This past weekend, Lenny and I took our granddaughters camping. The older one, Hannah, is a camping pro but it was the first time with Isa, the three-year old. She quickly became a pro.
The challenge of camping with kids is not the kids-it’s the stuff. The
plainest vanilla camping trip, one, night in a state park, required two
cars, both filled to the gills. I understand why people buy vans and RVs. I also understand why they say that kids aren’t exposed to the outdoors. It’s a lot of work, planning and concentration. Going to a movie or a shopping mall is a lot easier.
We drove to a local state park and found our campsite. But I didn’t want to spend time setting up our tents. We got on the trail right away. The trail at Lake Hope State Park was not soft core. It was a real trail, with rocks, roots, mud and several stream crossings. This was the real thing.
First Isa said she wanted to go back to the campsite but I said “no”. She walked a little more, enough to reach a stream crossing. I asked Lenny to pick her up but he didn’t hear me and she plunged in the water.
“I got my feet wet,” she said. But it didn’t take much to convince her that it was OK. Just water. Pretty soon, she got the hang of it-ferns, mushrooms, sticks and the highlight, a dead mole.
Maybe the highlight was the trail mix that we made the day before. We took a bowl, put in nuts, raisins, dry mangos and mint M&M and voila, our own trail mix. That made it a lot better on the trail.
We walked from our campsite to the Nature Center, about two miles. I was very proud of Isa, but also conscious that we were going to do everything at her pace. Hannah can now walk 8 to 10 miles and enjoy it. What kind of experience was she getting out of it? How do you balance and challenge both kids?
The afternoon was spent at the lake. No challenge or balance here! The artificial lake was small and shallow. We had brought beach toys. They found other kids to swim and play with. Every once in a while, Isa got out of the water to go down the playground slide.
Back at our campsite, we put up our tents and Isa wanted to go in right away. “Is it time to go to bed?” she kept asking. Was she tired? No! She just wanted to get into the tent and sleeping bag. It was a big novelty to her.
Once asleep, she seemed to roam all over the tent. We had a “girl’s” tent – a large tent for the three females. Lenny was spared and slept in our backpacking tent.
The next morning, we had planned a similar day of hiking and swimming but it rained and promised to keep on raining. We broke camp, went to the historic Iron Furnace and wanted to get on the trail. But by then, we were wet and we hadn’t even walked. So reluctantly, we went home.
But we all declared camping a success. Hannah liked finding the dead mole, Isa said that the best thing was the trail mix. Lenny liked the hike and I loved that it all worked out.