is to keep the flashlight pointing down at the ground when they turn it on at night. Explain how their eyes get used to the darkness, and they could temporarily blind someone with the brightness of their lights.

Of course, the kids will take longer to settle down at night if they have flashlights, no matter how much hiking you did that day. At least ours did. From flashlight beam tag to shadow shows on the ceiling of the tent, our kids entertained themselves—and kept my husband and I up—for hours when they were supposed to be going to sleep. With five kids, it got to look like the search lights of old Hollywood premiers in the tent. Oh, and the kids can find your bunk in the middle of the night to ask if you heard that owl or those tree frogs. And many times, they don’t have that “only flash the light on the ground” concept down pat. So be ready!  

            I hope you found these little tidbits helpful about camping with kids. Please share any experiences you may have about camping out with children in a comment here at Camping with Five Kids. It would be truly appreciated. Enjoy your spring! 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hiking in Springtime

           
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Finding the mountains through the clouds!
 This was early on in our camping adventures.  Back when I couldn’t convince the children to come in out of the spring or summer rains when we were at home. 

We were camping in Maryland and hiking in the Appalachian Mountains.  The weather had been miserable, off and on rain.

I always try to look at things positively.  This is important when camping with kids if you want to enjoy what’s happening around you.  No one can predict what the daily weather will be like when you’re far from home.  You adjust your plans or deal with what you have.

We were telling stories at breakfast, trying to decide what to do that day.  I wanted to lift the children’s spirits, to help them see beyond the dreary weather.  I looked over at my husband, noticing that even his spirit was beginning to droop trying to figure out what to do with five kids smack dab in the middle of nature in the rain.

“Hey guys,” I began, a huge smile creased my face. 

My husband’s eyes widened.  Was it fear of my next words?

“Mom and Dad want to go play in the rain,” I told them.  “Want to come along?”

My husband breathed again and nodded. 

After all these years of camping with kids, rain happens.  If it wasn’t a thunder storm, we hiked along anyway.  Waterfalls are bigger in the rain.  Streams bubble along, rivers rage.  Trees cry, trails squish, and rocks show their true colors.  Mountains play hide-and-seek in the clouds.

Donning our quilted raincoats for warmth and protection from the rain, we sloshed through puddles that day wearing our old sneakers.  We climbed up into the clouds, spun around through rain drops in fields.  Maybe we were all pretending to be Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain—minus the umbrella.  
Iconic Kelly in Singing in the Rain


Camping is what you make of it.  Take the wet with the dry and create your own adventures.  Newspaper can be stuffed into wet sneakers later to help dry them out.  Just don’t forget to leave the damp sneakers outside the tent, under cover, to dry.  There’s a good chance they could smell like wet skunk.         

Hiking in the springtime.  Sometimes it can be like giving the kids permission to go play in the rain.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Get Gear in shape for the Camping Season

campingwithfivekids.blogspot.com
Okay, so maybe I did work the children
a bit too hard cleaning the camper. 
But now we’re ready for a season of adventure!
Ahh…the fresh air of springtime.  The flowers are popping.  The birds are yakking.  The temperatures are warming.  And the sun—glorious sun—is happy.  *Sometimes!* 

Early spring is a good time to lug all that camping gear out of the attic, basement, or garage to make it adventure ready for the camping season.  Here are a few tips we use.
           
Sleeping bags and tents can become musty or damp-smelling stored all winter long.  Open sleeping bags flat and flip them over the clothesline on a less humid, sunny day.  Set up tents in the backyard to air.  

If a sleeping bag must be washed, check the manufacture tag first.  Then unzip the bag to wash.  Most sleeping bags can be washed in large washing machines.  Front loaders or the high efficiency top loaders work best.  We’ve found air drying the bags on a clothesline is the best way to dry them.

            Tents, on the other hand, need to be scrubbed if the canvas is soiled. 
·       Set the tent up and stake it down to keep it taut.  This allows for air flow.  
·       Use low phosphate detergent to protect the waterproofing.  Nikwax seems to be a good cleaner for waterproofed fabric.  Follow the directions and mix it with water. 
·       Wash inside the tent and then outside.
·       Hose down the tent and let it bake in the sun on a dry day.

Lightweight nylon pup tents work best this way as well so you don’t lose the water proofing of the material and you can work on particular stains.  Kristin Hostetter, gear expert at Backpacker.com, offers 6 steps to cleaning tents

            On our Jayco Eagle pop-up trailer, the inside bed and window curtains slide off to wash, but the canvas is easier to just scrub lightly while the trailer is up and open using a weak detergent mixture.  

At one time, we had a bit of mold on the canvas because we had closed the trailer in the rain, and then our passenger van broke down.  We needed to leave both trailer and van at the mechanics, for about three days.  We rented a car to get home as we were only about four hours away after travelling across the county.  We used a weak bleach mixture to be able to kill the mold and clean the canvas. 

Open tents or trailers to air dry thoroughly as soon as possible after any rain closures to prevent mold buildup.

Wipe out any cupboards with a mild cleaner in trailers or campers and clean coolers, food storage containers, or drinking/water cavities with a disinfectant.

            Next, check out the equipment. 
·       Test the propane grills or barbeques. 
·       Check hoses and connectors for clogs or bug nests. 
·       Run water or air through them when possible. 
·       Look for cracks or holes. 
·       Use a proper repair kit found at a camping store or online if the damage is small or replace the hose when necessary.  

Depending upon make and model of tents or other camping equipment, a quick search online showed me that parts are available for purchase. 

Oh, and don’t forget to check the port-a-potty, if you have one.  Make sure any seals are firm and air tight.  Wipe it down with a disinfectant before use this season.

And remember to allow the children to help whenever possible.  Camping with kids is a family affair. 

Now you should be all ready for your next great camping adventure.  Please offer any tips you may have to maintain your camping gear.  Thanks! 


Friday, May 1, 2015

Family Camping in Spring

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Spring is cooler. Dress in layers. Enjoy!
Spring is a perfect time to try out camping with the family.  The earth is awakening.  The days begin to grow; blossoms escape from fuzzy pods; leaves begin to unfurl, and the bugs are not out en masse …yet!  And neither are the campers. 

Campgrounds and national and state parks aren’t quite as crowded as in summer months.  It’s a perfect time for a weekend or extended weekend trip to try out handling the camping gear and allow the kids to see if they like camping.  

Just remember it’s a bit of work to camp with a family.  Please feel free to read other posts here at Camping with Kids to understand.  Don’t let one occasion of bad weather or someone not feeling a hundred percent end a lifetime of fun camping experiences.  It may take time to get the whole family into camping.   

The important thing to remember when camping in spring is to dress in layers.  The weather is highly changeable and depending upon where you camp, rain is a greater possibility than in the summer.    

Temperatures are pleasant during the day, but drop at night.  Bring extra blankets and warm sleeping attire if not using down-filled mummy or other types of sleeping bags.  Depending upon the unit you are using to camp with the family, i.e. a pop-up trailer, you may be able to use a small electric space heater if the campground offers electric hook-up.  If you do, make sure the small heater is on a level surface free from any clutter.  Heaters need plenty of space around them.  Never use any type of heater in a canvas tent.  It’s much too dangerous. 


            Store foods safely in sealed containers to stop any smell from calling to animals.  See how here and here.  Wild animals are awake and hungry.  


With the right planning, spring is the best time to try out camping with the family.  Which season do you like to camp in?  If you have any camping tips, please share them here.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Nutrition on the Trail: The Lunchtime Saga

            
Of course they're tired on the trail. 
It was the third week of peanut butter and jelly.
 
Many times we camp as a family for three weeks, visiting national and state parks, hiking across mountains, through forests and deserts during the day.  Being on that “tent” budget and purchasing a few new experiences once in a while, we tend to brown-bag our mid-day meals.  

No big deal, right?  We pack lunches most of the year.  However for some reason when we camp, the children balk at our trail time lunches. 

My father always told me if the children are hungry, they’ll eat. 

Maybe.  But not just anything.

When hiking on a trail, you need to pack non-perishable, portable food that offers nourishment and stamina for each hiker.  Our hikes usually take hours.  It is imperative that young children eat foods while on the trail that offer energy.  Children have fewer reserves than adults.  They need to eat more often to keep their energy levels up. 

Where we got our children to drink water on the trail, they still won’t eat just anything.  I try to mix it up a bit.  Peanut butter and grape jelly on white bread.  Peanut butter and strawberry jam on wheat bread.  Only peanut butter on one slice of bread folded—not cut.  Peanut butter on celery, “ants on a log” for me and my husband [peanut butter on celery with raisins], and peanut butter only or with a choice of jellies on saltines, club crackers, or Ritz crackers.

            After one week on the road, the children scatter when I ask what their lunchtime choice of the day is and reach for the peanut butter jar.  

            We’ve tried the packaged cheese and crackers and peanut butter crackers.  The children will only eat “freshly spread” peanut butter on “crisp” crackers.  They won’t eat cashews, almonds, or even peanuts.  Only peanut butter.  We’ve tried the various protein or trail mix bars, but no matter how many chocolate chips are inside or chocolate on the bottom, the children think they take too long to chew. 

Fresh fruit doesn’t keep but a day or two when camping in the summer.  That’s what made the fresh watermelon such a treat after we entertained fellow campers setting up camp.  Our children don’t want apples, and grapes become juice by lunchtime in the backpack.  And the grapes that don’t are too “squishy,” according to the children, to eat.  They won’t eat dried fruit. 

            I’m reduced to pretzels, Wheat Thins, and Cheerios on the trail.  Sugar is not helpful in a summertime hike.  The body requires salt because of moisture lost through sweat.  Cheerios are a concession because we know our son will eat them.    

            Therefore, I suggest you start offering nutritious packaged protein bars to your young children now, before you hit the trails.  Cut them up on a plate as a snack.  Get the children used to a variety of more sturdy fruit and perhaps add dried fruit to your menus.  Feed them “ants on the log” at home and mix some granola into your jellies in peanut butter sandwiches or try the Nutella, which our children hate.  Try baby carrots or apple slices with peanut butter or Nutella. 

Picky eating shall pass, my husband assures me.  I still try all these suggestions every once in a while, hoping the children’s taste buds will change.  Who knows?  Maybe this summer the children won’t run from the sight of the peanut butter jar.  Unless you can think of another way to dress up peanut butter that my children may like.  Any suggestions are welcome.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Angling Adventures: A Fisher of Camping Dinners

Fresh dinner tonight. Holy mackerel!
Our son has always been the fisherman of the family.  Whenever we camp, we stop at local visitor information centers.  While I gather brochures for things to do in the area and my husband asks about road conditions, our son marches right up to the clerk to ask about fishing.  He would collect oodles of fishing brochures by the time he returned to the van.

            We were in Nova Scotia this time.  Our son’s a morning person as I am, and we’d walk down to the dock on the bay to watch fishermen cast their lines.  Fishermen love to share knowledge, and our son learned lots.

            “Mackerel’s running now,” he told the rest of the family at breakfast.

            The twins, his best fishing buddies, listened intently.  The older girls yawned, and his father cringed and glared at me like it’s my fault his son likes to fish.  He was probably reliving previous fishing trips when he had to fillet the fish because our son was too young to handle the knife.   

            “Did you ever catch a mackerel before?”  I asked our son.

            “Nope.”  He continued to eat breakfast. 

My husband squirmed in his seat.

“The man says mackerels like red,” our son told everyone.
           
            “Red what?” His oldest sister asked.
           
            “Do you have a red lure in your fishing box?”  Dad asked with hope in his eyes.

            “No.”  He got up to rinse his cereal bowl and spoon.
           
            His father smiled at me, thinking he was off the hook.  But I knew better.

            “But you can use anything,” our son added.    
            Immediately I started looking around the camper for something red, avoiding my husband’s eyes. 

“They’ll be running again at 4 p.m.”

“First we explore Peggy’s Cove,” I reminded my fisherman.  Purposely, I didn’t look at my husband.

            “But we’ll be back by 4,” our son said.  “Right, Mom?”

            I had my head stuck in a cupboard by this time, searching for something small and red.  I sighed.  It’s going to be a long afternoon. 

            We headed for Peggy’s Cove only after I had received approval from our fisherman for the use of three red bread twisters as lures.

            Just as I had suspected; instead of hearing the crash of waves or the call of sea birds, all we heard that afternoon was a barrage of “Is it 4:00 yets.”

            By the time we returned to camp—yes, by 4 p.m.—our son had talked the twins and Dad into accompanying him on his fishing exhibition.

            Well his mentor was correct.  The mackerel were indeed “running.”  But so were the mosquitoes.  The boy couldn’t swat and bait and unhook the lines fast enough.  He and his sisters snagged slippery, silvery, squirmy fish out of the water each time they cast their lines.  They returned to camp in a cloud of mosquitoes.

I searched the camper for something to coat fish in, and choose corn flakes to crush.  I also grabbed the bottle of calamine lotion to coat the fishing crew.

            “His mentor’s advice about a red lure worked too well,” my husband complained handing me little chunks of mackerel in a pot while he scratched.  “I finally told the kids we had enough.  I’m going to shower before dinner,” he grumbled and took the bottle of calamine as he left the camper.

            Our three fisherpeople, faces lit with triumph and bug bites, chorused, “There were schooools of mackerel, Mom.” 

            That night, we thanked God and our fisherpeople for a delicious fresh meal, and Dad for filleting the fish in a swarm of mosquitoes. 


Family camping trips should afford any budding fisherperson an opportunity to learn new ways to catch fish and to practice.  This can be a delicious hobby when camping.  Even better, my husband adds, if the fisherpeople clean their own fish.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Temporary Insanity: Jumping off Cliffs in the Adirondack Mountains

Feet first when jumping from a height.
West Virginia wasn’t the only state that the Lees crew jumped off cliffs into a swirling river.  On another camping trip, there was no guided river run adventure.  I had no raft to hurry and catch up to, no lunch to miss with the group of fellow rafters, and no bus to find in order to ride back to our van with the family. 

I had only my paralyzing fears of falling and rocks hiding in dark waters.

We had planned an exciting camping trip hiking and climbing up switchbacks in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, beautiful mountains with rugged terrain and stiff terra firma.  Our hiking boots were stowed in the camper.  I had no visions of screaming and flying off craggy outcroppings of mountains into rushing water.

Until my teenaged son went fishing one morning in the Ausable, a tannin-colored river. 
It was relatively close to our campsite. This was a catch and release section of the river.  At breakfast he shared some interesting news. 

“Hey, Mom,” he began.  “There’s this neat place you can jump into the Ausable from.” His chocolate brown eyes fairly danced with excitement.

“How do you know,” his sisters asked in unison.

“Wait!”  I tried to get back to the jump word.

“Is it close by?”  His father asked.

“The kid I was fishing with told me you can park right after the bridge on Route 9 and follow the path.”

“Is it safe?”  I finally got a word in.
“Mom,” my son looked into my frightened eyes.  “Everyone who lives around here does it.”

“That doesn’t necessarily make it safe,” I tried to explain.

“They’re teenagers now,” my husband reminded me as we drove to the parking place.

“And I’d like to give them an opportunity to attend college.”  Sometimes I think I’m the only sane person in this family.

As we walked down the path, I heard screams, laughter, and rushing water.  We came upon a craggy precipice where people were indeed jumping off into the deep brown waters of the Ausable River.

I shook so much; I needed to sit down before I fell off the cliff.  The top of the cliff was 30 feet above the water, but I noticed people jumping from narrow ledges below that height.  This jump off point was a short distance downstream from waterfalls on the opposite bank of the river.  The bridge we drove across to get to the parking area was on the upper side of the falls where huge boulders pinched the thundering Ausable into a narrow channel. 

            Watching others jump off cliffs still doesn’t make it easy for a mother to allow her children to jump.  I watched the people jump for a while as my family pestered me.  The people were jumping away from the ledge to hit the water about 10 feet from the river bank.  The lower level jumpers looked up to the precipice and waved their hand, “I’m jumping,” and the top person backed away from the ledge. 

“Let Dad go first,” I finally said, “on the lower ledge.”

My husband climbed down the side of the cliff to the lower level and leapt.  He came up cheering, and the children scurried down to the lower level to jump—the first time.  They all quickly moved up to the 30 foot precipice.   

            Only once did I venture up there, with the insane, to that dizzying height.  Staring into the rushing waters of the Ausable, I tried to convince myself that I was only temporarily insane, and that as soon as I took the plunge, I would swim over to the big boulder and continue the recitation of my rosary. 

You never dive into dark waters.  Even after you check out the riverbed.  Everyone jumping that day went in feet first.  It’s also a good idea for ladies to wear t-shirts over their bathing suits.  Take note that hitting water from the height of 20 or 30 feet repeatedly bruises the body at the point of impact.  Our feet were a bit tender on the drive home.

            We all survived the big plunge.  But then the children wanted to come back the next day after hiking and the next.  Luckily we headed for home on the fourth day.  I didn’t think I could have convinced myself one more day that I was only temporarily insane.  Ahh…the thrills of camping with the family.    


Thursday, February 20, 2014

How to Plan a Camping Trip Part 2

One of our campsites
When planning any road trip, it’s important to remember driving distances and travel times.  Time zones or ferry schedules need to be considered in addition to the amount of driving time per day if you have a long haul to make.  Rest stops are crucial for tired drivers as well as children who need to use the restroom.  Don’t forget to enjoy an unhurried picnic lunch.  It’s a vacation, and vacations need to be somewhat restful for all involved. 
 

Once you have a vacation plan and have settled on some dates for the trip, begin reserving your campground site(s).  This is important, especially if you plan to camp in popular vacation areas.  They fill up quickly. 
 

If you are camping in several places during your vacation, remember to consider the time needed to break camp and travel to your next campground.  Everything takes longer in the field.  Inform the campground if you will be getting in late, so they hold your campsite for you.
 

What you bring with you on your camping trip depends on where you stay and what you camp in.  Primitive or commercial campgrounds.  Tent, trailer, camper, or cabin.  If there is no barbeque grill or fire ring available at the campsite, you’ll need something to cook on.  We use a Coleman camp stove that uses propane.  Propane is available at campground stores.  Wood is available as well at the camp stores for campfires.  Bring cooking pots and utensils.  We refrain from using disposable cups, plates, and plastic ware to help the environment.  Then pack appropriate bedding and towels, in addition to personal items. 
 

            Get everyone involved in packing to build excitement and family experience.  Make check lists for kitchen, bedding, clothing, food, and toiletry.  Don’t forget the bug spray, sun screen, hats, and raincoats.  Load the vehicle and/or camper prior to the day of departure, except for perishables.  Bring any reservation material you have made, a global positioning device [GPS] and maps.  Always bring current maps of the areas you will be driving through or staying in. 


Then enjoy your family camping experience.  Make the memories that last.      

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Towering California Redwoods


California Sugar Pine, Sequoia,
and Redwood pinecones
No search for the massive in California is complete without visiting the coastal Redwood trees, the tallest living thing on earth.  These Christmas tree evergreens reach into the very atmosphere, parting the clouds and tickling the California sunshine with their tassel tops.


Camping in Sequoia, Yosemite, and Redwood National Parks as we oooed and aahed our way through the magnificent forests, I became obsessed with discovering these massive trees’ pine cones. 

We had just set up camp at Sequoia National Park when five children and I wandered off in search of pine cones.  I thought I’d use this opportunity to teach them about nature.    

“All pine trees have pine cones,” I told the children as they followed in my wake down one of the paths at the campground.  “That’s where their seeds are.”  I glanced back at them.

They nodded while excitement danced in their eyes.

“Now, since these trees are so massive,” I said, all knowingly.  “Their pine cones must be huge.”

The children nodded again.  They looked up.  The sunlight filtered through the towering pines and covered their faces in lace patterns.

“Let’s see if we can find some to show Daddy.”

Further down the path, we came to a group of pines amid huge ferns, rocks, and fallen branches.

“Stay around here and bring back what you find,” I instructed.  They dropped away from the mother tree faster than the pine cones we were searching for.

Carefully, I searched through the underbrush at the base of a huge pine, working my way further from the tree.  Then I discovered it behind a rock in the thick ferns, a huge pine cone thicker and longer than my forearm. 



“Look, look,” I cried to the children, holding the pine cone aloft with both hands.

The children scrambled out of the brush.  Some had New Jersey-sized cones but sturdier and thicker.
 

“Let’s show Daddy,” they all shouted.

But as I gazed at the vastly different cones, I realized I was no expert.  “Let’s take these over to the ranger station, so we can tell Daddy exactly what they are.”

I was glad we did.  The huge pine cone I found was not the mighty sequoia pine cone.  It was a sugar pine cone, a huge tree yes, but nowhere near as massive as the sequoia.  That cone was the egg-shaped, woody cone my son found.  And the towering redwood?  Its pine cone is the size of a quarter, thin and spidery. 
 
What I taught my children that day was to check with an expert when they’re not sure of something.  As much as we parents would like to have all the answers, many times we don’t.  The best thing a parent can do is help find knowledgeable resources for their children and then learn along with them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Real Live Giant: The Mighty Sequoias


On the Trail in the Valley of the Giants
Peak your children’s interest in family vacations with attention-grabbing questions.  Like a math equation, you need to factor in the age of all children present.    

             “How would you like to hug a real live giant?”  My husband asked his eager children during one of our vacation planning sessions. 

            It was the 7th grader, the realist, who finally rolled her eyes.  I saw her considering my husband’s words first.  “Dad,” she said.  “There are no real live giants.  That’s just pretend.”

            The young twins, on the other hand, were holding their breath, their blue eyes eager for some real giants.

             Then that familiar twinkle crept back into my husband’s eye.  “Oh yes there are,” he said, and I could see the excitement rise in our children’s faces, even the realist’s. 

            “And they’re in,” he hesitated long enough to pop the children out of their seats to surround him.

            “Where, where, where?”  They chanted.

            “In California.”

            Squeals of delight filled the dining room as the children danced around the table.  Then our son suddenly stopped the parade.

“I don’t think I want to hug one,” he said, the twins bumping into his back.

“You’ll want to hug this giant,” I told him.  “You’re a tree hugger, like me.”

“What?”

“These giants are trees, the mighty Sequoia trees,” I informed all the children.

               Once you get the children hooked, have them do a bit of research because sometimes with children, seeing is believing.  In the old days this meant a trip to the library.  Not any more.  Now we just pull up the internet and search for Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park.

            “The largest living trees in the world,” our oldest daughter read.

“These trees are thousands of years old,” the realist told us. 

            “That’s right,” I said. 

            Once the children saw these massive evergreen trees in real life, these broccoli-topped giants; their mouths hung open nearly as wide as the tree trunks.  The children did in fact hug the soft cinnamon-colored bark of these gentle giants, even though they could only reach about four feet of the 68 foot circumference.  

One trip to these magnificent National Parks is not enough.  In the cacophony of life, it may be that nature is the only place to find the peace needed to turn inside oneself to reflect on what’s important.  What do you think?  Peace and inspiration can be found in many places.  I could spend a lifetime in the Giant Forest and never be bored.  
 
Let’s hope those in charge of the United States government come to an agreement soon so that visitors may enjoy the beauty of our national parks.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Colorado Rockies: Here We Come!


Snowball fights in July at Rocky Mountain National Park
During our long cross-country drive to Rocky Mountain National Park from New Jersey, after many a camp side sunset, we kept the children’s interests peaked by discussing around the campfire the Rocky Mountains.


“These mountains are taller than any other mountain you children have been on,” my husband told them.

Their eyes widened in awe.

“There won’t be any tall trees on the top,” I informed them.

“Mom,” our 5th grade boy scout informed me, “all mountains have trees.”

He’s a tree-hugger, like me.  “This time,” I told the children, “we will be hiking in the tundra.”

“A tundra,” the children repeated.

“What’s a tundra?”  One of the twins asked.

“We’ll be hiking above the trees,” my husband said by way of explanation.

“Not only that,” I said, “but we could be playing in the snow.”

“Mom.”  It was my 7th grade daughter’s turn to correct me.  “It doesn’t snow in July in North America.”

“No,” I agreed.  “But it’s colder up in the tundra, and snowfields could be tucked here and there on the mountaintop.”
 

The chatter increased.

“I forgot my boots.”

“I don’t have my snow pants.”

“We don’t have gloves.”

“I didn’t bring my sled.”

I raised my hand to stop the flow of chatter.  My husband was laughing.

“Sledding, son,” I said looking at him.  “On mountain tops?”  I looked at the girls.  “We’ll just have to make snowmen or have snowball fights in sneakers and shorts.  That’s all.”


            The excitement rose to a fevered pitch as we moved inside the tent and attempted to prepare for bed.  Nobody slept with the children firing questions at me and my husband all night long.
 

Luckily the next day the Rockies loomed up ahead along the roadway into Estes Park and our campground.  We were there. 


            Many times, camping with the family entails much driving.  Keep the children excited about their destination by feeding them small bits of interesting information while around the campfire or at dinner.  We didn’t tell the children about the snow until we were almost at Rocky Mountain National Park. 


            My prayers are with those navigating the floods in Colorado.