Part 2 Of A Rookie Camping Experience
We are home. Sleeping bags are still piled in the living room. Memories are made - some good, some not so good!
As I mentioned in my last blog post, we are new to camping. Now that our first trip is behind us I can fill you in our our lessons learned and answer the question - will we ever camp again?
Just to give you a little background, we set off on our first family camping trip in search of the total eclipse and then supplemented our journey home with some fun natural wonders along the way. Our initial plan included one camping stop, one night with the in-laws in Asheville, and then 4 more nights camping.
In the days before we left, I seriously questioned the sanity of camping. For years, I have known families who loved camping and I wanted a taste of this romantic, adventurous pastime. But the prep work almost did me in. The shopping! The packing! The cooking! The loading! What were we thinking?
I have to admit, I had fun looking for new recipes to try out at our campground (look forward to a blog with recipe ideas). But, because of the nature of camp cooking, there is a lot of prep work to be done. It is almost as if you have to take time off to to prepare for the vacation!
Because we live in Maryland, we had to travel over 500 miles to see the total eclipse. Apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea as we did - causing us to arrive at our first campsite in Virginia in the dark. Rookie mistake #1! Luckily, we had read enough camping blogs, recommending doing a trial run of setting up the tent before we left. With flashlights, headlamps and lanterns in hand we got the tent set up in relatively good time. Other than knowing there was an RV in the adjacent campsite, we had no idea what else lurked in the dark around us.
Next hurdle - finding the bathrooms! Again, with flashlights, headlamps and lanterns in hand, we set off in search of the promised toilets at this campsite. It took us a couple wrong turns and about a 10 minute walk and we had success - Little did we know until morning that there were much closer ones right across the way! Rookie Mistake #2!
Regardless of the hassles of our first campground experience, that night, we all five, laid in our tent, snuggled up in our sleeping bags, with the sound of the cicadas and trickling water surrounding us, and peered up to a sky, brimming with stars. The Milky Way was clear as could be. Maybe there is something to this camping thing, I pondered to myself.....
Camp coffee and breakfast cookies (and pop-tarts) down the hatch, we launched off to Asheveille. After a wonderful sleep and homecooked food, we headed to the zone of totality! Warned that there might be 90,000 other eclipse viewers coming to town, we got an early start. Much to our surprise, there was hardly any traffic. Undeniably, the most entertaining part of the ride was getting a response from our homemade sign on the window:
Southern hospitality was at its finest when we parked at the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Dillsboro, North Carolina as our viewing area. Not only did they have great food available, they opened up their air-conditioned fellowship hall and gave us full use of their bathroom facilities. Amidst a party-like, expectant atmosphere we witnessed the unfolding of the eclipse with others from around the country. I didn't know what to expect but it was truly spectacular.
Wonderstruck by the eclipse, we headed to our next stop - HurricaneCampground in Mount Rogers National Recreation area - determined to get there in daylight. We did it! We found our picturesque campsite, set up our tent and began the task of making our first camp dinner. Given the task of choosing our first dinner, our son selected hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls roasted in foil over the fire. No problem!
No problem, unless the wood is damp and it takes an hour to get the fire going! Darkness slowly snuck in, Hangry children wanted food, now! Rookie Mistake #3 - trying to cook in the dark! Once we finally ate, we stashed our dirty dishes in the car, too tired to deal with them that night. Camping wasn't looking so good. Especially to one of my teens.
The next morning, however, my son was up playing in the creek in his pajamas while we cooked eggs and bacon on the campstove. With camp coffee in hand, the smell of bacon swirling in the air, surrounded by nature, a peaceful feeling set in and camping was beginning to grow on me.
My husband had researched and found some great day trips for us. We spent the middle part of the day exploring Grayson Highlands State Park, hiking among the wild ponies. After a great day, we made it back to camp in plenty of time for a gourmet dinner and s'mores. But, there was dissent in the ranks.
One of my daughters was not enjoying camp life. Unable to articulate what she didn't like, we had a family meeting and made a compromise. Rather than tent camp for two more nights, we would rent a cabin and hike a trail we had picked out to finish out our week.
Feeling a little bit like a failure, I have to admit it was nice to sleep on a real mattress, and have running water inside! Looking back, I think we should have tried a shorter trip with the kids before we set off for 5 nights. In addition, I have to wonder if we hadn't made our rookie mistakes at the beginning, if my daughter might have not had a negative reaction to camping.
So, will we camp again? Time will tell. Four of us liked it. One didn't. Maybe she will be open to try it again - or maybe she can stay with Grandma.
Something I kept asking myself on the trip was, why put this much work into a trip - and it was a LOT of work - when we could just check into a hotel and eat at restaurants? I have to say, it makes me appreciate the conveniences of life a lot more. The fact that I can wash my dishes in a sink is a luxury - there are people in the world who can't! Being able to spend time with the family away from distractions is an even greater luxury. No wi-fi, no housework, no normal responsibilities stand between the simple act of just being together and making memories