At a little over 13 months old, we finally took Isaac on his first camping trip. We have been wanting to go for awhile (our last camping excursion being when I was still pregnant with Isaac), but Daniel's work schedule just hasn't been conducive to this type of outing.
Lucky for us, this entire month Daniel has had a more laid back schedule so we figured we better squeeze in a camping trip while the weather was still nice.
Our original plans included camping with friends, but when that fell through, we decided we needed to go anyway. Our challenges were that Friday night it was pouring cats and dogs and Saturday morning Jack had his last T Ball game.
So we compromised and Daniel went to Chester Frost Park on his way home from work on Friday (in the rain) and secured a great camp site for both Friday and Saturday nights (we had to reserve Friday as well because the park operates on a first come, first serve basis).
Chester Frost is a park known to fill up quickly because most of the sites are right on the water – perfect for launching kayaks and some sites even have docks with deep water for bigger boats.
On this occasion, the rain worked to our advantage. Daniel was able to pay $11/night for a prime primitive site. Since it was raining and we already had Saturday morning plans, we reserved the site but didn't set up camp until Saturday afternoon. An extra $11 seemed worth it.
It was a good thing we did that, because on Saturday and Sunday the place was packed!
In a previous life (pre-kids) Daniel and I rarely car camped. For one thing we don't like being packed in like sardines next to other campers that we don't know. You never know if someone is going to decide to blast music all night.
But since having kids, we are trying to embrace easing them (and us) into the experience... so for now, car camping is how we roll.
In terms of location, our site was pretty perfect. We were on a point right on the water. It was shaded and pretty separate from the other campers. We could launch our kayak fairly easily, and unloading our gear was a cinch. Even though we didn't have water or electricity (not a big deal in our book), there was a bathhouse within walking distance.
There are two negatives that I can think of: the first was that the site was really gravely without grass. This was hard since we have a toddler who loves to put things in his mouth. Which meant we spent our time removing pebbles and dirt from his mouth. The other negative was that our prime spot on the river meant we got to listen to the night fishers out on their boats until the wee hours. But the negatives were really just mild annoyances, not deal breakers.
Overall Isaac did really well on this trip (besides trying to eat pebbles). We set up his pack-n-play and let him fuss a bit until he fell asleep. Thankfully he was out by 8pm.
Jack, on the other hand, got to stay up with us, roasting marshmallows (marsh-a-bellows as he still calls them) for s'mores and watching the sun set and the moon come up over the river.
He was a trooper until 10pm when he faked falling asleep and we had to dress a little rag doll of a boy for bed.
Sophie also did really well, especially considering that we were in a campground full of strangers. If you know our dog, this is a big deal!
Another benefit of our spot was that we were able to take the kayak out. After our last experience with Isaac, we decided we would only take Jack out this time around. This would leave one adult on dry land with the baby and our dog.
The wind was really gusting all weekend which meant for choppy water so we didn't want to get out on the river with a baby in tow.
I think Jack had a great time getting to spend one-on-one time with each of us, and Sophie even got a ride with Daniel and Jack (things sure have changed from the time she was terrified of our canoe and the water!).
Daniel and I each took time out on the kayak by ourselves. It was a nice way to spend part of our weekend.
The weather was really perfect. I'm so glad we took the opportunity to go camping while we could. Hopefully this will become a more regular occurrence and before long we will be able to go back our roots and backpack to more remote sites!
Our best tips (from this experience) of camping with little kids:
- Bring a wagon (or a toy your kid loves). Isaac adores his wagon and will happily spend hours climbing in and out of it. Once he tires of it, we would take turns pulling him around to squeals of delight.
- S'mores and campfires! Let your bigger kid stay up. Jack loved staying up, building the campfire and making S'mores with us. This allowed Isaac to go to sleep without distractions and it made the experience more special for Jack.
- Keep the food simple. Since we were car camping, I ran into town and grabbed BBQ for us for dinner and then we made fried spam and pancakes on our camp stove for breakfast.
- Just relax and enjoy your time together. Enough said.
A Look Back: Jack's First Camping Trip