A Sky Full of Stars…

A Sky Full of Stars…

Camping is one of the most beloved of summer American pastimes.  Love it or hate it, there is something undeniably alluring about roughing it, spending time connecting with nature, and living a simpler life.  Camping has been the subject of many a modern tale from Yogi the Bear to Wild.  Two of our PGG’s have spent a lot of time camping over the years, and have slightly different perspectives to share.  Do you camp?  Feel free to comment below with your own stories!

“Whatever form it takes, camping is earthy, soul enriching and character building, and there can be few such satisfying moments as having your tent pitched and the smoke rising from your campfire as the golden sun sets on the horizon–even if it’s just for a fleeting moment before the rain spoils everything.”–Pippa Middleton

Melissa’s tale:

Back in my former years, I was quite the camper.  In fact, that’s the only form of vacationing we took as a family, so we became camping masters.  I’ve been there and done that SO many times, in such absurd weather situations, that I hit my limit just before college, and haven’t done it since. It’s because of this, that now I support my husband’s claim of “never wanting to pay for a lesser quality of life.”

In looking back, it’s hard to pin down just ONE of the many ridiculous camping experiences I have had, but I’d say I’m certainly scarred by this one, very rough weekend!

My dad is a true outdoors-man.  He would have no problem living off the grid and off the land for his entire life.  He’s a hiker, rock climber and expert camper and his dream was to have his children share his love of these activities.  Unfortunately, his plan failed (at least in regards to me!).

One weekend, back when I was 10, he decided to take all 4 girls hiking up Mt. Washington, with plans to camp on the way back down.  I mean, what could go wrong with 1 adult, and 4 girls with ages ranging from 8-13?  Sounds like a weekend full of smooth sailing, right??!  After an eight hour hike to the summit, with whining, tears, bathroom breaks, more tears, blisters, and sobbing, my dad decided to call it a day and set up camp.  It was getting dark and bad weather was approaching.  Unfortunately, finding level ground was impossible, so doing the best he could in a VERY short amount of time, we rigged up the tent sideways down the mountain.  We all slid to the bottom of the tent just in time for the ensuing thunder, lightening, hail and pouring rain that continued all.night.long. I remember being CERTAIN that we were going to slide down Tuckerman’s Ravine, bobsled style right into a cliff.

The worst was over…or was it?  After surveying the scene of hiking boots filled with water and slugs, soaking-wet sleeping bags and back packs, and a collapsed tent, we started our single-file 5 hour hike down the mountain.  If you thought there was complaining the first day, you should have heard day two.  Over the years, my dad has developed the ability to tune people out, and my guess is he mastered that ability over the course of those 5+ hours.

I remember the complete sense of relief in spotting our car, and nothing felt better than collapsing in and turning the heat on high to warm up our cold, wet bodies.

For the ensuing 8 years left before I was allowed to make my own vacation choices, we camped many, many more times.  Each time has a story almost as funny or ridiculous, and while I now choose to sleep in a bed instead of on the ground, I look back at those memories with laughter and happiness.

Cara’s story:

I have been camping with my family in Northern NH since I was a small child.  My parents bought some land on Forest Lake, but opted not to build a home for a few years.  So, we camped!  For two weeks every summer this was our home away from home!  My dad constructed a few things to make it more comfortable including an outhouse, dock, raft, picnic table, and finally a small lean-to that housed an ancient refrigerator.  I will never forget the magnet that my mother put on the fridge:  “This is a no-frills kitchen.”  My sisters and I shared a tent, ran around in the woods, swam, and at night we would have campfires and my parents would read to us by the light of an oil lamp.  We looked at the stars and caught fireflies.  We suffered lots of mosquito bites but ate lots of toasted marshmallows.  Eventually we built a log cabin and continued spending summers there, but I will always remember fondly the times we spent camping.  After a long hiatus from camping, my husband (then my fiancee) and I decided while still in college to drive across country for 6 weeks, camping along the way.  While we certainly had a few harrowing nights spent in our tent during hailstorms and windstorms, it was one of the best experiences of my young life.  When we had our own children, we of course wanted to share this experience with them.  We have a group of college friends who also now have their own children, and we collectively decided that a big family camping trip would be fun, which it was!  We’ve now made it an annual tradition, and I can’t tell you how much joy it gives me to watch our children enjoying nature, swimming in the river, playing games, hiking, creating “shows” for the adults, and having fun without technology.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been rainy nights where we set the kids up in a tent with a movie!  But seeing the stars on a dark night in the mountains is something everyone should experience.

If you have ever wanted to camp, or need to be re-introduced, I’ve put together a short list of my top tips for camping with families:

  1.  Learn to love an up-do and/or embrace your curls.  Hairdryers are not practical for camping.
  2. Camp at a facility that has clean bathrooms and some amenities (some have laundry facilities, pools, playgrounds, etc).  If you are going with your family, you can still enjoy nature while enjoying flushing toilets and running water.
  3. Plan your meals ahead.  Cook what you can ahead of time, and keep it simple.  Bring alcohol!  Bring two coolers, one for food, and one for drinks.  A cooler with a spigot to drain water at the bottom is helpful. (See the photo above for my car trunk turned bar and temporary kitchen!)
  4. Bring a Coleman stove, and/or a small portable tailgating grill. Very helpful for cooking.
  5. Bring extra clothes, you will get dirty.
  6. Purists might not agree, but bring air mattresses and pumps to blow them up (you can run the pumps from your car outlet).  This will make your experience way more comfortable.
  7. Be prepared for all weather conditions.  Bring extra tarps in case of rain, and be sure your tent has a rain fly.  Do a test run setting up your tent before you go.  Nothing worse than getting to a campsite and not knowing how to set up your tent.
  8. Bring lots of bug spray.
  9. Bring activities for the kids like board games, soccer ball, etc.
  10. Plan on some later nights for the kids, but take advantage and have campfires, tell stories, and look at the stars!

We would love to hear any of your camping tips and stories, share in our comments below!

–Melissa and Cara





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