Practice Camping

I bought a tent.

It’s a big one, large enough to house my wife, myself, and the two boys for a few days while we take a small vacation in July. We’re easing into camping. The boys have never done it, and my wife is lukewarm to the idea. She’s not AGAINST it, but she has a hard time seeing the merits of camping in July when there are perfectly good hotels with showers, air conditioners, and continental breakfasts. For some strange reason, my wife equates relaxation to being comfortable. She’s weird. I know.

At any rate we’re not even doing any ‘hardcore’ camping either. Ever since I was a little kid, my family has been vacationing in Gettysburg Pennsylvania every summer for a few weeks. We went there once on our way back from a trip to Washington D.C. and decided that we wanted to go back and learn some more about the park and the history of the battle, so my parents planned an entire trip to the place the next summer. One thing led to another, and it’s been the annual vacation spot for my family, as well as a number of other close-friend families for years. They get a few adjoining spots in a campground, circle their campers and tents up like an old-timey wagon train, and proceed to do nothing but enjoy themselves for a few weeks, take in (and live) the history of the area, and honest-to-god live it up. They count down the weeks and days until they all get to meet up down there.

I was a party to this annual jaunt myself until only a few years ago. Even after my wife and I got married, we went and joined them down there for a few days every year, until the summer of 2013. I was graduating the police academy that summer, and couldn’t make it down. The summers of 2014, and 2015 saw me working schedules and jobs that simply didn’t permit the time.

Now though, I’ve had my vacation time approved, and we’re heading down for a few days. My wife agreed to the trip, but under the condition that we only stay three nights. That would be plenty for the boys to get their feet wet with some rather tame camping.

Still, we’ve got some prep work to do. Since my son doesn’t have school on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday, and Monday happens to be one of my pass days at work, we’re doing some ‘practice camping’ in the back yard, and we’re going to make a whole affair out of it. We have some fun and necessary errands to run in the morning, then when we get back, we’re going to light the campfire, set up the tent, and spend the night in the darkness of the Catskill Mountains, a hundred feet from our house.

Camping has always been one of my favorite things to do. I’m a bit more used to walking into the woods as far as I can and living for a weekend with nothing more than I can carry on my back- but I need to scale back a little bit, for two reasons.

  1. I’m not 20 anymore.
  2. If I’m going to get the boys interested, we need to do this methodically. Throwing someone into a lake and saying ‘swim!’ isn’t the best way to teach someone HOW to swim, nor foster a lifelong love of aquatic sports. So…easy does it.

Funnily enough, I’m honestly as excited about our little backyard practice camping as I ever have been about a weekend of ‘roughing it’ in the mountains, or even our old family trips to a campground outside of Gettysburg Pennsylvania.

This is one of those instances where- while I very dearly hold the memories of our old vacations and experiences, I’m getting to forge ahead with our OWN family trips, traditions, and adventures. I often get nostalgic for the old days of roving over hallowed battlefields with my family, like the one time my brother and I got separated from a tour group and spend hours walking the battlefield to get back to town and meet up with our family. (Before cell phones. Yes, it was a long time ago.) I remember someone had asked my father if he was worried about us, being ‘lost.’ My father shrugged and told them “No. They know this field as well as they do the woods behind our own house.” I was thirteen, my brother, eleven, and it’s still an event talked about to this day.

But even with those fond memories, I even more so enjoy the day trips we’re taking with the boys now that they’re old enough to do things with. Three hour drives to Steamtown train museum, or the Boston Aquarium…each of these experiences are becoming as, if not more treasured to me than the old days are. Because these are the adventures we’re making as a whole new team. We’re the successful spin-off of the classic hit show. We’re the epic sequel to the blockbuster film. We’re Chapter two in a voluminous tome of adventure, memories…and more than a little bit of chaos.

So, stay tuned and find out how practice camping goes, as well as a report on how our first REAL vacation as an entire family ends up.