5 Lessons from Family Camping

The family that camps (and suffers) together, stays together

This long, Labor Day weekend we decided to try our hand at family camping again.  Our daughters are almost 4 and 6 years old and we've been aching to get outdoors more.  So off we went to Heuston Woods State Park for a little family adventure.  It was predicted to be 100 degrees on Saturday, making a day at the lake seem like the perfect idea.  But camping trips rarely end as expected and this one turned into quite an adventure.  In the end we had a blast, and learned a lot along the way. Here are some of the lessons I took away from our trip: 1.  Don't listen to the weather people - They said it would be almost 100 degrees on Saturday and they were right.  They said we might get thunderstorms late on Sunday evening and they were wrong.   Saturday evening the sky turned black just before sunset and the torrent came down right after I lit the fire for dinner.   At first the girls were terrified as the tent went white with flashes of lightning followed by booming thunder.  But after a while they got used to it and eventually even ignored it.  Thanks for the warning weather lady! 2.  Don't feed a 3yr old s'mores at 10pm - At first it seems like divine intervention when the rain paused a few hours later and the fire was still smoldering.  So we jumped out, roasted some marsh-mellows and licked our fingers free of gooey s'mores.   But by 11pm the rain was back and now our 3 yr old was bouncing off the tent walls as the rest of us tried to fall asleep between the thunder and lightning. 3.  Colemen doesn't seal side walls of their tent - The rain pelted the massive, 8-person family tent from all directions and by midnight Lisa announced it was raining in the tent.  A quick scan revealed small rivers flowing down the tent walls from every stitch.  It dripped from the ceiling, the walls and the windows.  So we pulled everyone together into a tight ball in the middle of the tent, away from the walls, to try to stay dry.  I guess I should have read up more on our new family tent before taking it out in the rain. 4.  You don't pick your neighbors - After a while we all managed to drift off in spite of all the natural distractions.  At one point I woke up in the middle of the night and could hear a nearby group chatting and laughing loudy; or at least loud enough to be annoying.  As I started to drift back off to sleep, focusing on the pitter-patter of the rain instead of their voices, I heard one say. "Wow, we've been talking until 4 in the morning."  At which point they continued talking.  In the larger national parks we'd never really had any trouble with loud campers after 10pm.  But this was a smaller state park with the clientele a bit more "rural" as Lisa put it. 5.  Even in a downpour camping is fun - It was the 3yr old who woke up first; announcing it was time to get up with: "I need to go potty."    The rain had stalled to a light mist and the sun was visible through the still-thick clouds.  In spite of what could have been a pretty rough night for the most seasoned campers, the girls woke up cheerful, even eager.  "We love camping" they exclaimed.   And I was one proud papa. They spent the night in a leaky tent, assaulted by thunder and lightning and annoyed by loud neighbors in between thunder claps.  And they woke with smiles on their faces and eager for more.  I can't wait for our next family camp trip!
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