I had never been camping before in my life, unless you count five years of girls camp and one ward campout from back in the day, which I don't. What this meant was we were completely unprepared for this challenge. We had a lot of learning to do.
Knowing this, we decided to tag along with my in-laws on the tail end of their camping trip and convinced them to pack an extra tent, sleeping bags, all the cooking tools and essentially everything because I'm not exaggerating when I say that the only essential camping item we had was a flashlight — barely.
The plan was to head out Thursday evening after Reid got off work to make the three-and-a-half hour drive and meet up with Reid's parents who had been there all week in their trailer as well as Reid's sister and brother-in-law. We would set up tents and get some much needed rest. Then we would stay the weekend and pack up Sunday morning.
We camped at Otter Creek State Park near Antimony, Utah. Basically, you take the Scipio exit off of Interstate 15 and drive for two hours in the middle of nowhere. It really was beautiful, but not at all what I had envisioned when I set this challenge.
When I think camping, I think of trees, streams and wilderness. No civilization, no sounds and lots of space. What we got was a campsite right off the highway, Frisbee throwing distance from the next campsite and a tent that was lit up the whole night from the lights off the bathrooms right across the road. Pair all of that with rain and thunderstorms, a baby who woke up every hour, and a toddler who wet the bed and none of us got any sleep the first night.
The next day started out better. We made bacon and pancakes over the campfire and the girls were having a blast playing in the dirt. Then came nap-time. We tried to nap BabyTravels in the tent but she was not having any of it. We decided to give up that battle and get the girls ready for a swim in the lake since, at that point, it was hot.
We got them lathered in sunscreen and suited up and walked down to the beach at the lake only to find it green and slimy from what the park ranger described to us as turnover, when the algae dies and surfaces for about a week. Just our luck. Swimming in the lake would not be an option on this trip. That's when we decided to just give in and not let things bug us anymore. Instead of swimming, we spent the morning throwing rocks into the lake and had a blast.
The rest of our trip included four-wheeling (this is a great place to do that if you are into it), camp fires and just sitting back and enjoying each other's company. Once we got over all the reasons why this was a disappointing camping trip, it actually turned out fun.
Tips for taking young children camping:
If you have one, a portable crib such as a pack-n-play is essential. Although on at least one night, BabyTravels ended up in my sleeping bag with me because we were both just too cold. The portable crib can also double as a safe and clean play area if your baby is at crawling age.
Bring extra everything. Everything will get dirty, and that's just fine. Expect it and pack appropriately. Remember layers because it can change rapidly from hot to cold (depending on where you are camping).
Cooking over a camp fire takes a lot longer than cooking at home. Plan for snacks and quick meals for the little ones so they don't get too fussy when it takes an hour to make breakfast.
Hilarye Fuller lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where she stays at home with her two young daughters and pens the travel blog DottingTheMap. For more information on 12 in 2012 Challenge, and for tips and reviews visit http://www.dottingthemap.com