As an adult.
When I was young, my grandparents used to take my brother and me camping. It was great fun for us, being away from home, away from our parents, and with the cousins in the extended family. I have fabulous memories of that time. There was a lot of rollerskating from what I recall. There was also staying up all night to watch a meteor shower from the screened in tent with all the extended family youngsters. There were a few frustrations as well, the fact that my grandmother was too nervous to ever let us play in the water, so we could never go tubing with the rest of the family. But, none of that mattered overly much because I was way too busy doing all the other fun stuff we did.
However, I also realized that these camping trips, clearly loved by everyone, were a ton of work. They were specifically a ton of work for my grandmother. It seems to me that Grandpa pretty much headed out on the boat to fish with his brother in law most of the day, and I really don’t recall Grandma doing much other than an endless cycle of cooking and cleaning. It occured to me, even then, that this camping stuff was a pretty bum deal for the woman in the family, and thus I vowed never to go camping as an adult.
Yes, from a young age, I noticed the discrepancy, and rather than thinking of changing the prevailing culture, I decided I would change myself to fit the culture. Don’t like it? Don’t do it.
Skip to many years later and a kid of my own. I had an opportunity to go camping with a group of cycling buddies. It’s an annual trip for them. I’d take a day off of work to drive up there, then the entire trip is just the 2 nights of camping, plus tubing on the Niobrara river. Desiring to give Bug some fun camping experiences of my own, I decided I’d do it. Of course, since I was doing this as a single person, all the “heavy lifting” fell on me. As nervous as it made me, I planned meals, purchased food and supplies, borrowed equipment, and we headed out, Bug with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, me with a large cup of coffee.
This all looks fine and good, but to be honest she talked for the next 8 hours straight, so high was her excitement. It was a tough trip up just because of that. The drive up was a bit on the long side. We had to make a couple of stops, including one to pick up charcoal for a fellow camper who had been there for a few days and run out. The nearest store, once up there, is a good 40 miles away. There was also a fair bit of road construction, and on those back roads, it often means waiting rather than using a different route.
We had no trouble at all finding the camp, much to my relief. There were two routes in, and we apparently took the longest one. This was because there were warnings of a washout on the other route, and I didn’t want to get stuck with my little car. After all, there was no cell service at all out there. Thankfully I was told that the route had been recently graded and I’d be able to take the short route home on Sunday morning.
Once there, Bug immediately got to work toasting marshmallows while I set up camp. Actually, this is a bit of a lie, as Bug was quite helpful and involved in the setting up, it all being so new to her she couldn’t help but be interested.
Camp was split into two parts, those who were a bit quieter and had kids they wanted to have sleeping at some point, and those who did not. That was very convenient for me. I think we had 34 people in all, and our group is the largest group the campground gets all year, so we had the best area there, the kids could get right into the river and we could see them just fine. Bug quickly made friends with an adorable little girl 3 yrs her junior and they spent tons of time together. They had a great time just exploring the camp area, and they never got up to any trouble at all. This made life easy for us adults.
The next day was the big tubing trip. We all took coolers and got on a bus and headed out up the river. We were dropped off at Smith Falls State Park. I noticed immediately that the trees were…not what I expected in Nebraska. Aspens in particular I don’t see a lot of out here. So after reading about it and realizing that this is just one pocket where aspens survive here it made a lot more sense.
Bug is down there in the falls, even though you cannot see her well.
After exploring the falls, we were off to set our tubes on the river. My small group was to have 7 tubes but upon our return, 4 of them had been taken. That was quite irritating. We had to, as a large group, really readjust and double up to accommodate the loss of the tubes. But once we did, we hooked ours together, and headed out.
Looked a bit like this:
The day was quite long, many many hours on a tube. There was a lot to be seen on those tubes, wildlife, pretty waterfalls, and there were quite a few places to stop along the way. The best place in my opinion was an island. The river split in two, one way was calmer and the other way had some gentle rapids. We stopped there, there was a ledge under the water where you could walk a long way out into the river, then a drop off. But it was visible. The drop off left you in very swift moving water, so it wasn’t appropriate for Bug, but we did walk out to see it, and I jumped off the ledge.
You can see the ledge drop off right behind us.
This also was an area with large holes in the rocks under the water, which you could get right into and sit down in.
All in all, it was a long but good day. Very relaxing. Pretty tough to keep everyone covered in sunscreen, so there was some burning but nothing major. My favorite part of the day was taking our tubes down the small section of rapids. Both little girls held on and screamed like mad, but were not in the least bit scared. That just made my day. One of the aspects of the trip that made it fun was how all the people who had been on that trip for years were so eager to show us, the new people, all their favorite places on the river and all their favorite things to do.
Post tubing trip, the evening went quite quickly. Bug was exhausted and after her meal crawled in her tent a bit earlier than expected to read and then sleep. I made sure I was as organized as possible after cleaning up from our meal, spent a bit of time with the group, and then crawled into my sleeping bag as well.
We were up early on Sunday morning. There was a rain storm coming in, and I didn’t want to break camp in the rain so I rushed around packing up quite early in the morning. We got on the road, heading out the short cut way, and came across a bunch of free range cattle.
They put on a good show for Bug, scattering at the car, and making a bunch of noise. She loved it, this may have been one of the highlights of the trip. She rolled down her window, hung her head out the car, and exclaimed over everything she was seeing.
After that she kind of zoned out with her headphones.
This was quite the stark contrast to the drive up, she barely said a word on the way home.
I had the enjoyment of listening to a lovely young woman play her guitar and sing some songs she’d composed herself to me on one evening. She was quite good and it was very relaxing. The next evening I got a hug from her and a thank you for listening to her play and sing, completely unexpected from a 16 yr old girl who has never met me before. There were a lot of lovely young people on this trip, and it was really nice to see families all having fun together. We are in for next year, and already looking forward to it. We’ll take extra time off, be there earlier, and spend extra time relaxing.
(I did knit on the trip actually. Just a bit. It was very enjoyable.)