Yesterday, we spent the vast majority of the day preparing and organizing all of our camping and outdoor gear. It was in a terrible state of disorganization – enough to embarrass even the most hardened woodsman. We cleaned tents. We tested air mattresses. We checked sleeping bags. Essentially, we checked all of our gear to ensure that it was still serviceable, somewhat clean, packed away properly, and ready for use.
For the past week, we’d been promising our brood of children that we would spend Saturday night camping in our backyard. Not one to disappoint excited kids, we obliged in an equally enthusiastic manner. I’ve found that camping, especially when dealing with smaller children is concerned, takes a logical step. At the beginning of every camping season, I try to do a one night campout in the backyard as the first step. This helps the woodsman identify missing or broken gear. It acclimates children to how to camp and to sleeping outside. And it gives you a chance to perform cleaning and PMCS on your camping gear.
We had already set up our six-man tent (along with our other three tents), air mattresses, and sleeping bags. With the “help” of the little ones, I had already gathered some firewood from our property – most of it soggy, the best of it damp.
As soon as we put our youngest to bed (he’s a wild man – imagine the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes), we set out on our great camping adventure. Misti (my loving wife) busied herself getting the kids ready, I set out to build a fire in our semi-portable fire pit. The wood was damp but I managed to get a blaze perfect for a cool night of telling stories, pipe-smoking, and S’Mores.
We had the luxury of going inside for changing into pajamas and brushing teeth. After we all got back to the “campsite,” we put the children to bed and listened to them whisper and giggle for the better part of an hour. Eventually, the need for sleep overwhelmed them leaving Misti and I alone with the campfire. There are few moments more enjoyable in a man’s life – knowing his children are safe and happily sleeping, holding his wife’s hand, and intently watching the campfire burn to embers. Silence is golden.
Eventually, all things must end. After much consideration about bringing Turtle out to the tent, we opted to send Misti inside to sleep so that he could spend the rest of his night in his bed. I’m sure that it was a huge disappointment for her to give up the opportunity to sleep on a too-small air mattress in a cold tent for the luxury of a comfortable bed and a television. I did my best ninja impression sneaking into the tent – any parent knows to let sleeping children sleep. I crawled into bed, turned on the red light of my headlamp and read two chapters of Atlas Shrugged.
I awoke this morning to three kids bouncing up and down on an air mattress. “mumble. mumble. mumble. STOP BOUNCING ON THE AIR MATTRESSES! mumble. mumble. mumble.” I’m not very lively in the A M.
We finished cleaning the tents and packed away all of our camping gear properly so that it is all ready for the next adventure.
In my estimate, step one – backyard tent-camping was a success. And after a day of cleaning and organizing, we’re ready to take the little ones for step two – a night at a campground. I’m hoping to get several adventures with them over the summer. I don’t expect that they’ll be quite ready for the deep woods adventures, but I’ve already started telling them of my adventures in hopes that one day, they will be.