We setup, we ate and we camped! In preparation of the upcoming Geocaching Mega Event at Roosevelt State Park, the kids and I wanted to make sure that everything was ready for camping. This of course meant setting everything up and testing out all the equipment to ensure the safety and proper usage of everything. (Ladies, it is an excuse to spend the night outside with the kids.) So after getting off of work around 3:00 I began to remove roughly +/-2,000 hickory nuts that have fell at our camp site. Luckly there was enough of gas in the leaf blower to accomplish this task and a bit more for later. Shortly afterwards the kids arrived home from the writing club homeschool co-op and was more than ready to get things going.
Step One – The Fire
Watching any good survival show, you know that the necessity of fire is number one priority! We live out in the woods and there was plenty of small sticks, limbs and trees that were able to be used for the fire. Yet, my strapping young lads would not have any of that, they wanted to chop down more trees and use that wood. At first I said “Sure! Go ahead and do that.”Then my brain kicked in and I felt the slowly growing hunger pains starting to emerge. “Change of plans boys, get the dead wood on the ground and let’s get a fire!” My son wanted to do the fire by himself, so I let him take lead on this as I said I would. Gathering the wood and leaves and dryer lint, he prepared a nice spot for a fire. If you were going to start it with a blow-torch. In my head I though “This is his part, let him do it.” After numerous attempts with the magnesium bar and flint and enough leaves to send smoke signals, he asked for some help and we were able to get thing going. That’s right, daddy stepped in and saved the day with some lighter fluid and we moved on to step two.
Step Two – The Tent
We have a Swiss Gear tent that is big enough to house a small army. My wife thought that it would be big enough to handle the family and all the equipment that we bring along. It has a nice 8’x10′ front porch that is enclosed with two more 8’x10′ rooms off in a Y shaped fashion. I am rather funny about my tents and how they are on the ground. If you are a camper in Georgia in the state parks, you know that 89% of all camp sites are gravel pads. These of course can be right painful when you lay down and they can damage the bottom of your tent. Therefore, I require tarps to be placed down prior to the placement of my tent to protect the tent bottom. This is the other reason that I cleaned up the hickory nuts. This also provides a moisture barrier between the tent and the ground in case you have a small hole in your tent floor. Explaining all of this to the kids became similar to discussing quantum physics with a 5 year old, so I told them to trust me and just put the tarps down. Next came the actual tent placement. I don’t know who was the person that developed the collapsing poles that are used in tents today, but bless your heart. (That’s a southern saying… bless your heart. It can either mean I feel sorry for you or you did a great deed in life or I wish you would just shut up!) The poles were placed in the right sleeves on the tent sides and inserted to the three way connector at the top and ‘POP!’ we are 1/10 of the way there.
Then my middle son yells “SNAKE!”. This is not the word that you want to hear yelled at anytime of the day, much less when you are entering the dusk of the day and you are going to be camping outside! After a quick distant investigation I concurred with my son on the snake being a copperhead and quickly dispatched it with a rather well placed 12 gauge shot. This of course brought a bit of a delay in getting the tent up, but it also brought a quick wildlife lesson into play. Finally upon returning to the tent, we again started on more poles and made slow work of the tent raising. Yes it takes a while to get the tent setup and ready for camping. However when it is done, it rocks.
Step Three – Food
Things were progressing much better now and it was dark. Thankfuly we were ready to start getting some food going. I got the bricks in place, got the grill top in place and the fire was going just right. I sent the boys inside to get the steaks and hot dogs only to have them return to a fire that was about out! Now remember back in the beginning of this post I mentioned the leaf blower having just enough of gas? I am not one of great patience at times, especially when I am hungry! Quickly assessing the situation, I told everybody to backup and watch out! Cranking up the leaf blower, I aimed it at the fire and it was as though the ground opened up and a portal from the depths of hell was now billowing up through the ground. After a good minute of “working the fire”, we were ready to start grilling. The kids made their selection on the hot dogs and my lovely wife had us steaks and a salad. Soon the marshmallow question came up and s’mores were being built. Yep, all in the world was right at that moment.
Step Four – Bed Time
After the great flame kissed, grilled to perfection, wonderful tasting, and tough as shoe leather steaks were eaten and the kids finished their hot dogs, it was time for some sleep. However the s’mores that were devoured at the end of dinner made this part a bit of a challenge. Upon hearing that the kids wanted me to get up and chase them through the dark in the woods where we just killed the copperhead earlier, I quickly decided on a game of stop light with the flashlight. This works rather well when your flashlight has a strobe setting on it and has an adjustable beam width. They tried for nearly two minutes to get to the base, which is me, then gave up in fear that I would want to play again. Slowly my stubbornness won out and we made our way into the tent. Swapping form the outdoor christmas lights to the indoor christmas lights, the tent was soon a bustling area of kids in sleeping bags jumping around and bouncing into each other. This can only last for so long due to the inevitable collision and head butting or bad landing which all soon happened. Laying down that night with all my kids sleeping next to me and thanking me for a great night was the most awesome feeling in the world. My little girl snuggled up close to me and held my hand and one of my boys even moved over close to me. This was only because of the coyotes suddenly getting worked into a feverish frenzy as we were going to sleep. But I will take it whenever and however I can.
Dads, if you have not taken your kids camping lately, do it. It is not that hard and there are so many great memories to be made. I did not pack up everything and head out on some long excursion, I just went outside next to the house. But as the sun sets and the darkness is pushed back by the glow of a fire and the glow of happiness on your child’s face, you will be glad you made the decision to say “We Camped!”