We just got back from a 4 night camping trip in Ponderosa State Park McCall Idaho. Have you been to this park? It is so beautiful and has the best trails for hiking with small children. We hiked here last year with 2 dogs and 2 kids and had to go back. The park is a Peninsula on a lake. There are so many great trails and animals to see. We saw lots of deer and fox. I would love to see a moose one day!
Both my husband and I grew up camping and sleeping in a tent. I’ve never actually slept inside a camp trailer, but I would imagine it would be a much different camping experience. Being in a tent and hearing Raccoons viciously fight over food 100 ft away, the trees squeaking above you in the wind or an animal brush the side of your tent in the middle of the night is quite exhilarating. My husband never seems to hear it and I’m always kicking him “Do you hear THAT?” From my observations camping with our kids, there didn’t seem to be too many other families with small children in tents. Everyone had some sort of trailer, pop-up trailer or much older children in tents. Did you or do you camp in a tent with your small children? I would love to know.
The first night in the tent our daughter said “you know what the best part of camping is? Sleeping in a tent!” That made me feel good. I do think a trailer would be convenient and nice to have, but that is a different experience than I would like our kids to have. I love not having the modern conveniences of a sink or microwave. (I may feel differently after baby three, but would still rather build a garage than have an RV!) At night we would warm up a pot of soapy water over the fire or stove and wash them up. They both had a look of pure relaxation when I wrapped their smelly camp feet in a steamy hot wash cloth while they sat on the edge of their sleeping bags.
While I wouldn’t say how awesome it was to sleep on the ground 6 months pregnant with just ONE pillow, no bathroom and a low of 30*, I will say we made some fantastic memories and I am proud of myself and kids.
I admit that tent camping with my husband might be much more luxurious than you may think! See, he is a firefighter of 14 years & a hunter since like birth which makes him practically a wilderness professional! He is incredibly efficient and routine with his set up. He is one or two steps ahead of me on everything. The fire never dies, food is always hot and ready before the kids get grouchy, he does almost all the dishes & every morning & night he critter proofs our site. I kept the tent tidy and swept and made sure kids were covered at night.
The afternoon before we left, he smoked 2 racks of ribs, made delicious elk chili in the Instant pot, chopped a watermelon and gathered 90% of our camp gear. We always eat well and for the most part healthy on our camping trips with some added treats. I premade a broccoli salad and Hawaiian chicken kabobs. We packed a bunch of fruit, jerky, nut bars, fresh eggs, coconut water & yerba mate teas. Before kids, we would just pack ingredients and enjoy an evening cooking in the Dutch oven, but now we pre-make all of our dinners! My husband is the better cook, so I let him do that and I am the better baker, for now! All the photos of the delicious food is on my husbands phone and he is currently battling the Lane Fire in CA with minimal contact.
Last summer we invested in a nicer tent and received my Father-in-Laws old rusty tent stove that keeps us warm. Actually, it pretty much roasts us like a marshmallow. Before bed my husband will set up the stove so all that needs to be done is to light it. As soon as I think the kids and I are too cold to sleep (usually about 3-4 am) I wake my husband to start the fire. Within 5 minutes the tent goes from 30*-110* and we are all sprawled out on-top of our sleeping bags trying to unzip the door for a breath of fresh air.
The downside to the stove is there is a whole in the floor and roof of the tent which is inviting to bugs. The awesome part is that we get coffee in bed! We set up our coffee percolator so all we have to do is put it on the stove. (Ok, maybe he does that too!) We keep a small plastic bin with a jar of cream & sugar, tea bags, coffee cups, and a spoon in the tent. This year we also brought some instant oatmeal cups, bib, spoon & pot with a bottle of water. Our 17 month old wakes up starving everyday so we were able to make him a healthy cup of oatmeal & drink our coffee and daughter an herbal tea before we get everyone dressed and out of the tent to make a real breakfast usually cooked in bacon grease. Mmm.
The kids each brought a few books, a stuffed animal, sand toys and some coloring supplies. I’m not a huge fan of toys at home and when we go on vacations I only let them bring a couple which never seem to get touched. As usual, they read some books and played with their sand buckets & shovels, but preferred to play with the natural elements in the campsite than anything else. The beach was really pretty, quite windy, & the water was freezing. The kids could care less. I volunteered myself to hold down the beach tent so it didn’t blow away and watched my husband get in the freezing water with the kids. I really am a hands-on mom & am usually the one that has to get in the freezing water or chase them around, but any opportunity I have to watch him do it, I gladly take it.
Everyone is always overly friendly at a campgrounds pair that with people in Idaho being awesome and you have the nicest people camping around you. There was a large group of girls that took up 5 sites and had a whole staff to cook & supervise them. We had fun watching them and we had to pass by them on my 1000 waddles to the bathrooms. They just loved our kids and gave them each a balloon on a stick. This occupied them for TWO days!! One family offered us their firewood, another their dinner, and my husband was approached by three older couples that had the kindest things to say about our family. My viewpoint was much different. I felt I was trying hard not to yell at the kids for throwing pinecones and dirt at each-others faces and running by the fire. Also, that I was spending too much time in my camp rocking chair playing mom-police while husband cooked & cleaned. Always nice to hear compliments about how you are raising your kids.
We went on a 3 mile hike on our second day. I was pretty proud of myself because I’m not as energized this pregnancy. I was also very impressed with our 3 year old daughter. She hiked the whole way with a hydration pack and had us carry it the very last part. The following morning we hiked another 2 miles. She was awesome. Our son literally passed out in the Kelty all 5 miles. This wasn’t really “hiking.” I’m sure it was painfully slow for my husband! If you have ever hiked with him or heard any fire or hunting stories of him and his fitness capabilities, then you know he was incredibly patient with us on our nature walks we like to call hikes!
On the morning we left, my husband took the kids on an hour walk while I packed up the inside of the tent. Then when he came back I kept the kids alive while he packed up the entire campsite. We had to be out by 11am, and as we were pulling out of the campgrounds all loaded up, I looked at the dash clock and it said 10:59! Our kids were passed out 4 minutes later.
Please enjoy these photos of our trip,