I have been trying to get my wife to go camping since we were married, and she has always been opposed to it. I use to try to explain to her how free and relaxing it could be. I would tell her of all the fun camp stories I had as a result of camping with friends during college. That did not convince her. But for some odd reason she wanted to go camping after we had a full blown, terrible-two's, tantrum throwing, toddler! Despite the fact that her first camping experience would be with a TODDLER I was still very much excited.
Look at the picture above. Do you see the excitement in her face!? That was a proud moment for me as a father. I felt that my planning and preparation had paid off. However, this was probably around 11am the second day. Eleanor was like this non-stop for two days and in the second day it progressively got more intense.
WHY WE CAMP
When I think of camping, I almost always think of Thoreau's Walden. I believe those who have camped always yearn to return to a sort of life that forces one to strip themselves of the superficial aspects of life. Each activity or chore that you do without some device to coddle you along the way insures that you will take more time doing simple tasks. Family members and friends immediately take on responsibilities and roles because of the necessity for everyone to chip in. Even Eleanor helped out with gathering twigs for the fire!
"Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with factitious cares and superfluously coarse labours of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them." - Thoreau
PLANNING AND GOING
We took about a week to prepare and fulfill our camp checklist. Most of the items on our list had common sense things like A TENT, various foods, etc. We organized our lists into the following categories:
Eleanor: "Fire!" "Foot in there!!"
Parents: "No Eleanor, you wouldn't want to do that. It is very, very hot and it will hurt you!"
Eleanor: "Mouth in there!!"
After getting our list together and checking off items we packed the car early and didn't leave until around 12pm (Eleanor's nap-time). This stroke of genius was from my wife. I was eager to get there and wanted to leave as early as possible. My wife was thinking more strategically in that she wanted Eleanor sleep for majority of the ride. We ended up having a beautiful trip as Eleanor slept. We talked for a good hour and a half on our way there and naturally became silent as we approached the mountain landscape. As we traveled further into the range, Eleanor woke and we sang songs like 99 Bottles of Milk on The Wall and made very loud and obnoxious sounds to make her laugh as we approached our final destination.
Arriving and Setting Up Camp
In order to get to the campground we had to drive up the mountain on a one lane gravel road. Michelle hates roads like these because they remind her of her father's reckless driving up mountains. (She always assumes that I want to drive off the cliff and barrel roll down a mountain.) When we got to the campground we parked and walked to the check-in cabin. The gentleman checking us in looked a little like this:
He was probably one of the most and accommodating people I've met, but that meant nothing to Eleanor. He packed our things in a four-wheeler and drove down the mountain and into a valley where are campsite was located. Eleanor always associated the man with the sound of the four-wheeler and when she would hear it coming should would run over to one of us and have us pick her up until she couldn't hear the four-wheeler anymore.
After our guide drove ahead of us, we strapped Eleanor in the Bob Stroller and went down the mountain. After 15 minutes of hiking we arrived at our campsite. Eleanor was so excited about camping that she couldn't contain herself. Michelle had to contain her while I unpacked the tent. She eventually put her in the Pack-N-Play and we finished setting up the tent.
After camp was set up we explored the area for awhile. Eleanor wen't to bed at her normal time and slept through night. We started the fire and had s'mores. We talked around the camp fire for a while and then went to sleep. Michelle and I slept horribly. Michelle thought she heard some animal near us and woke me up to hear it. I heard nothing, and went back to sleep. Then I heard it and woke up. I could not make out what it was, but my guess is that it was some rare Pokemon.
Waking up in the morning, I was extremely exhausted but still excited. We did some exploring during the day and Eleanor was escalating as the day went on. She was so over stimulated that she was not listening to us and yelling randomly. It got to the point where we both decided to call it a day and leave. We did, and on our way out, we rode in Mountain Man's pickup with Eleanor being as close to him as she ever was. We packed our things and then drove home that night.
The moral of the story is to never camp more than one night with a toddler. The entire process is more high maintenance than camping with other adults. It is a good thing to do to make lasting memories with your family.