Much like wringing out the last drop of water from a saturated beach towel, my family is determined to get the final bit of fun out of a summer that is too quickly approaching its end. Last week, we took an impromptu camping trip.
Before we had kids, my husband and I had very rigid ideas about camping… you might even say we were camping snobs.
If there was anything more substantial than a nylon barrier protecting us from the elements while we slept, or if we saw any signs of human existence, it did not fit our description of these tranquil outings that we pined away for all winter long.
We took our first family camping trip when our son was 2 ½. We packed up all the necessities and headed north. We drove right up to our campsite (I gathered that’s what is meant by car camping) pitched our tent and prepared to share with our young son the finest of what the great outdoors had to offer.
It turned out that the great outdoors offered much of what we had remembered, and then some. I couldn’t recall sharing our days under the sun and nights under the stars with so many people. Much to my dismay, this appeared to be our “new normal.” We were expecting our second child at the time, and I couldn’t see the three, soon to be four of us out on a canoe or kayak trip any time soon.
Now, the kids are 11 and eight and we do our best to jam at least one camping trip into our busy summers.
And we have relaxed our standards and expectations.
Ironically, the internet is a useful tool when booking a campsite. After finding many parks were full, we discovered a web site that turned out to be somewhat indicative of the camp ground itself. Multi coloured lights glittered and flashed – virtual stars, I think. Unbelievably, this park also boasted Free! Wireless! Internet access.
But it had available spots, and we didn’t intend to spend much time at the camp site anyway, so we packed up the necessities and headed north.
Once at the camp ground, we drove around in search of the most secluded place to camp. It became clear that the adults’ ideal site was much different than the kids’. My husband, and I wanted to stay at the “rustic” sites but the kids preferred to be in the main camp area – close to the washrooms and swimming pool. Reluctantly, we agreed, and drove up to the site beside the pool.
We were surrounded by many large trailers and only a few other tents. Luckily, it turned out that we weren’t in a busy area at all, as few people used the communal washrooms, and even fewer used the pool.
One person did walk by and asked incredulously, “Do you actually like sleeping in a tent?”
We walked to the lakefront where we were all enthralled by the natural beauty of the miles of rocky shore and deep blue water. We excitedly discussed the following two days during which we would spend time at a nearby beach, and walking on the Bruce Trail.
Once back at the site, my husband, who has severe gadget-boy tendencies, needed to be reminded about the use of electronics on camping trips. We allowed the kids to bring their hand held game systems along for the drive, but they were not to be used once at our destination He barely heard me as he shared the fact that, here we were camping, and he was able to surf the internet on our son’s game system. 11-year-old Nick, who is shares his father’s appreciation for technology, was also thrilled. They assured me it wasn’t because they wanted to surf, but simply because they could.
“Besides,” Nick guffawed as he swept his arm around at the surrounding trailers, “Even with this, we’re the camping-est people around here!”
We prepared our dinner with food packed in the cooler and later, roasted marshmallows on the fire built with wood purchased from the camp store.
Once “in bed”, my husband and I realized that our thin inflatable mattresses, once ideal when packing as lightly as possible for trips during which we portaged a canoe, now seemed painfully thin. Although we occasionally discuss the possibility of some day purchasing either a cottage or a sailboat, never, until those two nights, had the merits of a trailer actually entered into that conversation.