We returned on Monday afternoon from our first family camping trip. Aidan and Philip have camped together before, but this was the first time the younger children and I have camped, so we didn’t go far from home.
Del Valle Regional Park has a large lake so folks come to boat, fish, and swim. The campground was a little parched at this time of the year. We don’t get much rain during the summer so by September things are getting brown and crunchy. But we’re used to it, and we still enjoyed much beautiful scenery.
We did get one of the dustiest camp sites, but this didn’t seem to bother the kids. They just dug in the dirt or drew in it!
I’ll be honest. I never really understood the appeal of camping. It seemed to me that the whole goal of camping was to find out just how much suffering you could endure while still enjoying yourself. Having experienced 2 days of labor with my first child . . while on pitocin .. with no pain meds until the last 12 hours . . I am confident I’m tough! I don’t need to sleep under what is effectively a giant umbrella to prove to myself that I can “rough it”.
I can understand the appeal of wanting to be close to nature. I love my time with the kids on nature walks. But why do I have to sleep with the crickets to enjoy them? I thought, hey if I want to hear crickets in the middle of the night, I can just open the bedroom window.
However, I knew I should be more open minded about the rewards of camping. Philip and Aidan seemed to enjoy their camping trips together (even though they are filthy, stinky, and tired when they get back!). I wanted the younger kids to have this experience, so I decided I needed to give it a try. If anything, it’s an inexpensive way for a family to have a vacation together.
While I hoped my littlies would come home with wonderful memories of camping, I didn’t expect to enjoy the experience much myself. But I really liked it. I appreciated both the challenges and rewards of living outdoors with few comforts from home. I’m looking forward to our next camping trip already.
Obviously I most enjoyed having so much time with the family, especially with Dad who works so hard. But I was surprised by the small things I appreciated. I loved hearing the animals calling to one another in the middle of the night. I would lay awake spellbound, listening. Lydia and I both enjoyed hearing a chorus of birds first thing upon waking. Obviously we hear birds where we live, but these were new calls and so much variety. Lydia giggled and tried imitating the bird calls.
On the first morning we were there, we stuck our heads out of the tent and found deer on our campsite grazing on the dried up grass!
On our last night I woke in the middle of the night to footsteps outside our tent. I thought it was some weirdo coming to steal my babies. I was FUH-REAKED! I woke Philip and he looked through the tent window. He was very quiet. Then he zipped up the window and said, “Well that was cool. There were 2 bobcats right next to our tent.” Cool? AAAAH! Too close for comfort!!
We had carefree, relaxed days. We went on some walks, went to the beach, and Philip took the 3 older kids boating and fishing.
The evenings were memorable, with the family huddled around a campfire. Smores were on the menu of course. This is the atmosphere many campers enjoy — the simplicity of a small warm light against the darkness of night, surrounded by loved ones. There isn’t much to do but BE together.
The animals were very active at night. One night Claire and Dominic caught several frogs, including one that wee-weed on Claire and the picnic table.
I noticed wildlife I had never seen before. The Yellow-Billed Magpie is absolutely spectacular — black and white plumage with streaks of blue, and a brilliant yellow bill. It is unique to California. I also saw several Acorn Woodpeckers with very striking red and black markings. They were very busy drilling holes in the oak trees around our campsite! My photos aren’t that great, but are a few:
Though I liked camping, I didn’t find it to be the utopia some writers make it to be. Aside from bugs in my food and the afternoon heat beating on the tent while Lydia tried napping, some of the other campers didn’t seem to be there to enjoy the great outdoors. The first day we were there the campground was completely full, and all night we listened to loud partiers screaming and laughing like drunken sailors. Cars seemed to pass our tent every minute. It felt like were sleeping on a freeway.
But after that first night the mass of people left and there were only a few families camping on our loop. The whole family enjoyed the experience more after this!
Next time I will pack less food, bring a bug net for around our picnic table, and more lanterns. I heard they’ve invented tent air conditioners but I’m pretty sure my tough guys won’t allow me to get one! 🙂