Camping–The Cheap, Easy, and Fun Family Vacation. ***

Setting up our luxury accomodations

***Excludes hidden costs, forgotten items such as sweatshirts, and bedtime.

In an effort to plan our upcoming nuptials, as well as to “get away from it all” over Memorial Day weekend, Daniel thought that a night camping in Letchworth sounded like a good idea. I agreed, as much as one can agree with the idea of camping with a two-year-old as a GOOD idea. Certainly it is an adventure, a learning experience, a test in the limits of patience (I failed), but whether it is actually a GOOD idea, well, I will let that debate fight itself.

On Friday night we started throwing clothes into a duffle bag, knowing we had a family Mass and picnic to attend on Sunday that would require slightly less casual attire than one wears in the woods. It was around eighty degrees while we were packing, and so shorts, lightweight pajamas, sandals, etc. went into the duffle bag. I put in a sundress with a flouncy eyelet hem and a thin sweater to wear on Sunday morning, and as an afterthought, one pair of long pants. We’d throw the fleeces in tomorrow morning. Pretty much all of our camping gear was still put together from last year’s excursion, so we were all set. Right.  If my backpacking sister had been a fly on the wall that night, she would have been throwing herself up against the window screens in frustration.  “Did Mom and Dad teach you NOTHING?!?!”

Let me also state for the record that last year’s “Camping Packing List” and last year’s “Things We Forgot While Camping List” were still in Daniel’s notebook that he carries around twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The thought to consult those lists never crossed our idealistic minds. It wasn’t until we started the hour-long journey across idyllic seas of dry cornfields and cow pastures that we started the inevitable half-conversation, begun with several repetitions and variations of the following statement:

“You know what we didn’t bring?”

I think part of our lack of thoroughness had to do with the thought that we were only going to be gone for one night, so no big deal if we forgot the floss. But it’s hard to project when it’s eighty degrees and you’re exhausted on a Friday night what you could possibly need while sitting around a picnic table in the woods on Saturday night, or sitting at a campfire after the kids have finally pounded their heads to sleep on the walls of the tent two hours after the pronouncement of “Bedtime!”

So we ate canned baked beans out of cups with no spoons, beans that had been stirred with a stick.  We unrolled our sleeping bags onto the lumpy, hard forest floor underneath the tent, sans Thermarests.  We bought overpriced bug spray, firewood, a soap dish (because they didn’t have contact lens cases, and I was sure I had left mine at home, and that was one thing I had actually brought), and two outdoorsy (read: hideous moose print) fleece blankets to wrap ourselves in after dark, because we’d forgotten to grab our jackets, and the two gift shops we hit at 5:00 and 6:00 that sold goth-inspired Letchworth hoodies both closed two minutes early.  And leather Born sandals do not make good shower shoes, in case you were wondering.

We parked our car in the Lower Falls parking lot on Saturday evening and walked the short distance to the picnic shelter that will be hosting our wedding in a little over two months.  Daniel took pictures while I kept kids away from the short stone wall built to keep kids from tumbling down into the gorge, and we traced what our steps will be that day.  We held hands and looked at each other and I tried to picture that this is all real, that he wants to spend his life with me.  It is starting to sink into my dense little head.  Later that night, as we sat around our expensive campfire that night, he pulled out two “How Well Do You Know Your Bride/Groom” quiz books and we filled them out, wrapped in fleece moose blankets and using our iPhone Flashlight apps, because of course we had forgotten the actual flashlights.  Our scores were nearly identical, so I’d say we’re starting our life together on fairly level ground.  With the fire burned out and the trash bag in the car (after a raccoon decided to take inventory of the stick-stirred beans and dropped hot dogs), we went to sleep.  Not easy nor cheap, but most definitely fun.


One thought on “Camping–The Cheap, Easy, and Fun Family Vacation. ***

  1. Beth Jarvis says:

    You are BRAVE to camp with little ones! We tried it twice but my meltdowns became no fun for anyone. Sounds like you had a great time, though.

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