Happy Campers

By: Sandra L. Churchill

My husband and I are often greeted with bewildered looks when we confess our love of camping. Truth be told, we’re not diehard, sleep-on-a-rock-by-a-river types who frequent the most rustic of trails with no access to a bathroom. We love to camp in “moderate conditions” as a family. Some would even call our favorite sites “luxury locations” because they come equipped with your own bathroom, and yes, a hot shower. But we’re still outdoors, with no heating or cooling, no television, no phone (except for minimal cell access), and must cook largely over an open fire.

There is something about sleeping outdoors that brings heightened sensory awareness of the world around you: the dewy dampness in the morning light, the lullaby of crickets at night, the smoky campfire that invigorates a sense of hopefulness and an age-old sense of family around the hearth, and the windy coolness that stirs the best kind of sleep…

Battles of man-against-nature are also clearly evident: being damp for days on end, fighting rain forest-sized mosquitoes, and negotiating bathrooms flanked by daddy long-legs. Somebody is sure to get bitten, scraped, lost, or nearly drowned…but we pull together and solve problems in the best way we know how. So who needs team-building? Thanks to camping—we’ve got this!

The joys of camping revolve around kayaking, canoeing, hiking, going on scavenger hunts, and storytelling and playing charades. We also enjoy the fun of hay rides, our campground carousel, and nightly entertainment options that include movies, sing-alongs, magicians, and mimes.

My daughters love early-morning “coffee walks” in the misty air as we stride to the country store still clad in flannel pjs, while my son loves trekking on scavenger hunts and cozying up to read by the campfire after swimming or boating.

There is a neighborly magic among the campsites in the woods—overhearing other families cooking dinner, disciplining young children, or the ebb and flow of daily conversation common to all of us.

To add to the family bonding, we make sure to pack plenty of games, share the cooking, and embark on our own scavenger hunts. Sometimes we make cards, sketch with charcoal from the firepit (yes, it works!), craft with beads or yarn, and brainstorm family outings for the fall. Books and magazines are always in tow, but the best part might be listening to each person in our family’s hopes in dreams. Our oldest shares her Campfireexpectations for college courses and future plans for teaching, while our middle daughter speaks about autumn festivals and singing engagements she is excited about. Our little guy discusses his favorite book plots and his eagerness to plan a family trip to play laser tag, while my husband and I jot down ideas for better teamwork as the school year begins.

As the fire blazes and smoke curls dream-like into the night, I breathe in a sense of calm, mixed with anticipation of the upcoming season – the magic of autumn. Camping does that for me, and I think, for each of us who get hooked by the drama of sleeping under the stars. It’s all good.

3 thoughts on “Happy Campers

  1. As a family who also loves camping, I love reading this. My children are almost two and four and I look forward to doing all of those activities with them that you wrote about. My favorite part about camping is you are completely separate from the real world. No outside distractions, just real family bonding time.

  2. I grew up camping and my husband and I have raised our boys as campers too. Honestly, it’s my one time a year that I can completely disconnect from the outside world and just enjoy the time with my family. We all love the outdoors and enjoy swimming, kayaking, hiking and the list goes on. My boys are now 7 and 4 and this past July was our best camping trip yet.

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