Deciding to Try Camping Again

About fifteen years after my first camping experience ended as an “an instructive disaster” I decided to try camping again.  This decision came during our forth stay at summer vacation in the Eagle River region of northern Wisconsin at an affordable cabin resort near Lost Lake.  My husband, Rick, and our four children spent a week inhabiting a well-kept cabin where we could fish from the dock, build sand castles on a beach or swim in the resort’s pool.

We considered ourselves lucky to have found a relaxing place outside the stress zone of Chicago and well outside our business cell phone coverage area.  We sat on the porch one evening discussing plans for next year’s summer vacation.  I came to the realization that our eldest child, (Emily…then eleven) had not yet been given the opportunity to experience the many sights and history our great country had to offer and that Rick and I had greatly enjoyed as children.   From Emily’s limited experience the U.S.A. consisted of Disney World, downtown Chicago and Lost Lake Wisconsin!  This epiphany quickly turned to the realization that only camping vacations could provide us with an affordable way to tour the country with our family and the families of our close relatives.

On our car ride home from Lost Lake, Rick and I talked nonstop with our children about the opportunity to go beyond cabins and hotel rooms into the great outdoors of our national parks and historic landmarks.  The enthusiasm about this new adventure never faded throughout the following autumn and winter until on the next Mother’s Day I announced my desired gift was to go shopping in the seasonal camping department at the closest big box retailer for the best possible camping products and related equipment.  Clearly, the day of “barely roughing it” camping had arrived.  Our shopping list for that Mother’s Day included:

1.     A large, spacious tent (sleeping eight or ten) that was easy to set up and compactly store.

2.     Sleeping bags and accompanying queen size air mattresses with high volume air pump inflators.

3.     Camping cookware including a propane stove, propane lantern and large flashlights.

4.     Five gallon camping toilet complete with toilet seat and packets of toilet chemicals.

We were pleasantly surprised to find the total cost for all these high quality items was just over seven hundred dollars.  To these items we later added the following on the advice of our experienced camping friends and relatives:

1.     Sleeping bag liners made from twin size cotton bed sheets laid flat and sewn halfway down the sides and across the bottom to allow a warmer bag within a sleeping bag or cooler bag on top of a sleeping bag.

2.     An extra-large plastic tarp to go over the top of our tent and extend two or three feet to either side as an effective rain protector to replace the highly ineffective nylon material and “rain fly” that came with our tent! Note: Metal tent stakes and bungee cords required.

3.     Our first picnic table cover set given to us by friends who purchase the set at a camping craft show.

Now we were prepared for our first family camping adventure.  This summer our minivan headed south to central Illinois rather than north to Lost Lake Wisconsin.  We returned two weeks later as an experienced camping family having learned lifelong camp craft skills while touring The Land of Lincoln, the University of Illinois and unforgettable scenes along the Mississippi River.  We excitedly planned our next adventures to Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.  Clearly camping had gone from one of my greatest fears to becoming my life long avocation.

Rick Riviere