I Hate Camping
My early experiences with camping were church-organized Father and Sons campouts with their magical bonfires, tin-foil dinners prepped by my mom and s’mores followed by sing-a-longs. Bucolic. Nostalgic. Fun even.
Then I became a Boy Scout at 12 and went on my first “official” campout. I was still going with my 2 older brothers, so I thought it would be great. But my birthday is in November, and my first campout was a winter camp out or “Freeze-o-ree”. And we were living in Germany. (Note: camping is made more fun by adding the “oree” suffix to otherwise boring words–Camp-oree. Jamboree. Backache from sleeping on the ground-oree. etc.) Although the camp area was beautiful, snow on the ground is less magical when your escape from it is nylon walls. It got dark so early I couldn’t really see what I was eating. Then the next day I saw what I ate and it looked awful. It was just cold (winter in Germany).
With that auspicious beginning me and camping were clearly a match made in heaven, right? No. Then I became a patrol leader, so I got to spend my time camping not only sleeping on the ground but also telling my teenage peers (who always show good judgement) that no, they shouldn’t put that in the fire. But I went, and I got my 30 nights of camping to earn my Camping merit badge and eventually my Eagle Scout. And then I was done camping. I purposely did not go on many scout campouts after that. I went on a few Father and Sons camps with my dad, but we slept on an air mattress in the back of our van.
Then I married someone who had lots of fond memories of family camping, so I thought I would give it a try. We had one toddler and decided to go camping in Freeport, Maine so we rented a tent and went to the great outdoors. It rained which was not so great of the outdoors. Our toddler screamed every time she went in the tent. We could barely get 2 coals of a fire to cook hot dogs. But our view of the bay was nice and we had lobster on the way home–which was a day early due to the rain.
Generally camping with kids does not appeal to me (see above). Camping does not appeal to me, which should be clear by the title of this post. Motel 6 is the closest I would like to get to camping. I like enjoying nature and then going home. I like cooking food for my family where I can keep everything dirt-free and not smell like smoke. I dislike the late night treks to the bathroom (if there is one) and the sheer amount of work it is to plan, pack, set up, take down, clean up and put away from a camping trip.
Recently a friend from our church congregation organized a group campout with other families in the ward who also had kids. My wife wanted to go and thought it would be a good time, so we borrowed a tent and some air mattresses and headed out to a state park about 30 minutes from our home. I agreed to go because I knew the kids would like it and it was an affordable way to get out and see some of our great state of Massachusetts. We decided to go camping for 2 nights though as only 1 night is too much work. In the end it was a great long weekend. The weather was lovely–not too cool and not too hot–and our kids had other kids to play with. My wife and I had other adults to visit with and get to know better. We had hot dogs and s’mores and tried our hand with campfire nachos. We explored neighboring towns and went on a short nature walk.
Fueled by one successful trip, The Good Doctor found some an open camp site at Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Mass. out on the Cape. Again we decided to go out for 2 nights. It was a rough start. I left our tent at home and had to make a 3-hour round trip to the nearest REI so I could buy the same tent we already had so we could then return our unused one when we got home. Lots of fun. But the kids swam in a lake, and we went to a beach. We had ice cream at a good roadside place. We added campfire baked french bread pizza to our fireside repertoire. And then s’mores. There were s’mores again the second night. I’ve reached my s’mores quota for a while. I do look forward to the time when our 2 year old doesn’t view marshmallow skewers as fun toys.
I think there is more camping in my future, although is still not my favorite. But I’ve realized that for most kids camping is pure magic. They get to stay outside and sleep in a sleeping bag and have fun food along with pretty dedicated time with Mom and Dad. It’s also inexpensive. We spent about $50 for 2 nights on the cape during July. Hotel rooms can go for A LOT more than that. I guess I’ve decided that camping is just one of those things I can do for my wife and kids. It’s only once or twice per year, and I don’t know that I hate it any more. Maybe.