Tag Archives: tent

Breaking the Camping Curse

So I had this idea, and when I get an idea, I usually don’t let it go until it reaches spectacular success or spectacular failure. This idea was to have a proper camping trip.

We went on our first family camping trip a few months ago, I posted about it here. While it was a fun adventure, it wasn’t the relaxing-in-nature kind of trip I’d envisioned. After that excursion I figured we needed to try camping again soon so that it won’t seem like an insurmountable task come next summer.

Also, I have to admit I’m going through a phase where I’m trying to eek out every minute of fun because when Bean is born in January, I know life will never be the same. But the kicker is I don’t know what that life will look like. So I might as well get to crossing items off my To Do list now, while I’ve got a good grasp on how things are.

For the past two months our weekends have been booked with out-of-state trips, parties, work-related functions and more. But I tried to keep this weekend open. When looking for a place to camp, I saw pictures of Starved Rock State Park and fell in love with it as the closest, perfect spot to camp with great hiking trails. Then last week the weather forecast made its last promise of summer, so on Thursday I decided, yes let’s camp. Hubby was all for it and we began preparing. There were new To Do lists, Googling on hiking with a toddler and being pregnant and a fun REI run. Come Friday my family was ready.

The only problem is we had no place to go. That weekend was Starved Rock’s big weekend because of some local festival and they’d been full for ages. I remembered my dentist telling me about Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin. I called them and they said they weren’t accepting reservations, but that I should “c’mon up … we’ve got tons of space … see you this weekend!”

Saturday morning, my clan headed out. About an hour from Kettle Moraine, per the state park woman’s directions, I called the place to see which of the three campgrounds I should head to. A different woman told me they were full and had already turned away well over 50 people. Nice. Now what?

I started to freak as I’d packed up my entire family, carted them to Wisconsin and we had no place to stay. Would the Camping Curse continue? My heroic hubby hopped on his phone and searched for nearby state parks. We were a mile away from one that said they had plenty of space.

As we pulled into Big Foot Beach State Park, the check-in booth was blanketed in beetles. This well-coifed park ranger came out and was unphased. They buzzed around her curly locks and one crawled on her cheek. She never swatted it away. I barely wanted to roll down my window for fear of letting the swarm inside.

Once through Bug Gate, we chose a shady spot atop a small slope. Hubby pitched the tent with minimal help from me and Logan, which was a huge upgrade from the last time when I had to put it up in the dark because he was too freaked by the abundance of monster bugs.

After we got everything settled, we just relaxed. Logan and I snuggled on a blanket and admired the yellow, burgundy and orange leaves while having an esoteric conversation about who created the trees and why. He then gave the park his seal of approval: “Mommy, this place is boootiful.”

He was right. The fall foliage was great and we got a good look at it while going on a 2ish mile hike. The trail we took was fairly well-worn, so he rode his little bike, but after about 45 minutes, I was glad it wasn’t a tougher trail as my body reminded me that I am seven months pregnant.

Many folks thought I was crazy for wanting to go camping with my 3 year old and baking my Bean. I totally see where they were coming from. But in a clichéd 3 a.m. pregnant lady run to the outhouse, I reveled in the silence. While walking back to the tent, I could only hear the rocks crunching beneath my feet and I looked up and saw Orion’s bow. It’s been years since I’ve seen that. His belt? Yes. His bow? No.

Growing up my dad and I had a hobby of studying the stars and living in the city, I don’t see constellations like you can in the country. And it was breathtaking. This, I thought, is why I’m doing it. There’s no e-mail, no phone calls, no TV, no cleaning, no laundry, no RSVPs, no work, no nothing, no expectations. Just me, my family and nature.

And it was perfect.

Advertisements

Weekend Warriors: Pitching a Tent Instead of Pitching a Fit

It was 8 p.m. Friday and our family was headed to the sticks of Wisconsin. A hectic week meant we had to pack everything after work that day. My Jeep was so full it looked like we were moving to Afghanistan instead of camping in Wisconsin.

Logan was ecstatic about his camping trip.

After a two-hour drive, we rolled into the lakeside campsite. Hubby began the not-so-easy task of pitching his first tent in decades with only the Jeep’s headlights to help. But he assured me, he could do it. Thirty minutes later, the only progress made was the tarp had been laid and we’d attracted a Biblical-sized swarm of creepy crawlies.  

I decided to stop looking after Logan, who was over-the-moon happy, and help Hubby with the tent operation. He explained to me what he was doing, but I was lost, it didn’t make sense. I’ve never pitched a tent. Ever. However it quickly became clear why it was so slow going. Hubby kept stopping to spritz himself with bug spray and he was steadily dancing around.  

“What’s wrong with you? You gotta pee or something?” He stopped girating: “No.” I then had an “A Ha Moment.” Hubby was so freaked out by the plague of insects he couldn’t focus. I don’t like bugs either, but that’s in my house. When I’m in their hood, I try to roll with the punches.  

I took over the tent operation, eventually asking him to step aside because it was just easier to fly solo with a backup dancer. Once I got all the poles in the right place, I called him in for the hoisting and the tent was pitched. We settled in for the night, only to be awakened at 3:30 a.m. by industrial strength fireworks from a house across the lake. At least Logan was thrilled.  

The next day was great. We got to explore the area, I read a book under a shade tree, Logan fed some chickens and ducks at a nearby chicken coop, we went for a hike in the pine woods, drank amazing water out of a glacier well, the boys played in a rowboat, real Huck Finn type stuff.  

That night though, around 2 a.m. Logan woke crying, complaining of a headache and demanding medicine. He seemed fine, and this is something usually fixed by the “medicine” of milk and honey or Vitamin D drops. (Hey, that placebo effect thing works wonders.) I scoured my sleepy brain to think of what “medicine” I could concoct. (Feel free to judge me now.) I mixed ketchup, apple jelly and ginger ale in a cup and told him to take a small sip because it was camping medicine so it worked great but tasted bad. Hubby and I watched with bug eyes as he sipped. I took the cup back. Logan asked for more. Gross, but I hesitantly agreed to one more swallow, then we’d have to go to bed. He drank, we slept.  

On Sunday we went to Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark, a huge complex of water slides, obstacle courses and fountains attached to a hotel. Hubby had rented a suite for the day so we could have a place to drop our stuff. I’d never been there and was expecting a glorified cabana, but when he said suite, he meant it. There was a full kitchen, a dining area, two-seater Jacuzzi bath, balcony… I walked in stunned and then groaned thinking of how we’d have to leave in a few hours to go back to our mosquitoes and four-man tent. Instead of dwelling, I seized the moment, took the world’s longest shower and we had a blast at the waterpark.  

When it was almost time to leave, hubby informed me that he didn’t have the heart to yank us out of the lap of luxury and wanted to give Logan another day at the park. We were staying the night. I jumped for joy and ordered room service.  

Overall it was a great weekend, and I’m not saying that because we got a rockin’ suite at the end. We got to camp on this beautiful private property at McIntyre’s Resort, met wonderful people along the way, but most of all we enjoyed creating new memories and spending time together as a family.

Surprise Honey! We’re Going Camping!!!

That was my Wednesday evening. My hubby was tearing into a big box that arrived in the mail like it was Christmas. Out came an unending sleeping bag. “It’ll fit the whole family!!!” He grins. We’re going camping in two days. Me, hubby and toddler. Oh boy.

Let me back up by saying hubby and I have been dying for just an easy family vacation. I had a lot on my plate so told him, hey you organize it. I don’t care where we go, as long as it’s less than two hours’ drive and I don’t want to be in a hotel or outside (meaning no camping) so he could find a cabin, a condo, a bed and breakfast… That was a month ago. It seems he forgot my “no outside” disclaimer because on Wednesday night, he did the “Big Reveal.” Camping.

I have to say I have wanted to go camping for awhile as a family, but we didn’t have a tent, a tarp, sleeping bags, flashlights, none of the equipment. And I grew up camping, so my confidence as a camper is high, my confidence as a mommy camper, not so much.

As soon as I found out about our three-day adventure, I turned to my sage computer to look for advice. There were Google searches and frantic e-mails to friends and posts to my boards on BabyCenter, all with the four letter word: help! Thankfully, I was flooded with great tips.

At least we’re at a campsite that has bathrooms. What they look like I know not, but really, has anyone ever been to a nice camping bathroom? Like a perfectly well behaved 2-year-old, they don’t exist. There’s also a beach, which will be great and apparently there’s nice trails.

The temperatures, though, will be sweltering in the mid-90s, the mosquitos will surely be feasting and I wonder, is Logan going to be afraid of the dark? He’s already asked me if there’s going to be monsters. Will we three be jammed into this massive sleeping bag with all the flashlights flaring throughout the night, causing the tent to be blanketed in moths, or worse, June bugs?

Time will tell. I’ll come back on Monday to report how it went. Hopefully we don’t get West Nile, and that the lake doesn’t have E. coli. Though I betcha it’ll work out fine, and who knows at the end of it all, I may even be a fan of the family sleeping bag.