Henry David Thoreau once said, “We need the tonic of wilderness.”
But like all good medicine it can be a struggle to get it down. So it is with family camping. Like all good things it doesn’t come without work, struggle, and a few tears. Like all good things there comes a moment in the midst of the journey that you pause, reflect, and ask yourself, “What the heck were we thinking?!” Like all good things, you begin anticipating the ideal, only to get a bucketful of reality thrown in your face before you are two steps in.
My vision for a Father’s Day campout was a weekend of roasting marshmallows, hikes through the woods, fishing, and laughing, and making memories. While there was some of that…
There were marshmallows eaten…by those who didn’t lose the privilege.
There was a nighttime hike…although there was more whining than nature observation.
There was fishing…although more time was spent climbing trees to untangle fishing line than hooking fish.
I had a vision of a perfect “escape” for Toby for Father’s Day. I thought a weekend away would be a vacation from attitudes and behaviors but I discovered that some “packed” the very things I was trying to leave behind. It must have been while I was loading the firewood. 😉
BUT even in the midst of many mini disasters there were moments of magic…and memories were made. In fact, over the years, I have discovered that the memories that “stick” are often the Plan B memories, the memories that are made when plans are discarded and real life happens.
It has been said that, “Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans.”
Life is made of Plan B moments and when I consider the sweetest camping memories I have from my childhood they aren’t the “everything went perfectly” weekends, they are the falling in cactus, tent blowing away, 100 pound eagle memories that we look back on and laugh about. Those Plan B memories are my happy memories, my memorable memories, my treasured memories.
I can only hope that my children look back on our Plan B moments with the same fondness because I have discovered that a side effect of adopting little boys is that there are rarely Plan A moments anymore. 🙂
This weekend we decided to go camping for two nights at Mosquito Lake State Park in Cortland, Ohio. We have camped there before, when the older kids were little, and were so impressed with the campground that we decided to go back. It is only an hour away, offers wonderful programs for the children, and allows dogs (which was a necessity since we needed to take Ellie May with us.) We began the laborious task of packing all that one needs to survive in nature for 48 hours and it was in the midst of creating piles that I had my first fleeting thought of, “Is this really worth all the work?” but continued on. Toby arrived home, both vehicles were packed (We can no longer fit our entire family and all of our camping supplies in one vehicle) and we were on our way.
When we arrived and had paid for our site we began unloading the car and setting up “home” for the next two days.
Friday evening was spent playing at the playground, fixing dinner over the fire, and going on a full moon hike with the camp ranger.
After a good night’s sleep everyone woke up hungry and cold so a fire was started and breakfast preparations began. We had bacon and “eggs in a bag,” which is a camping staple in our home.
To make “eggs in a bag” we get a pot of boiling water and everyone takes a freezer Ziploc bag and writes their name on it. They then crack two eggs inside the bag, add cheese, mushrooms, onions and other omelet goodies, seal it shut, squish the bag until well mixed and place it in the boiling water. After 8-10 minutes you have perfectly cooked, personalized omelets…Yum!
After breakfast we drove over to the State Park for Safety Days. It was a full day of free activities and programs offered by the local bird sanctuary, fire department, police and K9 force, county dive team, U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the County Crisis Response Team. The kids really enjoyed all the activities they offered like: building a bluebird nest box, K9 demonstration, and water safety tests. The best part, as far as the little boys were concerned, was the many rescue/ safety vehicles that were on display to climb in and check out. Ozzie was in his glory!
They also enjoyed the fire simulation truck that they had to “escape” from.
The biggest hit of the day was probably the arrival of the Life Fight helicopter. 🙂
As part of the day’s events there were many giveaways and raffle drawings. Although Ozzie was disappointed to not win the bike he had his heart set on the kids were excited for Grace and Rusty, who both won gift certificates to local businesses. Gracie won a gift card to a local ice cream store so after safety days we all drove over and enjoyed an ice cream treat… compliments of Gracie!
The remainder of our camping trip was spent swimming, fishing, and taking Ellie to a dog park.
The trip ended with a movie under the stars. We enjoyed the outdoor showing of How to Train Your Dragon before we headed off to bed. We were up early to pack up, race home for quick showers, and then arrive at church by 10:00.
It was a good weekend…not the weekend I planned, but good nonetheless. There is something so pure and right about leaving the walls of a home and the pull of electronics to experience the “tonic of nature.” Once there I am always glad we “ran away” for a brief time and find the vast amount of work that goes into a weekend camping trip worth it. The key, I suppose, is to let go of our idealistic expectations and just let life happen. There will be dirt in the food, itchy mosquito bites, hard roots to sleep on but there will also be the magical moments. And those moments often happen as a result of our own “perfect plans” going awry.
Like all things in life it is important to remember that although something may be our Plan B it is often God’s Plan A.