Monday, September 24, 2012

Our First Family Camping Trip

Everyone has gone to bed and I'm by myself.  I'm all wired on post-camping mayhem.  Now that we are home, we're looking back at the trip with rose colored glasses.

John said it perfectly, "if Fern would have slept, then this trip would have been perfect."  Yes, indeed.  However, she did not.  She did this sleep for an hour-cry for 20 minutes combo that threw us for a loop.  Our kids sleep soundly in their own beds at night, so if they're off the slightest, then we lose our minds and have no sense of reason.  By 12:15 am, John offered this suggestion: "you could drive her home and come back in the morning."  That's what we did.  We pulled the camping stuff out of the car that he would need, buckled her in, and I drove over an hour to get home.  We slept for five hours, and we drove right back to get the boys.  It made sense at the time, but looking back I was very sad to leave John and Burl at the campsite without a car.  Luckily, our campsite neighbors were very kind and showed the two boys a little grace.  

Here's the glossy recap:

We arrived to our campsite in late afternoon.  The weather was perfect, we had energy, and we found a campsite that was close to the falls and a set of swings.  We set up the tent, then John took Burl for long hike while I put Fern down for her second nap.  She slept great.  I enjoyed some time to myself to read (this amazing book), started a fire, got dinner set, then woke Fern up for some playtime on the picnic blanket.

At this point, things felt magical.  We did it.  We put in the effort and energy to pull off this trip.  Our kids love being outside, so it was great to give them all this time to soak it in.  We were still a little jittery at this point.  Fern kept putting rocks in her mouth, and if Burl walked within three feet of the fire we all over him.  

The boys returned and we started making dinner.  Hot dogs. Chips. Fruit.  Out of everything Burl got to do on this trip, he will tell anyone that the fire and hot dogs were his favorite parts.  He had a runny nose and was coughing a lot, but he never complained.  He just went on like life was normal.  Fern did great as well.  After dinner, we played with them like we always do.  Instead of our den at home, we were playing at camp.  We could hardly believe it-this was gold!  

Bedtime was a little crazy.  Burl kept getting out of his sleeping bag and either running and screaming at us or jumping in Fern's pack-n-play with her.  It lasted maybe 20 minutes.  Like I said before, our kids are great sleepers, so when they have the slightest bit of trouble we feel a little crazy.  Eventually, they fell asleep.  I made John and I some excellent smores and we enjoyed time talking by the fire.

I have to mention one of the highlights of our trip: our neighbors.  I'm a people watcher, so when  a group of ten ethnic men pulled up by us, I knew I was going to have a hard time staring.  They cooked a great spread, smoked hookah, put up the biggest tent I've seen that was shaped like a plus sign, sang nightly prayers, and played this tiny drum thing. One does not expect to see those things in a Tennessee State Park, so I was all eyes.  

Eventually we got sleepy, I got my fill of culture, and we decided to go to bed.  This is when things went south with Fern.  At 12:26, I pulled out of our campsite and headed for home.  I wanted to return quickly to check on my other baby, Burl, so we left our house at 7 am to head back to the campsite.  The drive was amazing.  I barely function that early, so seeing a sunrise is simply incredible.  I somewhat safely took pictures while at some stop signs or while driving.  I know, I know....but just enjoy them.

We arrived back just in time for breakfast.  We were all tired, but we were all together and that is what I wanted.  We ate our sausage and biscuits, then tried to salvage what we could out of this trip.  A family hike and playing in the cascades proved to be sleepy fun for us all.

At the cascades, John held a very sleepy and snuggly Fern, while I took Burl on a short adventure.  It started by letting him put his feet in the water, but that seemed too tempting to a toddler.  He wanted to climb around so bad, and I eventually remembered what it is to be a kid and want to get into stuff.  We rolled up our pants, got a little wet, and climbed around a tame creek and throwing rocks.

We {barely} rallied the troops for a group picture.  We scored on stranger-take-our-picture person by finding a lady who took several different angles and even got low to get a cool angle. Well done, stranger lady!  

Looking back at the experience, I realize I'm tired and I'm about to head to bed.  I'm so glad that we did this, and we plan to try it again.  Somewhere between wild success and epic failure, is a place called a good learning experience.  That's what we're labeling this one.  A Good Learning Experience.  We foresee many more great trips like these, but with better sleep!


  1. What a gorgeous place to camp!!
    This will be a story to be told in your family for years to come. Not that I am an expert by any means, but I think starting your kids early - even if Fern didn't sleep- will help them to be better campers when they get a bit older and you can go for longer stretches than maybe a family who did not take their kids when they were so young!!
    I always love your photos--that sunburst one is really cool, as are the others! This post really made me want to visit Tennessee.

  2. I didn't want to tell you my camping horror stories until you had actually gone camping. You did it! When I see you, I will tell you about how I cursed my husband while I climbed a ladder with my not quite three month old in a baby bjorn. Then slept on a ROCK ledge. Also when we went camping by boat and my youngest ate dirt. Beauty.

  3. Good job! They will get used to it. My now 16 yo cried all night when he was 3 and I had a stranger show up at my tent with Baby Tylenol for him. We just kept going and they all are great campers now and can do it all so I get to just sit and watch (thank you, Boy Scouts!)

    One note: My kids did better without the Pack and Play- I think they get cold in it because the air gets under them. I know that my most miserable night was trying to sleep on a cot in the middle of summer. I just couldn't get warm. We used the pack & play for coralling the littlest one but at bedtime we just made a nest and laid down with them until they were asleep

  4. I'm another vote for the nest idea. My youngest took her first camping trip at four months, and she literally slept twelve hours every night, in her little heap of blankets in a corner of the tent.