As chief mamma travel blogger, I do much of the family travel planning. But an opportunity came up to take a camping trip last weekend planned by someone else. It sounded like fun even though camping is not my forte. I managed to survive a camping trip to Colorado National Monument earlier this summer. And, even came back with wonderful memories. The detailed packing list provided was helpful for that trip. Without that this time, I managed to forget soap. I really hadn’t given thought to how important soap was until this trip. We were informed where we were going. Also, that our hosts would kindly be providing a couple of meals and boats. From there I was able to find the campground website and more information.
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Our family’s first camping experience
We purged all of our camping equipment after we had kids. I very much appreciate amenities, such as a hot shower. So we had only ever been car campers. Typically one night trips, though two on special occasions. Our five-year-old had never been camping. And, our daughter had only been camping once on a class trip.
Preparation for our first camping trip
We had about a week or so to get ready for this trip. Some research, and we ordered a new tent and double sleeping bags on Amazon to arrive just in time. The campsite had a website so I was able to see that we would have an electrical outlet. I packed up my Nespresso machine. My husband thought to grab a small electrical heater from the basement on his way out. We stopped at Target on the way for a few extras such as another blow up mattress. We didn’t seem to be roughing it at all.
Insider Tip: If you aren’t sure about camping, take a trial run by glamping. Colorado has fantastic glamping spots with more amenities than you have camping.
A wildfire popped up very near the campsite a couple of days prior to our departure. We knew this and kept an eye on it, knowing that our host would also let us know if it seemed to be a danger. But we also knew that even if it wasn’t a danger it would likely make for some smoky sleeping conditions. So, we brought along eye drops and throat lozenges.
While this has been a rough summer for wildfire in Colorado, our concerns were low. See How to Talk to Kids About Wildfires. Our firefighters are incredible and the communications have been even better. We were fairly confident that our greatest concern would be smoke.
Arriving to our campsite
It was a gorgeous drive to the campsite. I restrained from asking for photography stops thinking there might be an opportunity on the way back. We arrived and were warmly greeted. Fairly easy tent set up. Slight apprehension that we were one of only two of the group in a tent. Everyone else had brought campers. Delicious dinner offerings from the tent next door. Found out one of the kids in a site next to us would be at the same school going into Kindergarten with our son. Kids located a campfire (in a pit — allowed according the the campsite website). We brought over S’mores materials and they kindly loaned us their fire.
Knowing that our youngest would wake up at the first sight of dawn I herded the family to the tent around 9 p.m. for bed. The kids were tired enough to fall asleep with serious parties going on either side of our tent.
Day 2 of Our Family Camping Excursion
In case you were wondering… Yes, our youngest did wake up at the crack of dawn as expected. Though I had been awake much longer on the blow up mattress that did not hold air. It was a windy, smoky night so sleep was not good. A light rain greeted our morning. While certainly we welcomed rain after having a dry summer, it did make for a cold morning. We managed to make espresso and then convene back in the tent until invited to breakfast.
We learned that the campsite up the hill was hosting evacuees from the fire just on the other side of the road. Made us be grateful for that rain that seemed to be escalating.
We really enjoyed the group of people with whom we were camping. Such a kind and welcoming group. Our son made friends immediately with the boy with whom he would be going into Kinder. They chased each other through the rain and mud puddles until freezing cold. The rain was picking up so we headed back to our tent and powered up that space heater. While we were all cold, had stuffy noses from the smoke and were tired, it still was quality time together. When are we ever together as a family with no devices and nothing to do but hang out? We played games and were just together.
Family Camping Lesson #1: Even when cold and tired, you can bond with your family.
Back in our tent we discovered that our son had pooped in the bush just outside our tent. Apparently the bathrooms with the big hole in the floor as a toilet scared him. Understandably. After what we hope was an educational conversation, we had a fun poop pick up and disposal excursion. It was about this time that I realized I hadn’t thought to bring soap. And, no, there was none in the bathrooms.
Adventures in Boating
The the sky opened up. We headed to the marina to get life jackets for the kids. Hubby headed back to the campsite while the kids and I boarded one of the boats to ride back to the campsite via the water. Our youngest, who hasn’t been on a lake since he could remember, was a bit scared. One of our hosts helped ease him onto the boat. He settled in and started to enjoy the ride.
Then the engine on the boat just puttered out. Both our captain and I realized at about the same time that we hadn’t brought our phones. Here we were in the middle of the reservoir, just floating. Shortly thereafter a boat who happened to know our driver called the marina for us. However, the marina seemed to have no urgency to get another boat out to us.
One of the other boats our group had rented finally realized we were just floating. They came back out and towed us back to the marina. Now in boat #2 on our way back to the campsite the weather started to warm up and I realized that two of us were still in our PJs and no one had on sunscreen.
Family Camping Lesson #2: Even if things seem bad, they probably aren’t. And, maybe you’ll make friends along the way.
Back on the beach at our campsite the kids splashed in the water, took boats back out and had fun.
Evening #2 of Family Camping
After fun in the water we headed back up to camp. The boys played. The three of us rested. And, then I took the kids over to the park just across the beach. The boys were enthralled by the fish cleaning station. Which stunk. They got to watch a fish being cleaned and learn what that really means. Our son’s new friend was a bit scared of the jungle gym and conquered that quickly.
Family Camping Lesson #3: Camping is the perfect opportunity to face fears.
Another delicious dinner was prepared by our new friend Mario. And, we enjoyed other new friends and conversation. At some point my husband saw around the tent up to the sky beyond. He anxiously pointed out that a big storm was headed right our way. What should we do? Should we pack up or try to weather it. A decision was made to pack up and head out.
We quickly started packing things up but the weather turned even more quickly. We went from folding and neatly packing to gathering things in no particular order and throwing them in the truck. As we got the last items out of the tent, the rain was brought in by about 45 per mile gusts of wind and eardrum breaking cracks of lightning and thunder. Our kids understandably were scared. As we concentrated on packing, our new friends gathered the kids in the truck and tried to help us keep the tent out of the sky.
Insider Tip: Rent an RV trailer and be an RVer instead of a camper!
As the tent was being violently whipped around by the winds, we made the decision to just stuff it in the truck. We closed the lid and headed to the dumpster. One of our new friends came running, thinking her son was still in the truck. Where she had placed him while helping us. But our other new friend had taken the son back to her camper. You wouldn’t believe how politely she asked us if we’d like her to take her son back. It was chaos, and not just for us.
Surviving a storm on our first family camping trip
Whew, the relief and laughter as we we headed home through the storm in the warm truck… But no photography stops for me.
Family Camping Lesson #4: You can never be grateful enough. Everyone was rushing to buckle down and get their sites in order before the wind blew everything away. People came to help us as all of this was happening. We could never express our gratitude enough.
I don’t know if I have even been so glad to be home in my own bed. But, still, the memories of this trip are positive for our entire family. We made new friends. Learned how kind people can be in the face of adversary. And, we found a desire to camp in a camper. We are now in the market for a RV. Soon you’ll be seeing us posting about becoming an RVer.
Why brave a first family camping trip:
- Camping is a bonding experience away from technology and in nature;
- Your kids may have the opportunity to face challenges and fears, as might you also. And, they may get to see you face those challenges and have the reward of knowing how strong and brave they can be;
- Your family will be outdoors and spend time hiking, biking or boating;
- You may make new friends;
- Likely your entire family will return home grateful.
Not sure that your family is ready to rough it camping? Check out Colorado’s Glamping experiences that combine the outdoors with a level of comfort!