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Wednesday
Oct132010

She'sWrite: Breaking the camping curse

So I had this idea, and when I get an idea, I usually don’t let it go until it reaches spectacular success or spectacular failure. This idea was to have a proper camping trip.

Photo by Queen of Subtle on Flickr.We went on our first family camping trip a few months ago, I posted about it here. While it was a fun adventure, it wasn’t the relaxing-in-nature kind of trip I’d envisioned. After that excursion I figured we needed to try camping again soon so that it won’t seem like an insurmountable task come next summer.

Also, I have to admit I’m going through a phase where I’m trying to eek out every minute of fun because when Bean is born in January, I know life will never be the same. But the kicker is I don’t know what that life will look like. So I might as well get to crossing items off my To Do list now, while I’ve got a good grasp on how things are.

For the past two months our weekends have been booked with out-of-state trips, parties, work-related functions and more. But I tried to keep this weekend open. When looking for a place to camp, I saw pictures of Starved Rock State Park and fell in love with it as the closest, perfect spot to camp with great hiking trails. Then last week the weather forecast made its last promise of summer, so on Thursday I decided, yes let’s camp. Hubby was all for it and we began preparing. There were new To Do lists, Googling on hiking with a toddler and being pregnant and a fun REI run. Come Friday my family was ready.

The only problem is we had no place to go. That weekend was Starved Rock’s big weekend because of some local festival and they’d been full for ages. I remembered my dentist telling me about Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin. I called them and they said they weren’t accepting reservations, but that I should “c’mon up … we’ve got tons of space … see you this weekend!”

Saturday morning, my clan headed out. About an hour from Kettle Moraine, per the state park woman’s directions, I called the place to see which of the three campgrounds I should head to. A different woman told me they were full and had already turned away well over 50 people. Nice. Now what?

I started to freak as I’d packed up my entire family, carted them to Wisconsin and we had no place to stay. Would the Camping Curse continue? My heroic hubby hopped on his phone and searched for nearby state parks. We were a mile away from one that said they had plenty of space.

The columnist and her son enjoy a quiet moment.As we pulled into Big Foot Beach State Park, the check-in booth was blanketed in beetles. This well-coifed park ranger came out and was unphased. They buzzed around her curly locks and one crawled on her cheek. She never swatted it away. I barely wanted to roll down my window for fear of letting the swarm inside.

Once through Bug Gate, we chose a shady spot atop a small slope. Hubby pitched the tent with minimal help from me and Logan, which was a huge upgrade from the last time when I had to put it up in the dark because he was too freaked by the abundance of monster bugs.

After we got everything settled, we just relaxed. Logan and I snuggled on a blanket and admired the yellow, burgundy and orange leaves while having an esoteric conversation about who created the trees and why. He then gave the park his seal of approval: “Mommy, this place is boootiful.”

He was right. The fall foliage was great and we got a good look at it while going on a 2ish mile hike. The trail we took was fairly well-worn, so he rode his little bike, but after about 45 minutes, I was glad it wasn’t a tougher trail as my body reminded me that I am seven months pregnant.

Many folks thought I was crazy for wanting to go camping with my 3 year old and baking my Bean. I totally see where they were coming from. But in a clichéd 3 a.m. pregnant lady run to the outhouse, I reveled in the silence. While walking back to the tent, I could only hear the rocks crunching beneath my feet and I looked up and saw Orion’s bow. It’s been years since I’ve seen that. His belt? Yes. His bow? No.

Growing up my dad and I had a hobby of studying the stars and living in the city, I don’t see constellations like you can in the country. And it was breathtaking. This, I thought, is why I’m doing it. There’s no e-mail, no phone calls, no TV, no cleaning, no laundry, no RSVPs, no work, no nothing, no expectations. Just me, my family and nature.

And it was perfect.

She’sWrite is the pen name of a journalist who commutes daily into the Loop from the home she shares in the northwest suburbs with her charming, 3-year-old son and endearing Norwegian husband. Every Wednesday on Go West Young Mom, you’ll find her musings about being a mom, career woman, wife and friend, and the crazy juggling act in this curious circus that we call life. She publishes several times a week on her own blog, also called She'sWrite, and you can subscribe there to get email notifications of new posts. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Glad your second experience with camping went well. When our four children were younger we tried camping several times and nearly gave up. We went all out with elaborate menus for campfire meals and ended up spending more time cooking and cleaning up than enjoying the outdoors.

Now we keep it simple. We plan a single night and if the weather is going to be bad we call it off. We go with paper plates now and very little cooking equipment. Lunch is a pre-packed picnic, dinner - hotdogs on roasting forks and chips served on napkins. S'mores (of course) and breakfast is fruit and cereal bars. Everyone has their own water bottle. The rest of the time is for hiking, frisbee, trac ball, etc. Sure, it's not exactly roughing it, but relaxing sometimes beats high-adventure, especially for family camping.

Some great locations to camp: White Pines State Park, Lowden State Park, two of my favorites are Rock-Cut State Park and Gebhard Woods State Park. Also, consider local parks and forest preserves - you'd be amazed at all that is out there

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Wow! What great advice! I like the fruit for breakfast. Our previous camping trip we kept it simple on the foods, but this time I felt like doing a bit "more." And by more I mean we brought potatoes, carrots and onions. I diced them, put them in tinfoil and we slapped them on the grill. It was easy and oooohhhh sooo good.
And camping with FOUR!?!?! That's even more amazing. Gives me confidence to get out there next year when I've got a bambino and a little man. Thanks for telling us your faves, I've added them to my list of places to look into. :)

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShe'sWrite

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