I have a group of amazing friends who get together several times a year to go camping. There are 8 adults and 10 children. The first time we went the oldest kids were about 5 years old and the youngest was Lorelei, who had just turned 1. Back then there were 8 adults and 7 kids.
Everyone gives me this side-eye look like I must be completely insane to take small children camping, but with enough hands on deck it ends up being generally enjoyable. Not to say there haven’t been some hiccups. There was the time two kids got lost in the woods for a few minutes. There have been ticks. A close call with the fire. Plenty of bumps and bruises. And some really shitty sleep, both for the kids and the adults.
This weekend was the first time we had attempted anything more than car camping. We have always chosen state parks where our cars are not right on top of our campsites, but we’ve never had to deal with trying to minimize our gear. The walk this time wasn’t far – a bit less than half a mile – but we had four people and two packs. It was… interesting.
Every great once in a while I become a little stubborn. I’m normally super easy going and… and I totally can’t even finish that as a joke. I’m stubborn AF. I got it into my head that we HAD to manage to carry everything to the campsite in one trip. My camping cred was at stake and I WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL.
Rowan woke me up at 4:30 am Saturday morning, so I figured I’d go ahead and get us packed so we could head out early. Our camping equipment is a patchwork mess of varying quality. We have some great, relatively lightweight, stuff. We have some heavy, unwieldy, stupid for hiking stuff. I stared at the shit I had gathered for this trip. Two thermarests, four sleeping bags, two crazy creek chairs (which would double as sleep pads for the kids), flashlights, food, a four-person tent, clothes for four people (including two children who were guaranteed to need an extra set or two).
I ended up with a ton of stuff strapped to my pack. I lack useful bungees and whatnot, so it was hanging off every which way, throwing my center of balance off. It was HEAVY.
There was no way Rowan was going to walk to the campsite. I was too top heavy, and if he bolted I wouldn’t have been able to get him without ending up on my back like a turtle. So I strapped him to my front.
THIS IS A REALLY STUPID IDEA
While it did balance the weight a little, 25 pounds of baby and 800 pounds of pack are way too much for me to carry. The path was not all that long, but it was not very flat. Lorelei complained the whole way. Then we got to the suspension bridge. Zach carefully lead the dog across. I held Lorelei’s hand and talked her across. She sobbed the whole way. By the time we got to the campsite I was in so much pain and couldn’t breathe.
Rowan is like the WORST age for camping. He’s fast and has no self-preservation instinct. And he thought throwing himself against the side of the tent and letting it catch him was super fun.
Then it was cold that night. Rowan insisted on sleeping on me, meaning I could not zip my sleeping bag. And I had a Thermarest that was not big enough for me and a baby.
Somehow, it was still fun. The big kids are now big enough wander around without constant supervision. They get messy and creative and Lorelei only wistfully missed the TV once or twice. There was a nap in my hammock. Rowan declared himself king of the picnic tables.
I’ve basically fallen apart since we got home, though. In addition to having to go to the NP last week because of a fucking yeast infection and my stomach never quite going back to normal after a mild stomach bug or food poisoning (yes, I have bought probiotics), I appear to also have been bitten by a spider while camping. Now, either my leg is going to rot off or I will get super powers. I’m hoping for teleportation. My hammock-nap ended in sunburn. I jacked up my back with the whole carry-all-the-things stunt. And now Rowan appears to have given me his cold.
No rest for the weary, though. This weekend Lorelei and I are going out of town together for her 7th birthday! Train ride to Greensboro, walking to the children’s museum, taking Lyft to a fancy-ish hotel. This is happening, rain or shine, in sickness or in health.
Probably in sickness, though.