Camping. With kids. 10 Lessons.

You can do it. But it's not pretty.
So, it turns out you can go on a week long camping trip with your family of four in a subcompact car. After a brief stop in Saint Marys to visit family, we headed out to Poe Valley State Park. It was raining as we headed down the 10 miles of desolate forest service road into the park. Our cell phones were soon out of range. (This was perhaps the greatest benefit of this pretty little park as it enabled us to take a true break from work.)

Camping with young kids alternates between being the most awesome thing you'll ever do and pure wretchedness. One minute your 3 year old is correctly identifying a bald eagle landing in a tree 50 feet away and you're like, yeah, I am the best parent ever, giving my kid all these formative experiences in the natural world.

Happy kid. Who needs the ocean
when you have a CCC lake?
Twenty minutes later, there's a poopsplosion at the same time somebody falls in a mud puddle and you realize you did not pack enough dinners for the entire week and it is a good hour to the nearest town. You desperately want to be at an all-inclusive Sandals resort with childcare. Or at least some place with a television.

But then it gets better. (And then worse. And then better again.)

Poe Valley is awesome for both tenting and RVs. Dogs are allowed at a select number of sites. They have a nice beach, flush toilets and hot showers. Once you get there, everything is walkable. It's extremely clean and well taken care of...all of the buildings are pretty new. Tent sites have packed gravel areas for you to set up your tent on, which turned out to be awesome in the rain. It's not very big compared to other state parks we've been to, and there were maybe 8 other families there for most of the week (it fills up on the weekends). All for the low, low price of $21 a night!

Marko suddenly became intent on
eating everything we did.
Generally speaking, I would call it a success. Here are a few of my tips for camping with little ones without going bonkers.

1. I normally wouldn't advocate for this, but bring paper plates and bowls. If you feel guilty about this like I do, just burn them and pretend like it never happened.
2. Keep the food simple. We even made a dozen PB&J's in advance, and while we got a little sick of them after a few days, it was so nice to just pull something out when the munchies hit...which with 3 year olds is only at THE most inconvenient times.
3. Buy a cooler with a drain. For the love of god, why do they even manufacture coolers without this feature?
4. Bring a bike or a scooter if possible. We borrowed a little scooter for Laurel to use and she loved hanging out with the big kids, just scooting back and forth in the campground loop.
5. Where do hipsters/yuppies/urbanites camp? We were definitely the only people who brought a quinoa salad made with our farm-share potatoes. Don't start any conversations about fuel efficient vehicles or Barack Obama. Not that we do this ever, but I'm just warning you.
There's really nothing better
than watching Laurel run
through the woods.
6. Leave the portable DVD player at home. Same with video games and iPOds and whatever other electronic crap normally entertains your children. Note: this will make the trip painful and at times unbearable. However, after a few days, I noticed Laurel was more tolerant of being quiet and observing things. She spent about 20 minutes watching a grasshopper while we waited for M to finish a trail run.
7. Each morning we sat around the fire and discussed what we wanted to do. Each person gets one pick a day. That seemed to just about fill up our day.
8. As part of your vacation budget, you may want to include a professional cleaning of your car. Our car smells like feet, stale Cheddar Bunnies and campfire smoke.
9. Invest in some field guides. We have some of these, and they are very useful.
10. Relax. The kids were going to throw a temper tantrum at some point at home anyway, right? So swallow your pride when it happens in front of other campers and you can always lock them in the car if they are too loud.

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