A-Camping We Will Go

If you’re supposed to eat a pound of dirt before you die, then our boys must be at least halfway to goal after this weekend. Yes, we went camping – and for three out of the four of us (okay, four out of five if you count Hugo), it was for the first time ever.

To just decide to up and go camping when you have never attempted to lead a trip yourself is fairly daunting. Yes, inarguably a very economical way to entertain yourself for a weekend, but the cost of entry isn’t exactly nothing. We needed basically everything you need to survive a couple of days outdoors. Thankfully, we now live in Wisconsin, where it is just as likely that you would go camping on any given weekend as it would you go swimming at the community pool. Advice and secondhand camping gear has been ours for the picking.

On the advice front, I had the realization fairly quickly that the best way to solicit camping advice is at work. If, in the first five minutes of a meeting while folks are congregating, I wonder something in a fairly loud voice in the direction of the person sitting next to me, I’ll soon have 5 or 6 people chiming in with some great opinions on Debbie’s Camping Dilemma du Jour. Between my little work think tank, umpteen blog posts on family camping and 27 Pinterest pins – I felt comfortable enough to enter acquisition mode – looking into Craigslist and garage sales to fill out our needs for our first trip.

I’ve got tons of advice for first time campers for another post someday, but we’re fresh from our trip, so this needs to be written.

We had an amazing time.

I say this, and there were times that I’m pretty sure Andy wanted to huddle in a corner of the tent and pray for a cab to come take him home, but on the whole we left wanting more. Camping was a weird vacillation of high and low moments.

The Lows

  • Getting to the campsite too late on the first night, then having a hard time starting a fire (#stressful)
  • Graham not falling asleep until midnight on Night 1 because he was so excited
  • Reid falling down about 100,000 times – including biting his lip bloody about 15 minutes after we arrived
  • Realizing that the camp stove didn’t work, even after we tested it at home
  • Realizing that the non-working camp stove was our only means to have COFFEE the entire weekend ::tear::
  • Realizing AFTER we got home that our camp stove actually works completely fine, we were just reading the directions wrong
  • When the stake that held Hugo snapped after he bolted toward another dog (!!!)
  • Forgetting Graham’s bathing suit (He wore Reid’s)
  • Forgetting Reid’s shorts (He wore Graham’s)
  • Forgetting Reid’s pajamas (poor Reid, seriously!!)
  • The wasp that got into the tent
  • Not realizing how much Reid throws EVERYTHING on the floor until the “floor” is comprised of wet dirt and mud
  • Reid’s game of “Lets run as fast as we can into the poison ivy and make mommy and daddy do that funny dash they do”
  • Sub-zero temperature swimming pools
  • No community barbecue grills when your planned dinner was hamburgers
  • Having a 4-year-old around when something goes wrong – meaning you have to answer 20 questions about what just went wrong before you can move on WITH YOUR LIFE

The Highs

  • Sitting in front of a roaring fire that we built
  • Getting really good at building a fire from nothing but the materials surrounding us
  • Making and cleaning up after a meal – including washing and drying dishes, completely outdoors with no electricity
  • Completely perfect weather
  • Cuddling in a tent and falling asleep in the same room with the people you love most
  • Hiking through the woods to visit the lake
  • Meeting the friendly people camping around us
  • Two boys, constantly covered in dirt and ash, having the time of their lives
  • Letting go and being OK with the boys being dirty constantly
  • No ticks on anybody – can I get an AMEN??!?
  • Laying down for an afternoon nap, staring at 360 degrees of trees blowing in the breeze out the tent windows
  • Realizing our $5 garage sale Coleman air mattress totally held air LIKE A CHAMPION
  • Putt putt golfing on the campground’s course
  • Friends who loan you campfire irons – which make the most amazing hamburgers, by the way
  • A weekend of “yes” – even if it’s Oreos at 3:00 in the afternoon
  • S’mores – seriously is there anything better?
  • I don’t think Hugo’s ever been happier
  • Totally unplugging and connecting to family. I took the phone out a couple of times to snap pictures, otherwise they were powered off to conserve battery in case of emergency
  • Graham, staring into the fire, smiling suddenly and saying, “I’m happy”

Not even 48 hours at a campground, and we have so many stories that we keep retelling over and over. Andy and I rehash lessons learned and what we’d do next time to be better prepared… or eat better food… or just do something a little differently. And the best I can describe this post-camping glow is: there’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at taking your family away from home, outside, and keeping everyone fed and healthy. We connected, we had fun, and we took the less-than-ideal head-on and came out the other side with a great story.

So now I guess the question is: who wants to go camping with us? :)

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Our host turtle

Graham asked to cook his own hot dog over the campfire for lunch. Our response? "ABSOLUTELY" :)

Graham asked to cook his own hot dog over the campfire for lunch. Our response? “ABSOLUTELY” :)

I'd do a lot to see that smile

I’d do a lot to see that smile

Reid fell down a lot at the campsite, but was a total trooper with the entire experience. He loved being outside with big brother!

Reid fell down a lot at the campsite, but was a total trooper with the entire experience. He loved being outside with big brother!

Inside the tent. Our 6-man Coleman fit a queen air bed, a sleeping bag for G, a pack-n-play for Reid and a small entry area for our duffel bag and Hugo to sleep. Graham is actually sleeping, here, in that far corner

Inside the tent. Our 6-man Coleman fit a queen air bed, a sleeping bag for G, a pack-n-play for Reid and a small entry area for our duffel bag and Hugo to sleep. Graham is actually sleeping, here, in that far corner

Our launch area. Drinking water, sanitizer, soap, bug spray, water, wipes, flashlights and lantern

Our launch area. Drinking water, sanitizer, soap, bug spray, water, wipes, flashlights and lantern

Hugo was in great company, lots of dogs there and plenty of admirers to come by. We were a lot more free-flowing with the scraps too. Less food on the ground = less bugs = happy Hugo!

Hugo was in great company, lots of dogs there and plenty of admirers to come by. We were a lot more free-flowing with the scraps too. Less food on the ground = less bugs = happy Hugo!

The aftermath of the broken dog stake. Don't believe me when I say Hugo's like a freight train when he bolts after something he wants? Take a look at that popped-open chain link!

The aftermath of the broken dog stake. Don’t believe me when I say Hugo’s like a freight train when he bolts after something he wants? Take a look at that popped-open chain link! And by the way, that stake used to be straight!

Goofy faces with Daddy - such sweet moments together

Goofy faces with Daddy – such sweet moments together

I can't tell you the satisfaction of building a fire. It's like none other. I used to think it was so funny when my brothers would dance around a fire they built. I totally get it now!!

I can’t tell you the satisfaction of building a fire from nothing but a click stick and the wood around you. It’s like none other. I used to think it was so funny when my brothers would dance around a fire they built. I totally get it now!!

Comments

  1. Grandpa Paulson says:

    Loved the story and the pics! You have your paternal Grandmother Vina’s “I want to go camping so let’s do this thing” gene. Bully for you! (And, really that’s what it takes. You get going, and adjust in the future). I understood the lows, and sympathized, but I loved the “highs” and the just one of them that pops in my head at this writing is the taking the afternoon nap at 3:00 pm and see the 360 degree trees in the air above through the tent windows. Ah-h-h! Both your Mom and I could totally relate (and we related, actually, to every word)! Thanks for sharing!

    • At one [low] point, I told Andy I thought he was being overly negative. He needled back that I was being overly optimistic. Hehe. Upon further reflection, I realized… you should’ve seen what I grew up with! So much it was with both you and mom (and both sets of grandpas and grandmas – grandmas especially) “Well, this isn’t ideal… but let’s make the best of it!” I think that was an awesome gift you gave us kids. 😀

  2. Judy Van Cleve says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the tale of your camping adventure. You and Andy are so smart. The boys will not remember their stuff, but they will remember this adventure for the rest of their lives. Love you all.

    • I like to think so too, Judy! I certainly have great memories of camping. Problem is/was that being the youngest – and, well, not a boy scout – I really had it made in the shade growing up. Everything was done by people other than me! My biggest concern was achieving the perfect toasted marshmallow.

      Now, though, I’m seriously digging deep to remember what needs to be done. I’m glad that Tony took it upon himself to inform me of every last pertinent detail of field identification and fire building. That really came in handy! :) :)

  3. UNCLE BRIAN!!!! says:

    Great post. While reading your “lows”, I could just think “Ugh, poor Andy.” But when reading the “highs”, I know it was all worth it.

  4. Michelle says:

    Loved it! Sounds like so much fun. Surprisingly, I did go camping as a kid and I remember liking it….I wouldn’t even know where to begin now! My favorite part was your overly optimistic, that’s one of your very best traits and something that I love about you!

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