We’ve talked about a family camping trip for literally years. Every year it seems. But then it never actually happens. To all you who camp often with your family of littles, kudos! Seriously, it’s rather daunting to me. Something about having to pack up literally everything (even food and toilet necessities), sleeping on the hard ground, if much sleeping even happens, the extreme dirtiness and lack of proper bathing facilities…I don’t know. Sounds like more bad memories than good ones. Am I being cynical?
On the other hand, I remember the few times I camped in my young years with actual fondness. The daddy-daughter yearly camping shindig at a friend’s lake, complete with rope swing, and the one-time 3 day canoe/camping trip on the Flambeau River (also with my Dad), while stretching for me (and I’m sure my Dad! What a good sport!), were full of fun times and great memories.
So when Eddie latched on to the idea of camping in Gramps’ and Grammy’s backyard while on our family trip to Illinois, it seemed like the perfect test run: close to the house in case we needed to bail, still so much potential for fun, very “woodsy” feeling, happy nostalgia.
Gramps was a good sport and set up the tent. We hauled down the necessities like s’mores and sleeping bags to the family’s traditional campsite down by the creek, along a little mowed path in a clearing surrounded by tall trees and brush.
Everyone trekked down, Jonathan’s siblings and their spouses, and we sang campfire songs around the glowing fire with a full moon rising overhead. S’mores were a must, as well as a rambunctious reading of “Tacky the Penguin Goes to Camp” by the famously great narrator, Gramps. Only silly stories were told by the light of the fire as the night drew on, nothing too scary, for sure no bears (Eddie’s one hesitation about camping). Then Grammy snuggled up with Eddie inside the tent. I gave up and took Xanderman inside, considering it wasn’t worth a going-to-sleep battle if he wouldn’t even remember camping. Then a few of us siblings took a stroll over to the large clearing to gaze at the gorgeous full moon.
By the time we got back, Eddie was asleep. Some headed back to the house, but most of us settled into the tent and got as comfortable as we could. The loud night noises of the woods wooed us to sleep. I wondered if we’d make it all night.
Not going to lie, it wasn’t the best night of sleep I’ve ever had. The ground was unforgiving. I resented waking up with an overactive bladder, but didn’t want to walk all the way to the house so I settled for the classic peeing outdoors.
Around 5:00 am, in the predawn light, Eddie nudged me and said he wanted to snuggle, so he nestled in close and went back to sleep. I happened to glance over at my sister-in-law, also awake, and she mouthed, “We made it!”. Soon enough we were all back asleep, though not for long. Gramps came down shortly and built the fire back up. It was time for doughnuts!
This Sauder Family camping classic was recounted to Eddie with such passion he considered it part-and-parcel of a camping adventure. He was the only one still asleep in the tent at 7:00 am when Gramps pulled the first hot doughnuts out of the pan over the fire and plopped them into a paper bag of cinnamon and sugar. A few shakes and the warm doughnuts were ready for delightful consumption.
We woke Eddie up and he settled onto his uncle’s lap by the fire watching the doughnut-making process, but not saying much. We all knew how he felt and sipped our coffee while staring blankly into the flames. Later on he was able to report how much he loved camping!
Verdict: worth it! Now to dig out our camping gear and try it SoCal style! All tips and tricks welcome!