photo from Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park website
Last November, Gert and I decided our Family Goal for the next season of life is to make memories with the kids. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Yes, camping!! Now, when he and I were single, and then married but still childless, we were avid outdoor adventurers. Backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, were right up there with top favorite things to do. And when our firstborn came along, we courageously tried to keep it up. But my zeal was short-lived. I remember one very, very long night in particular with our 12-month old. Camping on a rocky, cold, rainy, beach in Homer, Alaska. The sun didn’t set all night, nor did my eyes shut. Wiggling, squirming, rolling, crying, pooping…you get the idea! That was the unofficial end of my desire to experience the great outdoors with babies.
Now, our kids are 8, 6, 5, and 3…no diapers…and the nervous-but-excited feeling in my stomach agrees with our decision to go make some memories! We packed everything I could remember you’re supposed to bring while camping, and made the 3-hour drive to Johnson’s Shut-Ins. A perfect place to resurrect the camping spirit! So we arrive and immediately I notice all the other campers have huge water containers set up at their sites. Okay, I forgot to bring that. Next, I tell Gert he has to just grab the hotdogs off the grill since I didn’t even think of bringing bbq tongs! Oh, and a kettle to boil water for our coffee? Yeah, didn’t bring that either. I’m starting to think I really suck at this! The sun is baking us thoroughly so of course we decide to go swimming in the heat of the day. Loaded down with towels, a beach bag, water bottles, and flip-flops, we start walking to the Shut-Ins, and begin to notice everyone coming out looks very…tired and dry. And they are all wearing watershoes. So it’s a 15 minute hike to the water, longer because everyone is dropping their towels (which we didn’t even need, the sun has an instant drying affect). But it is so worth it. Beautiful pools of water, little fish for the kids to catch, razor-sharp rocks to fall on…
We swam and fell on rocks for about an hour, and decided to head back to the car. As we passed two EMS workers climbing down the steep hillside to rescue a swimmer with a busted knee, Gert commented to them, “Glad I’m not working today!” And I’m glad it’s not one of us needing that stretcher! It probably took those guys at least an hour to get out of there.
Dinner was an amazing success. It tasted so good after waiting 3 hours for the fire to get started. The kids would’ve eaten sand if we put it on their plates! Nothing like a steak at 9:30pm.
Now its time for my biggest fear. Bedtime. Even though my skillful, creative, able husband promised he fixed the hole in our air mattress, we both knew better. It deflated at least 3 times before we resigned to sleeping on sharp rocks with pockets of air dispersed unevenly around our bodies. Didn’t I pray for cool weather at night?? So why wasn’t I prepared with warm pj’s and blankets? Somehow, the kids had every blanket and sleeping bag we brought! After I found my socks I finally stopped shivering. And then thankfully 4am rolled around (I don’t really know what time the sun came up, it was early though!) and our first night’s stay was over. One night was enough.
Oh wait! No, that’s not all! Around 7am we started to hear thunder. Was rain in the forecast? We didn’t think so! After quickly checking the weather, we realized we had about 30 minutes before a heavy storm system settled in over southeastern Missouri. Somehow we broke down our campsite in exactly 3o minutes, right as the first rain drops started to fall.
No time for coffee.
I did, however, immensely enjoy throwing away our stupid air mattress in the dumpster.
At home and cleaning up, and after camping you must, I noticed something. Everyone was smiling at each other. We just went through an incredible bonding experience together. It wasn’t problem or attitude free, but when the kids asked me when we could go camping again, I knew we are reaching our goal…making memories together.
Let me leave you with a new, amazing, S’more recipe….SO GOOD!! For your next Family Memory-Making Trip.
1 toasted marshmallow
2 squares Cadbury’s Caramello milk chocolate