Monday, September 14, 2015

Your First "Real" Camp-Out

Dear Em,
Last month we dusted off our tents & set them up in the backyard for your first camping experience. You loved it & immediately asked when you wold get to have a "real" camp out. In your incredible 5 year old wisdom, you knew that sleeping in tents with the comfort of our home (& bathroom facilities) nearby was not a "real" camping experience.

So, I thought "why not," & we booked a site at Burlingame State Park & Campground. We picked Burlingame for a few reasons, but mostly because it is only 15 minutes away from our house. If the whole experience was a disaster, we knew we could quickly pack up & go home.

On Saturday morning, you woke up with a bouncy excitement you could hardly contain. It was hard for you to wait for us to get everything ready & pack the car. You asked both Daddy & I at least 27,000 times when we would be leaving. We asked you to find something quietly to play, but our efforts were futile. You bounced around us all morning, making the packing process slightly more challenging.

You couldn't be more thrilled when we finally announced it was time to get into the car. Our car was full to the brim with camping items, which was funny because we 1) didn't feel like we had packed that much, & 2) were only going camping for one night.

Thank goodness it only takes 15 minutes for us to drive to Burlingame, because even that was too far for you. Once on the campground, we drove in circles for a little bit before finally finding our campsite. It was in a little bit of a congested area, but it was close to the boat launch & the bathrooms. I was happy. "This is AMAZING," you shouted at the top of your lungs.

We all got to work setting up the campsite. You & Daddy worked on setting up the tent while I unpacked the rest of the car. Once the tent was up, you made all the "beds," trying out each spot before finally announcing that your bed was the coziest.

Next we went to the camp store, & picked up firewood. There was a playground next door. It soon became one of my favorite playgrounds in all of Rhode Island. There were climbing walls. There was a climbing net. There was a cool stepping stone type of apparatus. We enjoyed the playground for a while before heading back to our site.

From there we loaded the kayaks into the water for a little bit of a kayaking adventure. Don't be fooled by all of the smiles in these photos. The water current was choppy & strong. It took everything in me to paddle against the current. During the first half of kayaking you begged to swim in the water. We paddled over to a beach, but you didn't like how shallow the sandy area was. I let you out at a different spot, but the current was strong & you had trouble getting anywhere as you swam. Meanwhile, the current was pushing my kayak away. I was paddling to stay with you, & you thought I was paddling away from you. You screamed & cried. In the end we were both screaming at each other, & my arms burned. Daddy had to paddle over to us to calm us both down. I was thrilled when we finally made it back to shore. I love kayaking, but that time was definitely my least favorite part of our camping experience.

Once we got back to our site, Daddy started up the grill. You helped him flip the burgers on the grill. As we waited for the food to cook, you & I walked around the campground, checking out all the different campsites. You found & collected acorns along the way.

We sat down together & ate dinner. We were all hungry & ate until our bellies were full. Then Daddy & I worked on getting a campfire going. The wood we picked up from the camp store was strangely cut, & it took forever to get the wood pieces burning. There was smoke everywhere. Daddy & I smothered our fire at least 15 times before getting it going again. We never got an incredible raging fire in the fire pit, but we got enough to roast marshmallows & make s'mores.

You're really not a sit by the campfire kind of girl. You snuck away to the picnic table, put your head lamp on, & colored in the light of the headlamp. You told us that you were making pictures to decorate our tent. Daddy & I sat around the smoky fire pit while you sweetly colored. Everyone was happy & content.

That's when we started to feel raindrops, & Daddy checked the weather. A big rainstorm was coming our way. We packed everything up & hunkered down in the tent for the night. Totally unfazed by the change of plans, you continued to color until you had finished making three pictures. Then we used tape that we had found left in the tent from our camp out in the backyard to hang the pictures. You smiled from ear to ear, satisfied with our tent decor.

Then you snuggled into my sleeping bag while we read books together. When we were done reading, you happily got into your own sleeping bag. We turned on the ocean sounds of your sleep sheep & turned out the lights. You woke up at around 6:30 the next morning. You got back into my sleeping bag & we read more books until around 7:00.

The rain had stopped during the night. While the ground & picnic table were wet, we were happy that at least we would be able to be outside without getting rained on that morning. You & Daddy grilled bagels, while I worked on packing up our bedding. We had a breakfast feast of bagels & orange juice.

You were a little bummed about having to pack up the campsite. "Mom, I wish that we could go camping forever." You were glad to get to help with the take down of the tent, however. We seemed to pack everything up in no time. We said our goodbyes to our campsite & headed back to the playground one last time.

With everything drenched in rain, we had the playground to ourselves. This time I was ready to join in on all the fun...Daddy was too. You & I climbed everything. We climbed things together, & we raced each other. While you don't enjoy competing against your peers, you are such a feisty & competitive little one when you are with Daddy & I. Daddy & I laughed as you danced in your victories & screamed in your defeats. We had so much fun together on that playground.

You had a sad, little look on your face when we finally left the campground. "Mom, I want to do this again, but next time for longer. I love camping. I love everything about it...just not the packing at the house before we leave part." Ha! Me too, little one, me too (I also don't really adore the washing 5 loads of laundry once we get back part). I'm glad you loved your first "real" camping adventure. I'm looking forward to sharing so many more future camping adventures together.

I love you so,

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