Friday, September 27, 2013

Camping 2.0

The woods is where I had all of my adventures as a kid. Either blazing new trails or simply going to my favorite spots. I liked that it was quiet. I liked the idea of being nowhere and being somewhere at the same time. And I also liked the idea that while my parents knew where I was, they didn't know exactly where; it was mine and mine alone. It might sound like I must have done a lot of hikes and probably camped often too. Nope. Not at all. My parents never took me camping and I never went with friends, I don't recall even being asked or hearing about friends camping. My dad liked to be outside, but just on a golf course, on the grill or out for a run. My mom was no hermit either, though she'd prefer the beach or to sit by a pool somewhere. It wasn't until I was in college that I slept outside, and that was a music festival in Maryland and I didn't sleep so much as my body said 'enough.'

So when we moved back east, I decided that my boys would get to experience camping and, through it, the joys of the woods, exploring their surroundings and maybe even finding their own cool spots tucked between the trees. We took our first camping trip this spring, and it was to say the least a very eventful inaugural trip, which I wrote about here.  Since then I have wanted to get back out with the boys and hopefully the Mrs, to try it again, but to do so a little closer than last time.

The Mrs found a good weekend for it, one that worked with her erratic schedule, and luckily there is a beautiful state park that offers camping only fifteen minutes from our house. So we went...and we also brought our dog.

Though we didn't have a clear night, it rained a bit, it was still a good time. We roasted hot dogs and marinated chicken breast over the fire, we made s'mores and we read stories. We watched the boys wrestle like maniacs in the tent (later discovering that they just tracked dirt all over our sleeping bags, pillows and sleeping pads). While the Mrs went to bed when the boys did, I sat out with the dog to watch our first camp fire go out. When I went to bed, the boys were still awake, though barely. The Monkey was using the Mrs' ankles as a pillow and the Little Man was laying his and his brother's sleeping pads. In five minutes, all I could hear were the crickets, a few other campers getting to bed and two little snores from the boys.

I think that sleeping in a tent takes some getting used to, at least for me and the Mrs. We have sleeping pads, but the 2.5" of inflated air is nothing compared to our king bed. We both woke up several times through the night (thankfully, to the pitter-patter sounds of a small shower on the rain fly) and when the boys let us know it was awake time, we both groaned and body's creeked our way up and out of the tent.

The Mrs is a coffee girl (I don't care for the stuff), so I had to come prepared with coffee. There is an art to making coffee well, I learned that I do not possess this skill naturally. But with not-so-good-coffee in hand, the Mrs was ready for the morning. Since I had seen a beautiful green clearing in the woods from our campground, I thought it would be fun to go explore and see what was there. The Little Man wanted no part of it, but the Monkey was all too happy to join me and the dog for a short romp. When we got there, it wasn't much to see just a clearing in the woods. The Monkey, however, thought it was pretty cool as he ran around chasing the dog for a few minutes. Had it just been he and I, we would have kept exploring. He even pointed in the woods away from camp and said 'go, dadda', but we had planned to take a short hike as a family on the trails so we headed back.

The Little Man whined the entire hike (only a half-mile round trip and mostly flat or downhill) and the Monkey wanted to be carried for the short up-hills and put down to hazardously run down the downhills. By the end of the hike, we were all ready to pack up and get on home. I think we were all happy that the drive was only fifteen minutes.

Camping, for us, is going to be a learned behavior and perhaps a few tweeks will be needed to enjoy it more. But for a first whole family camping trip, it was still fun. I am starting to get to know my boys better for who they are and what they like and dislike. You'd think I would have that down pat being that I spend all of my time with them, but they are becoming more and more their own little individuals everyday. One day they might be afraid of something and the next day it's no big deal. I just hope that in time they can both learn to love occasionally getting lost, be it in themselves or out our backdoor, and truly understand the great Dr Seuss line: "it's opener there, in the wide open air."


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