A few days ago, my wife recommended that I take my two daughters camping at Sleepy Creek Lake. I’d been complaining that between blogging, preparing for fall classes, and tending to our home, I didn’t feel like I had spent enough time alone with them this summer.
In an effort to enjoy some father-daughter time, I began prepping our food and gathering our camping and fishing gear. The gear wasn’t a big deal since I try to keep all of our tents maintained, our fishing poles ready to go, and all of our camping gear in some semblance of organization. Well before leaving, I prepared a few “hobo dinners” for our campfire dinner. Hobo dinners are a great way to cook and I’ll likely do a post or video on how to make them properly in the near future.
After loading up the Ford, I grabbed an extra tarp just in case I had a chance to work on a few upcoming projects for SmoothingIt.com. As we pulled out of the driveway, raindrops were slowly but steadily making their appearance on the old Ford’s windshield. Even though it wasn’t supposed to, it rained for the entire drive. I wasn’t overly confident that we were going to stay for the night. I had already figured that we would head towards home and settle for a dinner out with my girls.
As soon as we arrived at the campground, the rain picked up and so did the lightning and thunder. I asked my daughters repeatedly if they wanted to “gut it out.” “What’s gut it out mean daddy?” I explained that we could go home or try to stay through the rain. They were both adamant that we should stay.
The Sleepy Creek Lake directions for camping are to find a site, set up camp, go back to the registration checkpoint and pay. We hustled to set up the tent in the rain and headed to the checkpoint. Of course there were no pens or pencils so i stuck ten dollars in the envelope and decided to let management figure it out.
The last-minute thought of bringing the tarp saved our camping trip and may have even made it better. I used 550 cord to tie it off to the luggage rack on the Ford and two trees on our campsite. It provided a small shelter for us to set up our bag chairs and relax. The three of us sat in that little area for over an hour watching the rain, talking about life, and giggling and laughing. It turned out to be a great moment for an old soft-hearted dad like me.
I still had to deal with the task of cooking dinner. Making a fire in a downpour can be a daunting task – even if you brought dry wood with you. I used my Estwing Sportsman’s Axe to split up a few pieces of wood. After we had enough kindling, tinder and small pieces to burn, I found a large flat piece and started a small fire on it. After it grew large enough to stay lit even in the rain, I moved it to the fire ring and added more dry wood as quickly as it would burn. Campfires will burn in the rain if you can keep them hot enough! Eventually the rain settled enough for us to move some coals out of the fire and cook our hobo dinners. My youngest daughter is a picky eater and even she ate a good bit of my campfire delicacy.
While we had a break in rain, we took the time to put our air mattresses and sleeping bags in the tent. Because we set up the tent in the rain, there was quite a bit of water in the bottom of it. I used my fishing vest to wipe up as much as I could be it was inevitable, we were going to be sleeping in a wet tent. Fortunately, the air mattresses kept us high enough off the floor that little of our sleeping gear actually got wet. Both of my daughters managed to stay dry. I think that I’m about a foot longer than our air mattress so my feet were in the water on and off throughout the night.
We brushed teeth, changed into sleeping clothes and said our prayers just prior to the rain’s return. Both girls fell asleep quickly as I took some time to listen to the rain, watch the fire, and reflect on how proud I am to be a dad.
We were supposed to wake up early to go fishing but when I woke up just after daylight and saw that both daughters were still sound asleep, I decided quickly to sleep in. We only ended up fishing for about an hour or so. Regardless of our fishing efforts, two daughters and their father had a most enjoyable and memorable camping experience. Both girls told me that it was their best camping trip ever!