Jun 19 2010

Our first family camping trip

I told Shane I didn’t want to talk about future camping trips until after we got home, I showered and took a nap. Those things have now happened and I’m ready to process it all.

First, I’d like to go camping again this summer.

But let me back up and do a recap of this whole little trip.

I had to spend almost all day Friday preparing. Finding sites that were available and close enough to get to after Shane got off work. Putting all our gear together. Making a list of things we still needed to get, and going to get those things.

Doesn’t sound that complicated, but for some reason it was really time-consuming!

Next time will be better because I will have almost everything except consumable things on hand and we’re trying to store it all together (in our storage locker, mostly! I don’t want to bring bugs into our apartment. We have enough of those as it is).

I can use my old list as a starting point. So that’s good.

We ended up staying at Raccoon Creek State Park because Shane had always wanted to visit there, and it was the closest campable state park as far as I could tell.

For $23/night, it wasn’t a bad deal. We stayed at site D15 in case you’re planning on visiting, too. It’s really close to the bath house (like, as close as you can get) and close to a fresh water spigot. But that means you also have people walking by at all hours.

We only had neighbors to one side and they were quiet. The back of the campsite was just woods and it was pretty.

Being a thick set of woods, it got dark there earlier than it would elsewhere. We were at our campsite at about 7:30-45 p.m. Friday and we were fighting daylight.

The tent was large and intimidating. The directions weren’t especially clear. We didn’t set up our tent in advance of our trip, as so many people had (wisely!) suggested. There’s nowhere to really do it at our apartment complex and we didn’t take the time to go to a park or something. I feel like we should have; Shane feels like it turned out ok.

Personally, I’d say to set up your tent in advance! Especially if you’re racing the clock!

It did turn out ok, but that was because a nice man saw that we were completely clueless and needed help. He sent his sons over and they put the tent together in no time, with Shane and I just sorta watching and trying to remember what they did.

If it wasn’t for them, it would have been very dark by the time we got it all together. I would have been crying and just pleading to go home because I get really stressed out over that sorta thing.

So thank God for those guys!

With the tent up, Shane and Johnny sat down for dinner (Chic-Fil-A…yeah.) I wanted to do something, so I set up the air mattress.

And then it was pretty much dark.

The campground itself didn’t sell firewood like we thought they would. You had to buy it at the boathouse (closed already) or from some guy down the street who has a sign for “Far wood.”

The lady at the check-in told us because we were backed against the woods, we could scavenge for dead branches. Shane wasn’t able to find anything dry enough. Sad. So no fire.

Good thing we weren’t planning on cooking anything major on a camp fire! We didn’t bring our grill because there really wasn’t a ton of space anyway. Not sure how we’ll fit it all in on future trips! We also didn’t bring our cooler, which isn’t THAT big. Instead, we brought Shane’s lunchbox and filled it with ice for drinks, and also packed our picnic basket and another bag of food.

I brought some card games and a book to read, but Johnny was acting pretty crabby and tired so it was time to try to get him to sleep. This was probably 9:30 or 10.

But…people in adjacent campsites didn’t seem to know that quiet hours started at 9. There were people talking until about 1 a.m. Ugggh. They weren’t speaking loudly at all, but sound just travels so well out there. So that stunk.

Oh, and if you’ve ever been around Johnny right before he falls asleep, then you know he sorta sings/chants as he winds down. It’s just a big loud, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” at around the same pitch. Stress relief? I dunno. He’s done it forever. Didn’t even think about that being an issue until we tried to get him to go to sleep with the rest of the campground was relatively quiet.

I can only wonder what people must have thought! Sorry, peeps. We tried to keep him quiet (lots more nursing than I really wanted, but hey, it does shush him!) but he just needs to make that sound to fall asleep so there’s not a whole lot I could really do.

Raccoon Creek isn’t too far from the Pittsburgh airport, and unfortunately several planes were routed directly overhead. LOUD! Especially when you’re trying to sleep.

And then Rocky Raccoon kept coming by our tent and rubbing against it. GO AWAY! We didn’t have any food inside so there shouldn’t have been any enticing┬ásmells.

I asked the lady at the check-in if there had been any bear sightings lately. She sorta chuckled and said, “Well, I haven’t seen any bears.” When pressed, she said that there had been two cubs spotted recently on the other side of the park. Great. Not sure how recent it was.

We were told to keep our food in our car and to call 911 if we saw one. Fantastic!

Didn’t see any, whew!

So between the uncomfortable air mattress (which, Johnny fell of twice. Oops!), the talking people, the dead silence, the buzzing bugs stuck between the tent and the rain tarp, the raccoons, and the noise of the park ranger driving by throughout the night, it was a rough night’s sleep.

Shane woke me up at one point, telling me, “I’m about to fall off the bed! Move Johnny over!”

Since the air mattress was one big bubble instead of having air chambers, it didn’t distribute our weight well. Shane is the heaviest (for now. I will catch him/pass him up in December), Johnny sorta rolled toward him and was pressed against him.

Shane needed help to scoot him over, but we all just woke up anyway.

And then around 5 a.m., the birds were going nuts. They sounded so excited that it was morning! Like, heck yeah! I knew it would be here soon! Twittering like crazy. Facebooking, too.

So noisy. With the daylight growing, there was no way Johnny was going back to sleep. And that meant neither were we.

We tried our darndest to keep him quiet as long as possible, and I think we made it until about 7:30 or so and I saw other people up so I didn’t feel so bad then.

Breakfast was cereal and milk, raisins and bananas. And graham crackers, because Johnny spotted them and once that happens, you have to give him one.

I wanted to start tearing down camp a bit so we wouldn’t have as much work to do later. Did some of that, and then we went on a little walk.

We were pretty close to a trail that led to the beach, so Saturday morning we hiked on over. It was only .4 miles long, but steep in places so it was a good workout. The beach had a few swimmers and it was only 9 a.m.! It was muggy and already getting hot by that point.

The area had a little trickle of a creek, and Shane and Johnny threw some rocks in. Precious!

We stayed out there for a short bit and hiked on back to tear down the rest of our campsite. It went a lot better than the set-up! We even fit the tent in the bag on the first try. Whew.

Got out of there around 10:45 or so, and it was fun to drive back through the campground to see other people’s tents and what they were up to — riding bikes, cooking breakfast, throwing balls around.

Johnny was asleep before we got out of the park. We got home and he slept until I got him up at 5. Gee!

I showered and went to sleep for a few hours. My bed has never felt so good!

Shane thought the trip was a ton of fun and it felt like a mini-vacation.

I had a decent time, but I was too stressed out and busy with it all to really sit down and just breathe and enjoy it.

It would have been better if we got to the campsite much earlier in the day. I also think it would be more fun to camp with friends or family nearby.

We will go again sometime this summer. I want to buy a tent fan for some air circulation and a little bit of white noise. We’re used to sleeping to the sound of Johnny’s loud box fan, so the sounds of nature were hard to get used to!

Raccoon Creek was nice but I think we’ll go somewhere further from an airport next time. We’ve heard lots of good things about Ohiopyle so that might be next.

Oh, and I think a one-night camping stay is a good length for us right now. I honestly don’t know how I could convince Johnny to take a nap for several hours during the heat of the day, with so much commotion going on outside. Maybe if he was smaller he could be convinced in a travel swing or a sling, but not now. Plus, dealing with all that extra food.

It’s a lot of work for just one night, but if we get to the site early enough we could stay for about 24 hours, so that’s decent.

I hope next time feels more relaxing to me. Camping and outdoorsy stuff isn’t really my thing, but I need to suck it up and be a good sport.

Oh, best piece of gear? The headlamps! Shane loved them and I don’t think he even knew I bought them until I handed him one. The ones we have have 4 light settings: red, focused beam, floodlamp, and then super bright.

Pictures, taken Saturday morning:

View of the inside, peeking in the window.

Liked the hinge door and the little porch area. There’s a tent light for the roof but I forgot it :(.

Along the trail heading toward the beach.

9 Responses to “Our first family camping trip”

  1. I was going to suggest a longer camping trip before I got to the part that you said one night was good for you. I do not do anything less than 2 nights because the set up and tear down takes up so much time. You really need more time to be able to relax and enjoy it.

    As for the noises, that’s just something you have to get used to. I remember the first time we went with Lexi we were up so early because of the birds like you were talking about. Our last camping trip we had a neighbor who snored and talked in their sleep like you would NOT believe. They also coughed a lot. Fun times.

    I am glad that you want to try it again and not give up!

  2. Sounds like it was a somewhat successful trip—being that you want to try it again! I would love to try out some “real” camping sometime like you guys did.

    Also, your account of the trip and the way you worded things just cracked me up :)

  3. Loved reading your account! I think you were smart to start slow and only do one night and go for the fast-food dinner ;-). Sounds like it was a good first-time with only minor issues. We still don’t have camping gear, and we’ll probably wait until our next move to see if our next abode will have room for camping gear storage. We probably have to move sometime in the next year and a half or so, due to occupancy limitations in this apartment. Then we’ll see about camping stuff.

  4. My ENTIRE extended family goes on a camping trip for a week and a half year back in Oregon.

    The list includes: My aunt and uncle and their four kids, my other aunt and uncle and their two kids, my grandparents and my parents, plus my six siblings. Occasionally my great aunt and uncle and their grown children with their little kids come along too. We take up between 7 and 10 camp sites!

    The trip requires weeks of preparation – but it’s one of the best weeks of the year, despite all the work. It’s definitely more fun when you go with a big group of people.

  5. EDIT: That’s supposed to say “for a week and a half every year”.

  6. We love camping and don’t get to go as often as we ‘d like. You’ll definitely get your packing list down to a science.

    I would never take an air mattress camping. We don’t sleep well on those indoors. Instead, Danny puts his sleeping bag on a foam pad (http://www.rei.com/search?cat=8000&cat=4500026&cat=4500448&hist=cat,4500026:Camping+Sleep+Pads^cat,4500448:Foam+Pads) and I put my sleeping bag on an air pad (http://www.rei.com/search?cat=8000&cat=4500026&cat=40001452&hist=cat,4500026:Camping+Sleep+Pads^cat,40001452:Air+Pads). They are much easier to pack and set up too!

    And, I would also re-iterate the “stay more than one night” suggestion. It’s never worth it to me to set up camp for one night. I’ve also gotten my toiletry packing and shower trips down to a science as well – although I’d imagine taking a baby adds a whole other dimension!

  7. Ideally, we’ll do some 2-day trips once we get better at it. Right now the whole “nap in the heat of the day” thing has me feeling pretty doubtful.

    Baby steps!

  8. Congrats on surviving your first camping trip. To look on the bright side, at least it didn’t rain. Trying to take down a wet tent is miserable!

    I agree with some other commenters that the packing will become easier, although it still amazes me how much time packing and unpacking from camping takes.

    If you go to Ohiopyle, they definitely have wood available 24 hours – it’s a self-serve little stand right near the entrance. The frugal part of you will probably not like the amount of wood you get for the price – I don’t! But a campfire is the best part of camping for me.

    Maybe you could try foam pads topped with some old blankets and a sleeping bag instead of the air mattress next time? It’s actually pretty comfortable (although it takes up more space in the car) if you use several layers.

  9. Sounds like a fun, albeit short trip. I have never really thought about camping much until lately. Still thinking about it though, lol. It just seems like an awful lot of work than it is worth. I am in Florida though and it is DEF too hot to camp now. Maybe in the fall. Thanks for sharing, nice story.

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