I can remember it clearly…my very first, and one of very few, camping trips with my family. I was about 12 years old, and my big sister had just started her Freshman year at NAU. Living in Tucson, the draw of having a family member to visit in the cool pines of Flagstaff was immense. Not only did my parents want the chance to visit their first born at college on a regular basis, but it was a chance for us as a family to escape the sweltering heat of Southern Arizona on a somewhat regular basis. But let’s face it, hotel costs add up real quickly. So, my parents decided to buy a used 16′ travel trailer. Yep, we became “RVers”.
Now, let me preface this by saying, we were NOT a family of campers. We did not own a tent or lantern, sleeping bags were for slumber parties only, and sitting in front of a crackling fire in our living room was about as close as we had gotten to a campfire. Nevertheless, we hitched that trailer right up to our new truck and drove it on up I-17. The set-up process was tedious and I am certain there were more than a few unsavory words uttered from my parents’ mouths, but they did it…..we were camping. Because I was the smallest, I was the lucky winner of a night slept in the super “sleek” bunk that folded down from the ceiling of the trailer. What at first seemed pretty cool, quickly became a claustrophobic episode. With my pre-teen nose just inches from the fiberglass ceiling, the pine needles that fell from the glorious pines outside scratched like claws above my nose and when the Kaibab squirrels leapt from the branches onto their newly parked landing pad….well, let’s just say I bonked my head on that ceiling more than once. It was…..an experience. Nature in all it’s glory.
We made that trip several more times, and each time, we did all we could do not to hitch up that trailer and drive it right over to the local hotel. Camping was perhaps not, the Miller Family strong suite. But, we could say we had tried.
When I met my husband (just a few short years later), I was always slightly confused by the joy his family took in sharing photographs and memories of theirs dozens of family camping trips take over the years. Stories of natural beauty witnessed, games played, fish caught, and meals shared. They loved it. They wanted to do it all the time. And I…totally didn’t get it.
While we were dating and newly married, my hubs and I took a few camping trips together. He knew what he was doing when it came to cooking meals outdoors, starting fires, and setting up a tent. I rarely slept on these adventures, and I never went for more than one night at a time, but I actually kinda, sorta started to enjoy myself…or at least imagined that this was possible. Campers in nearby spaces always seemed to be having a good time…laughing, joking, exploring. Maybe there was something to this camping phenomena after all…
When our kids were born, I agreed that we would try for a happy medium when it came to nature-loving outdoor time with our young family. There was however, one caveat…I needed to be off the ground (I know…high maintenance). So, we found ourselves a deal on a used pop-up tent trailer and once our kids were both of walking and talking age, we tried it out. The nights (did you catch that plural there??? 2 nights…) were more or less sleepless (for me) and my fine tuned home cooking skills were reduced to nill when I had to cook on a propane burner, but strangely, I kinda liked it. The sound of the cool breezes in the trees and the birds singing their songs brought an unexpected peace and tranquility to the everyday chaos of our young family. The glory of nature’s songs were superceded only by the giggles of my littles as they watched a fuzzy caterpillar inch across a fallen tree nearby and as they skipped across the stone paths lining our camp space. The buckets they filled with their “Mother Nature Treasures” overflowed and I realized the joy in the simplicity. No electronics. No crazy blinking battery powered toys. Just leaves, dirt, bugs, and rocks. And two very tired and blissful kiddos at the end of each day. Good stuff indeed.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still don’t sleep when we camp…that is what coffee is for. And I have my rules: 2 nights max, some semblance of a potty within walking distance, a bed that is at least 18 inches off the ground, and Smore’s, lots of Smore’s. An electrical source is preferable…but I can be flexible. Seems fair to me. My husband agrees (albeit while rolling his eyes) and my kiddos, well, they don’t know the difference. They only know that nature is cool and sleeping in nature (in a trailer) is extra cool. Since we became campers-ish, they pick up litter so it doesn’t “hurt nature”. They notice wildflowers. They listen to the birds in the morning. They respect Mother Nature.
So, yes, I do camp. I do it for my kids. I do it for our family. I do it for the lessons that cannot be taught indoors. I do it for the giggles that make a few sleepless nights every now and then completely worth it.
Do you have any fun (or not so fun) camping stories? We would love to hear!
Click HERE for some family friendly camping tips. Happy Camping!!!
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