We finally made it camping this last weekend and though we had a few minor mishaps, I think it was overall a success, which is a relief to be able to say. We both pictured a number of catastrophes happening, ranging anywhere from B not sleeping at all and keeping the campers around us up all night, to being eaten by bears, neither of which happened.
In preparation for the adventure, I picked up the Family Camping Handbook from Kitchen Stewardship because she not only has tips on eating more nourishing food when camping (though I know the Backpacker’s Pantry packets are oh-so-tasty), she has ideas on camping with littles and I have never in my life camped with anyone under the age of 4, so this was all very new to me. It includes little lists for packing supplies and food based on the menus she offers and I found it to be really, really helpful. I even went out and got a tablecloth for the picnic table at our campsite per her suggestion, something I’ve never even thought to do before, and it was a fantastic idea! I’m sure you could find these tips all over the internet, but it’s a lot more convenient having them all in one place.
We left at about noon on Friday, hoping B would nap on the way (which he did for about 30 minutes :|), and made our way to a campground we’ve stayed at once before. I (thought) I had done my research and this particular campground wasn’t reservable so if we got there early enough, we could find a spot. When we finally pulled in after a 2.5-hour drive, we discovered little white signs on all the posts leading into each spot stating that they were reserved. This might be a problem. We went to the campground down the road only to discover the same case and started making plans to add this as another story to our collection of camping misadventures and either try and find a local hotel, or make the 2-hour drive back to Denver. It was about 3 pm at this point.
I happened to remember another campground not far from where we were where I had stayed with my dad when I was 16. It was on a bit of a rough road, but thanks to our (relatively) new all-wheel-drive vehicle, that wasn’t much of a problem. We pulled in a little after 4 and found campsites galore. Whew.
Set up was a breeze and after everything was in place, we loaded B into the Kelty carrier I picked up on Craigstlist for $40, and took off to hike a trail right off the campground entrance. The weather was perfect, we had burgers waiting for us back at the site, there was no fire ban, and, most importantly, we had a campsite. We followed that up with a dinner of burgers, tomatoes, and fruit (I sadly forgot the baked beans I had been so excited to bring), then put B down to sleep in the tent (I can’t even tell you how adorable he was lying in the middle of the air mattress all cozy in our 2-person sleeping bag), and made a ridiculous amount of s’mores over an awesome fire.
Sleeping wasn’t great, wasn’t bad. I knew B would struggle and that’s what happened. He woke up a lot, but was quickly calmed and went back to sleep. He doesn’t like blankets on him so as morning approached and the more rested he was, it got to be more difficult to get him back to sleep and finally he wasn’t having any more of this sleeping bag business even though it had to be 500 degrees below zero at that point (it was cold). So we got up at 6:30 am, which isn’t all that bad, all things considering.
At this point, E was ready to pack up as he was tired and it was really, really cold. I was disappointed as I had packed lunch for us, we didn’t need to leave the site until 2, and I thought we could spend some time exploring, but we decided to head out anyway. We made breakfast, cleaned up the site and after a brief little trip around the campground to find any sites that might be better for next time (if there were any and if there was a next time), we headed out.
I’m excited to try it again! Here are a few things I learned:
- I have to be a lot more aware of where B is at all times. I pinched his fingers in the car door in the morning when we were packing up and though it could’ve been a LOT worse, it only resulted in a few minor scrapes on his little fingers. I felt absolutely AWFUL and haven’t been able to forget it. Poor tiny man.
- Digging-in-the-dirt toys, which were recommended by a few people to keep B occupied, didn’t really work for us. He was WAY more interested in what we were doing and all the fun things on the picnic table like the gas stove and the lighters and the citronella candle and the new 9-inch serrated knife E bought. Fun toddler toys, you know?
- I think we need a bigger tent. The 3-person tent we got a few years back was perfect for the two of us sleeping on pads, but sleeping on an air mattress with a toddler between us was a different story. It’s definitely more than a little cozy. That’ll have to wait until another year, even though I have a lot of fun shopping for tents. 🙂 (How cute is this one with the little door mat?!)
- Camping checklists are made for a reason. I printed them out for a reason. There is no reason that I didn’t use them when we were done packing the car up other than that I’m lazy.
Hopefully we’ll get to try again in the next month or so!