Camping with Kids: More Lessons

Always with the lessons....

We went for five days to Poe Valley State Park at the beginning of August. This was the park we went to three years ago when Marko was a baby and Laurel was 3 years old. Three years ago, I wrote:

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.)
Yup. This is still so, so true. Camping with kids - life with kids really - is just a series of terribly messy moments alternating with pure joy. I laughed when I read through the ten lessons I learned, especially since I still haven't gotten around to replacing the coolers. You really need coolers with drains! Also, we got rid of the Fit and bought a 4Runner, partly because of trips like these, so space is less of an issue. M continues to love running trail, so most of our camping trips involve trying to find a place that is adjacent to state or national forest. We've added fishing poles to our supplies, and the kids love to swim, so we also like to find places with water.

We still haven't bought a big tent. We have two smaller backpacking tents and we split up. Personally I prefer this. The tents can be set up very quickly by one person and we never have a problem finding spots big enough to pitch them. We have a fancy screened in dining canopy that we can hang out in if it rains or gets buggy. Max has a folding high chair and I also brought a pack n play to keep him contained while we were in camp.

The biggest challenge right now is balancing the needs of all three kids. They are each 3 years apart, so Marko is still sort of in nap territory, while Laurel never needs one. Max still needs three a day. Laurel is big enough to ride her bike around the campground, but I don't trust Marko to go quite as far. Laurel will eat pretty much anything, Marko is super picky and Max still breastfeeds but also likes to make a giant mess by feeding himself finger foods when we eat. I feel like all of my brainpower goes towards just figuring out the logistics of eating and sleeping for the three of them.

We spent a lot of time swimming at the beach. I took the kids on a hike where we found a few wild blueberry and some black raspberry bushes. M took the kids fishing. We sat around a fire, toasted marshmallows and made friends with the other campers. We brought bikes for the kids and they spent hours riding back and forth.

Poe Valley is a neat place to stay. They have a mix of tent and RV sites, some with electric and some without. There is only one bath house, but it is very well maintained and the cleanest I have ever seen. Water was hot and you could not control it, since you just hit the button and it turns on for 30 seconds (the only annoying thing about it was having to hit the button over and over again).

So, here are my lessons this time....

1) Foil packet dinners are bomb. We put mushrooms, bell peppers, pieces of sweet Italian sausage, and summer squash from our Ugly CSA on the fire, tightly wrapped in heavy duty foil. Just toss with a little oil, salt and pepper.
2) Less toys. The less I gave them, the more they just played with rocks and stuff. I brought some old yogurt containers to use as buckets.
3) We NEED to get some kind of kitchen organizer. Our campsite was a total mess and when we had to leave in a hurry when Marko got hurt, it was terrible.
4) Meeting other campers is starting to get more fun! We met another family and the kids played so well together that we exchanged addresses and hope to be pen pals.