Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Campers

Shenandoah River State Park, with Massanutten Mountain in the distance

As I have mentioned several times before, my girls seem to find a sense of peace outdoors that they are unable to attain anywhere else.  Maybe it's the wide open spaces, the absence of crowds, or the fresh air.  Maybe it's the lack of blinking, dinging, flashing electric devices... whatever it is, my husband and I try to exploit this knowledge whenever we can.  We go hiking and geocaching quite a bit during warm weather.  On a couple of occasions, my husband has even taken the girls camping.

Hubby and his little ladies
Notice I said "my husband" and not "we".  I have mostly refused to go.  I don't sleep on the ground.  Period.  There are so many, many reasons why I have this rule.  My allergies, for instance.  Or the fact that bugs and crawly things tend to be there, and that sticks and stones tend to be there.  And there was that whole miserable Girl Scout camping experience 25 years ago that I still haven't let go of...  Long story short, you'll never convince me that sleeping on the ground is a good idea.  The one time I caved and broke this rule two summers ago, only to spend an endless night comforting Princess and trying to keep her quiet, served to reinforce the wisdom of my "don't sleep on the ground" rule.  Trust me-- I can find better ways to "connect with nature" than to roll around in it while trying to sleep!

Now, sleeping on the ground is really the only part of camping that I find objectionable.  (Well, that's true as long as the camping takes place somewhere with public restrooms.)  I love the hiking, and the campfire cooking, and the lack of urgency that is camping.  I like being outdoors, especially when I am properly medicated for the allergy season, and the chance of sweating my ass off is at a minimum.  (Beer in the cooler for when the kiddos hit the sack is really nice, too.)  The problem, however, is that sleeping on the ground is a pretty damn big part of camping, if you are camping in a tent.  Hubby, being the brilliant and persistant man that he is, found a solution to my dilemma-- a pop-up camper!

Our "new" home away from home
The pop-up was just what the doctor ordered!  Everything I could possibly complain about with tent camping was solved by this engineering masterpiece of camping equipment.  It has heat and A/C, to adjust for less than perfect weather.  It has a hard top, which is great when it rains.  It has a cooktop, a potty, and MATTRESSES!!!!  Aaahhhh!  The great outdoors, without the worry of what to do if it rains OR the problem of ground sleeping.  Now we're talking.

Since I no longer had an excuse not to go, the Crazy Train-- with me in tow-- went camping last weekend.  It was a lovely and very educational experience.

The first thing I learned?  Campgrounds feel remarkably safe.  With the exception of all the open flames, axes, camping knives, loose gravel, strange dogs, and poison oak that abounds there, campgrounds are pretty safe places to let your kids roam about and explore.  Unlike at a hotel or a shopping mall, I could let the girls run about freely and explore a great distance away from our campsite without worrying that some weirdo would pop out of nowhere and do something deplorable.  I could also let them walk the 60 yards up to the restrooms by themselves without worry.  How could you do that, you're wondering?  Well, no matter how weird some of these folks might have seemed, none of them set off my creep-detector.  (You know what I'm talking about, parents-- that prickly feeling you get when you encounter the evil brand of crazy.)  All these camping folks were the type of people to give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it, but if you were to try to steal that same shirt, they'd shoot your ass on the spot.  They'd probably shoot someone trying to steal another person's shirt, too.  I recognized them immediately because they were the very type of folks I grew up with, and I felt very at home with them.

The second thing I learned?  Camping people with dogs always bring Fido along.  You can tell the dogs are used to being on a campground because they don't bark at everything that twitches, and they are okay with being chained up by the campsite.  We did NOT bring Buddy along for our first camping excursion, mainly because I didn't want to add another variable to an already complicated equation.  There is also the minor issue of Buddy's allergies to grass, mold, and ragweed, which made me cringe when I imagined him galavanting around in nature all weekend long!  Experience makes this seem like a bad idea.  We'll probably take him along next time anyway.  *sigh*

The third thing I learned?  Camping people usually fall into one of four different categories:

  1. The "We're Here to Party by the Fire" Campers-- these are the folks that come toting more beer and Solo cups than food, clothing and shelter combined.  You can often figure out who they are before they start dancing on their picnic table or pole dancing on the lantern hangers, because they light the fire in their fire ring 1-2 hours before everyone else at the campground.  They do this because they know that they will be too drunk to do this at the time they would normally light the fire.  These campers may also find it amusing necessary to wear glow-stick jewelry, so that if they pass out on the way to the public facilities at night, their friends have a chance of locating them in the dark. 
  2. The Hardcore Campers-- these are the people that tent camp in the RV section of the campground, just you make you feel bad about your luxurious version of camping.  In reality, however, everyone in their campers and RVs are thinking "Can you believe that schmuck is in a tent?!  How can he possibly keep his beer cold without a place to plug in the fridge?!"
  3. The Pro Campers-- these folks camp in the lap of luxury, leaving you wondering what part of what they are doing is camping.  Many have a satellite dish and multiple antennas on their camper so they won't miss the game.  They also have large area rugs outside their front doors over the gravel there so they can go barefoot.  Many have what appears to be a little outdoor living room, fully enclosed in mosquito netting.  They may even have an outdoor camping shower/latrine tent!  Not only do they have more stuff than it seems humanly possible to bring along on a single trip, but they can set it all up and break it all down faster than most folks can get ready for work in the morning!  It's truly amazing.  These folks are typically retired, and have spent years perfecting the fine art of living it up in the rough.
  4. The "With Kids" Campers-- these folks obviously have kids-- hence the name-- but it's more than that.  They bring so much stuff with them for the kids.  They bring bikes and all the safety gear that goes with them.  They have strollers, and wagons, and dogs to pull the wagons.  They have play pens for babies, sippy cups, shovels, and inner tubes for the river.  Their kids run amok, screaming and playing and having wild, unrestrained fun.  They also have a DVD player for the when the kids get fussy from all the wild, unrestrained fun.  These campers may have forgotten the important stuff like actual food, however, and everyone spends the first night of camping eating the Goldfish and juice boxes they brought along for the drive.  Being parents, they did NOT forget the beer.  It seems that no one forgets the beer at a campground.

As you may suspect, we did not really fit into any of these categories well-- not that this is anything new for the Crazy Train.  My clan tends to be a bunch of square pegs in a world full of round holes.  Although this is cool to me, there is something to be said for being classifiable, too, rather than just certifiable.  We did not get trashed and dance wildly on the picnic table near the campfire, like the "party campers".  Birdie did like to recite her Native American-like nature poetry near the open flames, though, while Princess wrangled her unruly unicorn with a para-cord lasso.  (Yeah-- take a moment to wrap your brain around that image... I'll wait while you finish laughing.)  Oh, and they had glow-sticks like our partying neighbors.  We had absolutely nothing in common with the hardcore campers-- thank God!  We were a little like the Pros, if you discount the fact that it took us forever to set up camp, and that we had no tv or Internet hub.  Or area rug.  Or mosquito net gazebo... but whatever.  We were somewhat like the "with kids" crowd, except that our kids didn't really run amok.  They flitted about a little, which made them feel very rebellious and independent.  Birdie collected acorns and explored.  Princess rode her unicorn, or played tetherball with her unicorn on the lantern hangers at the campsite.  She also just liked watching the breeze move the leaves in the trees when the unicorn lost its appeal.  We did have actual food on the first night, but didn't get camp set up in time to cook it.  When the kids got tired, they just had to whine and fight, since we left the DVD player at home... And we forgot the beer-- the equivalent of camping blasphemy.  (Rest assured, we made that right the very next day!)

Aaahhh-- sweet camping success!
All in all, our first pop-up camper camping experience was a huge success!  The ladies had fun in the great outdoors, while Mama got to sleep in a bed at night.  We all enjoyed walking the trails together, and we got to see the most beautiful night skies we have seen in a long time.  We roasted hotdogs and made s'mores.  We met some incredibly nice people.  We unplugged from our gadgets and reconnected with one another, and discovered that we can have just as much fun without those things.  We figured out what things we needed that we didn't have with us, and what things we had with us that we didn't need.  Best of all?!-- we planned our next trip to take place in just a few weeks!

Camping was the most relaxing vacation I can remember having with the Crazies!  If you had told me that would be the case a week ago, I would have never believed you.


  1. Great story! I'm glad to hear that your pop-up camper experience was such a success!

  2. I agree, sleeping on the ground is a NO-GO!

    Hi! I’m your newest follower! Stopping by from Today With the Tennerys {late}
    Check out my Mommy blog at:
    Visit anytime!
    {All follows are returned}
    Come play on Sundays @
    Super Sunday Sync!

  3. sounds fun for all of you!! good for you! One of out top vacations was when we inexperienced campers rented an RV for 2 wks and drove to Canada.

  4. Massanutten is not too far from us (ok maybe 2 hours) and 12 just went down there for her end of the season Girl Scout trip. Now I'm not saying that it sounds like a fantastic and wonderful idea, that whole camping thing, but let's just say it MAY be a little more tolerable in a popup (or a hotel) than sleeping on the ground with the bugs and the snakes. I. Hate. Camping.


  5. Oh I am SO in your "camp" (baahaaha) about sleeping on the ground. We never camped as kids (other than Brownies/Guides); I am a bug-a-phobe, have allergies and an aversion to dirt. I only got guilted into going camping by the husband who said I would be "depriving the boys" if we didn't. Oish. We did do the tent thing thankfully with other families who were newbies and didn't know any better either. Ha! That being said...I too came to "like" camping but am quite happy that we have reverted back to concrete (aka hotels). Oh and I NEVER forgot the adult beverages. ;P

  6. I have nominated you for the sunshine blogger award because you are great.

  7. Hey sweet lady, I gave you a blog award, pick it up here http://www.todaywiththetennerys.com/2012/09/a-world-blogger-me-thanks.html

  8. You are too funny. That was fun. We, husband,me, 12 year old son, camped for an entire month going out to California and back to Connecticut in a TENT!!! It was hard at times - like the time we camped in an area that had water sprinklers that turned on in the dead of night - we spent the rest of that wet night in the car. Or the time that cats jumped on the sides of our tent, that was weird. Or at Zion national Park the wind blew and blew the tent around all night. But for the most part it was doable and we spent an entire month... oh,the night we didn't find any campgrounds or vacancy in hotels between LA and San Diego...we slept in the car at a rest stop. I say "slept" but it was anything but. It was Grand Central Station, people camping on the grass, etc. Hey, this turned into a blog post, almost. Nice visiting. Following also. I always follow. Linda

  9. I Googled Shenandoah River State Park images and found one of your pictures!
    -Debbie J (DTES)