I love camping. Fresh air, campfires, afternoon naps in the sun. The blissful escape from routine.
Back in the days before kids, hubs and I camped all over the state. We weren’t very adept when we started out—on our first trip we forgot pillows and other essentials and had to drive to a nearby mega store. (Incidentally that was not the only time I forgot pillows on a camping trip and had to drive to a store to buy them; somehow pillows are not high on my list of necessities for sleep).
I remember trying to cook in the pouring rain, hunched over the propane stove, umbrella in one hand, utensil in the other, and then eating our meal in the car. After that we purchased a simple canopy, which took off down the hill in a strong gust of wind and retrieved right before it landed in a nearby creek.
But the misadventures were part of what made camping great, the stories I tell when people ask why I love it. During a visit to Letchworth State Park, we arrived to discover the campsite was full. The ranger directed us to a nearby campground which turned out to be one of our favorite places to stay.
When our oldest was two, we took him to the above mentioned favorite campground. He had a blast despite the rainy conditions. However, I fretted for most of the weekend and did not enjoy the mountain of muddy laundry on Sunday night.
Next we tried to camp on the beach. Readers, you should NEVER CAMP ON THE BEACH. A strong wind collapsed our tent in half on itself (there is no way to fully stake it in the sand), the lack of distinguishable sites meant our neighbors were all on top of us, and when we got home after leaving early because of previously stated reasons, SAND WAS EVERYWHERE.
At first I laughed. “Hey, everything’s sandy, like me!” Two years later I used one of our sleeping bags as a prop in a play and my student commented on the sand still stuck in the bag. I had stopped laughing.
That ended camping for a while. When our youngest joined scouts, we started going as a family to overnight cabin trips, and took the boys to summer scout camp. The camping bug returned, and I remembered why I loved it. This despite the constant rain during summer camp, a car that smelled like wet feet, and a kid so covered in mosquito bites I needed to dump him into a bathtub full of calamine lotion.
Through scouts we found a great group of friends with similar aged kids who also loved to camp. Moms who don’t mind getting dirty and being without makeup or running water. We took them to our favorite spot and had an amazing weekend. But camping with two kids is a lot of work. The prep, the execution, the cleanup. I do most of it on my own. Also, to be perfectly honest, I’m not a huge fan of sleeping on the ground.
So when an opportunity came along to buy a small cottage on the lake, we jumped on it. Hubs calls it glamping because it has all of the things we love about camping—nature, fire pits, no technology, without the things we hate—sleeping on the ground, washing dishes in a plastic tub, dealing with drunk neighbors. I love waking up early and watching the sunrise. Sitting around the campfire and playing board games with my family. Curling up with a good book and taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon. No TV, no video games, the responsibilities of life left at home, at least for the weekend.
Camp NaNoWriMo kicked off on Sunday. We were out at the cottage, and despite the sweltering heat I was able to get back into my WIP and make forward progress. Last week I took the first chapter to my critique group and they loved it. Told me I needed to keep writing. When camp started I set a modest goal and made a commitment to myself to sit down every day and write. So far so good. We’re back out at the lake and I am sure my muse has found me here. (She likes to go places with no wifi—who knew?) Our friends are coming up for the holiday and I hope they love it as much as we do.
Sometimes I think the secret to life is as simple as this: find what makes you happy and do it. Adjust as necessary to accommodate children and bad backs.