For the crazy background on why this camping trip came to be, check out the intro at my main blog You’ll find travel and a whole lot more 🙂

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to be honest. Last week, I was desperate for some sort of flashing beacon of hope that my son wouldn’t be swallowed up by life’s forces. Probably worse, that he would be living in my house jobless and addicted to video games at the ripe old age of 35. I know that I’m probably exaggerating, blowing things out of proportion. My son is smart. Not the I’m-a-parent-and-my-child-is-smart type of smart. The boy has got brains for days. But those brains were stopping short of accomplishing common sense tasks and I wanted to light a fire under him, namely by having him build a few fires. I’ve got excellent news, Dear Readers. Our trip was a success. Of course, it is only a start, but it was a very good one. Please allow me the honor of sharing the experience.

The day started with buckets of rain. I had a lot riding on this trip, so imagine my dismay. My daughter was also feeling pretty bummed. This was to be their first camping trip and she was bursting at the seams with excitement. My son… he reminded me that he’s more of an indoor person. So to wait out the rain, we filled up our morning with child labor. In other words, my bedroom needed the walls repainted, so I let the lessons begin before the trip and put paint rollers in their hands. Hey, Mr. Miyagi did it to the Karate Kid and just look how well things worked out for him. Am I right?

I booked this trip somewhat last-minute and just went on the recommendation of a friend. Let’s just say that this isn’t the type of camping that I’ve grown used to. It’s not so much glamping, but it isn’t fully camping either. Our campground has pre-built tents that are elevated… well, here’s a photo.


Okay, so… wow… this is definitely a lot fancier than any camping I’ve ever known. Looks like this won’t be exactly the rite of passage that I imagined for my boy, but it’s a baby step in the right direction. And just in case the weather decides to turn on us again, it’ll be quite nice to have room to move about and play some board games if we can’t go out. Imagining 3 people in a humidified little tent is enough to make me grateful for this luxury.

The kids immediately set out to make friends with the neighbors– a group of girls my son’s age that are having a birthday camping sleepover. He’s looking more perked up already. And I love the fact that the kids are out roaming independently while I write this. City kids, even suburb kids, rarely get to do run about freely anymore. Also, it leaves me some time to alternate between writing this and considering shutting my eyes to nap. It took some energy to wrestle up all of these “essential” camping supplies.

Ah camping. Getting back to the basics– food, water and shelter, right? So why has a 2 day camping trip caused my car to be filled to near capacity? Let’s see, there’s charcoal and lighter fluid, 3 pots and pans, cups, plates, water, bread, hot dogs, oatmeal, fruit, granola bars, camera, tripod, sleeping bags, you get the idea.

I’ve got this bucket list item to backpack the Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail and, quite frankly, I’ve got a lot of hard work to do. How the hell am I going to make that happen? When it comes to travel, I went from being a chronic overpacker to a single carry-on-er. Yeah, I’m proud of that one. But there’s something different about not being able to run out to a nearby shop and quickly grab that thing I forgot to bring. Makes me all kinds of paranoid.

While in my state of flux, my daughter runs into the tent and tells me excitedly that Mission: Friendship is a success. She disappears and when they return, it’s with collection of shells they’ve gathered by the water.

Camping shells
Pretty impressive search results.

As the sun is setting, it’s time to start educating the little rascal on the fine art of fire building.

Camping sunset

Except I totally suck at fire building. Something about fires, I just can’t ever get them hot. Thankfully, I’ve only got this problem with fires. (I should be ashamed of myself, I know).

By dinnertime, my insistence that he do the bulk of the work is put to the test.  The other girls and their moms and I decide to join forces and make this camping thing a real event. So they lug over their supplies and we whip out all of ours and everyone’s just waiting on the fire to get those hot dogs sizzling. Will we eat hearty or starve? Or some miserable something in the middle?

He starts a raging fire.

Camping Austin fire

Excellent. See when this picture is taken, he doesn’t realize that maintaining a fire is a whole other process. Let’s combine that with the fact we’re wanting to cook on the fire pit instead of the grill because it looks more cozy… You see how far away that grate is from the actual flames? Not effective. We keep trying to keep it alive, and the girls have all got wieners on sticks and all they want is some food dammit.

I’ll tell you one thing, the boy loves his lighter fluid. But then again, who doesn’t?

Between all of us, we have one bag of charcoal and this fire isn’t going to cut it. Us women, although hell-bent on not admitting defeat, are too hungry to fight. We send some of the girls to find some help. A woman, we tell them. Don’t come back here with a man. We need saving, but we want a woman to save us. How many of you women out there know feel what I’m saying?

It’s not that we have anything against men; it’s just that men to the rescue seem to always have this, I’m here to rescue you poor women folk, sort of air about them. I don’t think they can help it. Everyone likes to feel needed after all. I think women have the same air when they are telling a man, here honey, let me show you how to do this (insert seemingly simple activity).

Anyhow, they come back with a man. A man who looks as though he was born in the woods. His momma went right around back behind some tree 42 years go and popped him out and he’s been coming back to the woods 5 times a year since that day. Us moms want to start whispering to each other, but we don’t quite know what to say. Anything we say will make us sound like jerks. We laugh when one of the girls run ahead of him and whispers to us that they asked a woman, but he got up and came instead.

He scopes out our situation, points out the issues and promises to return. And he does. Along with him are a bag of charcoal, fire wood (which for whatever reason I thought wasn’t allowed at this campsite) and his own 3 children bouncing along behind him. He educates us on some do’s and don’ts and helps us get back on track. We make certain to tell his children that their father is a hero. He swept in and saved the dinner. We send him off with a round of applause and Austin gets back to work, on the grill this time.

Side lesson learned: If you’re going to try to pop popcorn in a cast iron skillet, be prepared to wait at least 45 minutes for the first kernel to pop. There are better techniques out there. Hint: Aluminum foil.

Camping popcorn 2
This happens!

It turns out that the large tent was excellent for rousing board game battles.

Camping board games

In the morning, my son goes on to make breakfast without a single complaint or a single word of advice from me. He had been paying attention to the generous and helpful gentleman the night before and proceeds to make sausages, boil water for oatmeal, coffee for me and tea for him and his sister.

Camping breakfast
Thankfully you can’t see me grinning like an embarrassing mother on the other side of the lens.

After breakfast, he actually goes and takes a nap. The idea of him being exhausted due to activity and not lethargy makes me giddy. We leave him to rest and my daughter takes the lead on another shell-hunting adventure. I also do one of my favorite hiking activities, which is picking flowers and creating little bundles to tuck into my journal. Here are the two that I came up with.

After breakfast, he actually goes and takes a nap. The idea of him being exhausted due to activity and not lethargy makes me giddy. We leave him to rest and my daughter takes the lead on another shell-hunting adventure. I also do one of my favorite hiking activities, which is picking flowers and creating little bundles to tuck into my journal. Here are the two that I came up with.

When everyone from both camps are up and ready, we spend the afternoon mainly doing two things: hiking the nature trail and visiting the water park. On the nature trail, the kids run around playing hide and seek and speculating on various plants while us moms get to know each other and have lots of laughs. By the end of it, we are tired. And by we, I mean the adults. These children are insatiable. We resist the urge to force everyone to take a nap and head over to the water park for what we hope to be no more than a couple of hours. Amanda reads her e-book in the shade; Jill reads her paperback in the sun, and I write this blog post in my notebook.

We arrive back home in time for dinner of macaroni and cheese and sausages, made by you know who. It’s difficult for the kids to say good-bye to all of the fun and great new people they’ve met, but alas, life is calling.

At least, this time, I think he’ll be a little more prepared.