Ahh, the great outdoors. The fresh air. The peace and quiet. The campfires. There’s nothing quite like pitching a tent and letting the rest of the world fall away as you sleep under the sparkling stars. Right?
Unfortunately, my husband and I don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to camping. And my mind replayed those less than stellar experiences when he suggested we take our kids camping after school on Friday. It’s one thing to have a bad camp out with just two people, but when you throw an 8-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, and a 10-month-old Labrador retriever into the mix, well, those camping complications aren’t as funny as they once were.
The first time Mr. Roller Coaster and I ever went camping, we were young and stupid and madly in love. We went with a large group of people, hiking a mile or so to the campsite, where everyone put up tents and sat around the fire with stories (and flasks) to pass around. The rain started shortly after we bundled up in our sleeping bags, pelting our tent throughout the night as we hoped the rain fly would keep us relatively dry. When we awoke the next morning, we discovered that our tent was only one of two to remain standing. The rain had chased away the other dozen or so tents that had surrounded ours. Apparently, we were the only ones crazy enough to stick around to sleep in the rain. Back then, we considered that romantic.
For our next camping trip, Mr. RC took me out to a small island on his jon boat. While he set up camp with the friend who tagged along, I sat on the beach and watched his (later, my) chocolate lab swim laps around the lake. The weather was perfect. Until suddenly it wasn’t, and we were assaulted by a severe thunderstorm. We finally had to decide if we were more at risk of being struck by lightening on the island in a tent or on a boat ride back to the car. We ultimately chose to break down camp and head home in the middle of the night. I crouched down as much as I could on the boat as the wind and rain struck my face, and I wondered how Mr. RC could possibly drive the boat with zero visibility. By the time we got home, we were wet and cold and cursing the local weather forecasters for once again misinforming us.
Not wanting to give up on the entire institution of camping, we tried yet again. The third time we were hard core, packing as lightly as possible as we prepared to hike an 8-mile loop. But the weather foiled our plans once again. We didn’t know where the nearest campsite was, so when the rain started, we set up camp right on the trail. I don’t remember who discovered the first tick or the second or the third. All I remember is spending the entire night picking ticks off of each other, dozens and dozens of disgusting little ticks. The funniest part? We realized the next morning that if we had walked about 10 minutes longer the night before, we would have made it to a campsite that probably wasn’t infested with critters.
All 3 of those camping trips flashed through my mind on Friday as my family loaded up in my husband’s truck for our first Roller Coaster family camp out. I have to admit I wasn’t overly optimistic.
So was this latest adventure in camping as disastrous as the others?
Well, other than the bag of clothes and pillows that was left behind in our family room, the thunder that rumbled while the kids splashed on the beach, the puppy that ran off 4 times (and the subsequent yelps when we had no choice but to tie him to a tree), the SpongeBob pajamas that fell out of Little C’s backpack as she walked to the shower area (that someone was kind enough to turn in to the office for us to find in the morning), the one flashlight that four people in two tents had to share, the 2:30 AM domestic dispute of our neighboring campers coupled with my husband’s obscene snoring that stirred up a nasty case of insomnia, and the 5 AM screams of Little C that “BIG C IS NOT IN THE TENT!!! WHERE IS BIG C?!?!?!” (and Big C’s sleepy mumbles, “I’m right HERE. I’m right next to you.”)…I’d call this camping adventure a success. For the first time in my camping history, IT DIDN’T RAIN! That, in and of itself, equals success in my camping book.
Of course the deciding factor in camping success or failure rests in my children. And judging by their smiles and laughter and blissful exhaustion, I’d say they had fun. And that’s all that matters.