The Creekside Family Goes Camping

We did it.  A family of non-campers went camping. Not only that, but it rained nearly the entire time. And we survived.  Not just survived, we thrived.  Thanks to our much more experienced family and friends that accompanied us.  And also, thanks to the amazing transformation I saw in my children.

At first, they were a little fussy.  “I see bugs!”  “I got dirt on me!”  Really?  These are the same children who fling themselves into mud at every opportunity and capture bugs more frequently than professional entemologists.  Nope, I am not going to take these complaints seriously, I thought, as I continued to shove poles into what may or may not have been the correct openings of our tent.

And sure enough, within the hour, the Creek kids were making towers out of rocks and spotting deer in the woods and digging in the dirt.

By the end of the day, along with their friends, they’d discovered the newts. They became highly newt-focused for the remainder of the trip.  For whatever unfortunate genetic reason, these newts are slow, thus making them an easy catch for a band of three-to-eleven year olds.  Newts were piled into beach buckets, passed around from kid to kid, lined up on a table for a newt race and carried around like pets.

So the kids would run around collecting newts and walking the hiking trails and playing with sticks and then the rain would come again.  They’d dash to whichever one of our five campsites was closest and get under cover of a tarp or canopy. Then when the rain slowed, they’d dash out again.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Oh, did I mention they stopped to eat?  When hungry, they’d appear. Then they were off again. Until it was campfire time. S’mores and snuggling on the laps of grown ups in camp chairs, then off to bed.

This type of activity level and exhaustion lent itself well to what happened on our second night of camping.  After a day of so much rain, we believed we would have a clear night. At least that was what the weather reports had said before we arrived at the park, which had no cell phone service. Thus no current weather reports.

So imagine our surprise when, at 2:30 a.m. we found ourselves in the midst of a huge thunder and lighting storm, gushes of rain pouring outside of our tent, that went on and on and on. It slowed at times but I’m not really sure it ever stopped raining that night.

I lay in our tent, water slowly dripping on my head, a towel covering my face, thinking, we are at the mercy of the elements.  The kids mostly slept through it all, except Love Bug, who got some water dripped on his head briefly and looked around in amazement at the lighting show shining through the tent, before falling back to sleep.

The next morning, I sat huddled under an umbrella with my sister, drinking coffee that I’d managed to make on our camp stove between squalls, surveying all of our wet and mud-spattered things and wondered if it ever did not rain in this particular place.

Comparing stories with all of our fellow campers, each grown up said that at 2:30 a.m., when the storm began, they all desperately had to pee.  I guess that’s what listening to that much water pour down on you will do.

But thinking back, what stands out is how occupied my kids were. Squabbles were at a minimum. Not once were they bored.

And The Husband. What a trooper. This is a man who could have lived his whole life perfectly content had he never ever gone camping. But, as he often does, he went along with my hair-brained scheme.  And he was such a good sport, despite the rain and the work of schlepping all the gear and the discomfort of stuffing a family of five, including his six foot three inch frame into, essentially, a giant glorified grocery bag held together with plastic poles.  He did all that and more. He grilled wonderful yummy dinners, got our campfire going each night, and most importantly, did not have to fight a bear.

Bears, you see, were The Husband’s biggest concern when I brought up the idea of camping.  He was certain that I would send him out of the safety of our tent, into the darkness to fend off a bear that had wandered into our campsite, lest it decide to eat our children. He envisioned himself in the hospital with me by his side, apologizing profusely for the loss of his hand but cheerily musing how helpful his new hook will be for carrying my shopping bags.

I reassured him that my sister’s fiance, a highly experienced camper of MacGuyver-like proportions and expert hunter, would surely intervene, upon hearing The Husband’s my screams, should a bear attack us.  But no bears came and in fact, the campground hostess assured us that the only bear they’ve seen is way across the road near the ranger station where the garbage dumpster is located.

Will we camp again? Probably. Although, we’d prefer it to be in a cabin or camper, if our budget someday allows.  But until then, we are glad to have given our kids the experience.  We hope they will remember the wonderful discoveries the woods can bring and the fun of being with their family and friends.  As for The Husband and I, we’ve gained an appreciation for the simple things in life: being dry, our own bed, and not having to problem solve when you have to pee in the middle of the night in an endless rainstorm.


10 Comments

  1. This sounds like the exact reason why I love the cottage and hate camping (which my husband is a huge enthusiast of, and which I was subjected to for years when I was still hiding my real evil self and being all agreeable!) – we get all the outdoor fun but get to sleep in actual beds. I think you are very brave and I love the “adults having to pee” part of the story! Too funny.

    Also really love the image of your hook-handed husband carring grocery bags.

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    • It’s all fun and games until someone’s hand is bitten off by a bear! :-)

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  2. We have never camped and all of our friends do. We have no supplies, no tent, no camping grill or even air mattresses but one of these days we are going to join them! My biggest fear holding me back is mosquitoes. My daughter gets ginormous welts. They have caused trips to the doctor and once even on antibiotics. I am not sure I could relax while constantly running after her with bug spray.

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    • Mosquitoes are an issue, but you can minimize your encounters with planning. There are more mosquitoes at certain times of the year than others, so try to plan to go while the mosquitoes are fewer. Don’t put your tent in the shade. You probably won’t be in it much in the day when shade would be useful. At night you want to be away from the trees and out where the breeze helps keep the mosquitoes away. Some people find they draw fewer mosquitoes and other biting insects if they go with unscented soap, lotion and other products right before and during their camp out. Bug spray bug spray bug spray, stay out of high grass and thickets and away from stagnant water and your mosquito encounters will be fewer!

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  3. Congrats on surviving your first ever tent camping experience. Sorry it rained on your first outing. That’s a real trial by water! Camping is one of our favorite things to do and we love taking new campers on their first camping adventure.

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  4. Praise God for those newts! I’m not sure how any of us would’ve made it through the weekend without them! And for your Husband, Lord of the Fire, you neglected to mention his amazing fire-starting skills…

    We made it! No one was eaten by bears and no one got divorced. Victory is ours!

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  5. ‘carrier bag with tent poles’ made me actually lol. We camp a lot following my husband’s hovercraft racing. We do have a camper (RV) though. seems like you had a great time though. I’d like to do more family camping insttead of race meetings. we did do some across Europe last summer, france, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland. Which was great, but not the streams and newts kind…

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  6. You made me laugh as I read your post. We have camping with my in-laws several times. It never fails to rain when we camp. It always amazing me how camping can transform kids into such eager explorers. Everything becomes interesting.

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  7. Awesome! We’re avid campers…although the summers have gotten so busy that we can’t do as much. ((sigh)) The kids put the tent up just yesterday, but since it’s down into the 20s tonight they’re sleeping INSIDE. LOL We also have a pop-up which might be a solution for you – some come with heat, frig and even shower/toilet, but they’re not as expensive as a hard-side camper. And it only takes us about 30 minutes to set up camp in it.

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  8. This is awesome. I truly hope we don’t get that much rain on our first big camping trip but if we do I hope my kids are just as great about it as yours were. I love the image that you create of them just going and going, through the rain, only stopping for hunger and to collapse at the end of the day. That picture is priceless.
    Great story! Thanks for sharing.

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