By Melanie Wilson
I decided to take my five kids camping for the first time ever last weekend! I had Saturday and Sunday off, and the weather was going to be beautiful, so it was the perfect opportunity. Their ages are 19, 14, 10 and the two 4 year old twins. The camp host told me I was either really brave or crazy. This was the first camping trip ever for my kids, but I grew up camping. We would actually move to a campground near my house every summer and live there. It really is a great memory and was such a unique experience that I felt it was important to share some of that with my kids.
After much research and advice from experienced campers, we ended up at Mary’s Lake Campground in Estes. The lake and the surrounding areas were stunning. Here is one lesson I learned though…call and book the campsite, don’t do it online. Online I was forced to book two nights even though I could only stay one. The camp host told me that I wouldn’t have had to book two if I had called instead.
Saturday was a beautiful day in the 80′s, couldn’t have asked for prettier weather. We arrived at camp and immediately had lunch. My camping experiences have always revolved around food. Then we decided to head out on an adventure to explore the campground. Since I had 8 pairs of little feet and legs with me, we just stayed on the grounds trails looking for pinecones and squirrels. There was a playground that provided some extra fun and we found awesome rocks to climb on. I discovered that my twins are only self sufficient if their lives are in danger. They didn’t want anything resembling help as they jumped crazily from rock to rock, but whenever I tried to get them to sit at a picnic table they couldn’t manage it on their own! It was late afternoon when we headed back to camp to put up our tent, which went up without any problems (which counts as a miracle in my family). Then it was time for dinner. I pulled out our propane camp stove and boiled water for our freeze-dried dinners. It the first time we’d ever had them. Dinner consisted of Mountain House Mac and Cheese, and hotdogs and chips for the kids. My oldest had the Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai and I had their Chicken Curry. All three choices were thoroughly enjoyed! That evening before bed we also had hot cocoa, s’mores and popcorn! (I told you my style of camping revolved around food…)
It was COLD Sunday morning! We don’t own sleeping bags (I will be getting some, another lesson) so we used every comforter in our house and it didn’t quite do the trick. I also brought the hand warmers and cracked those open around three to help the kids’ feet. The best was getting up with my daughter around that time and going to see the night sky. I can’t remember the last time I saw that many stars that clearly. It was really spectacular. It was cold but we cuddled for warmth and started first thing in the morning with more cocoa. Then I made us pancakes for breakfast which tasted really good with my morning coffee. That beautiful morning we headed out for another little walk and climb and went to Mary’s Lake to throw some rocks in. Everything was so quiet and peaceful, at least when my kids weren’t yelling for me to watch them.
All in all I think my kids first camping experience went really well. I definitely have some things to remember for next time – like actual sleeping bags (and maybe some sleeping pads), and calling instead of reserving sites online– but the beauty of our surroundings, and the fun of getting to enjoy it all with my wonderful children more than made up for any shortcomings. I’m crazy excited for our next trip, and I’m pretty sure my kids are too.