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Children / Colorado Livin' / Family Travel / Humor

A camping essential

With summer winding down, we’re trying to take advantage of the wonderful camping Colorado has to offer.  A couple of weekends ago, we went on an overnight camping trip. How did it go? Well, the short and sweet answer: Awesome!


You’ll probably wonder what’s wrong with me after you read the long answer…

It all started out innocently enough. We’d planned a weekend getaway with another family, and we couldn’t wait! We were in the midst of hosting out-of-state visitors, but they were scheduled to leave our house on Saturday morning, and we’d head out right after them.

And then my hubby looked at the weather report.


It did not look good, but it didn’t look as bad as it could. Typically, we snub our noses and laugh at anything lower than a 60% chance of rain…and this was hovering around the 40% mark.

Weather people.
What do they know?
Most of them argue about what is happening outside right now, let alone what will happen in the future.

No offense to any weather people…

After discussing the options with the other family, we decided to go. We’d go, and if it got bad, we’d just bail.

Bail water?
Hopefully not.

Camping Trip July 2009Does anyone else hear that ominous music?

We did, but we chose to dance along to it, ignoring what could lie ahead.

Anyway, we get our visitors out the door, get our vehicle all packed and made it to the park-and-ride on time. We followed the other family to the pass we wanted.

I laughed out loud when I saw the name of the road.

“Breakneck Pass Road!?” I laughed. “Ehhh…how bad can it be?”

How bad was it? I’m sorry. I can’t hear you over all the screaming in my head.

But, for the record, it wasn’t the worse road I’d seen. Still…

At one point, we switched places with our friends and had them follow us, because our car was the lowest denominator. Unlike their car, ours didn’t have a higher clearance and wasn’t a 4-wheel drive. If our car could make it, both cars could make it.

Luckily, I had a handle to hold onto for dear life. We told Claire to hold on tight, and away we went.

“Daddy! Be careful or you’ll spill the car!”

Truer words have never been spoken…and she’s only three!

Camping FunBut, we made it. We didn’t break the car, and the camping spot we found had an established fire ring and an awesome view.

Just as we were getting set up, it started raining. It was so polite of it to wait until we had our rain fly adjusted. We set up some tarps and had some snacks. We could see blue skies up ahead, so we knew it wouldn’t last.

And, yes…40% may as well be 100% when it’s happening to you, and 0% if it’s not.

The rain stopped, and we went about camplife. The kids and the adults all had a blast. We ended up dodging the rain (and the mosquitoes!) off and on throughout the evening, but it all worked out perfectly.  (Photo by J. VanHatten)

Finally, after stuffing ourselves with campfire food, the fire glowing brighter as the night got darker, it started raining again, and we all called it a night. Because this was car camping, we’d splurged and brought our queen size air mattress. We had a smaller tent this time, so Claire had to sleep with us, but that was okay.

By the glow of my BlackBerry, Glenda, Daddy and Claire fell asleep and I surfed the ‘net for a bit. Yes, I got a signal there. Yes, I could play online from my campsite. No, this wasn’t really roughin’ it.


That stupid music started again, and I ignored the fact that the mattress seemed a little squishier than normal. Another hour went by and I realized that the pain in my hip wasn’t being caused by my existence as the center of a Claire and Daddy sandwich…it was caused by the hard ground.

It was barely midnight, and our air mattress had gone completely flat.

Now, keep in mind. This mattress takes up nearly the entire footprint of our tent. The pump we need to use is loud enough to wake the dead let alone our friends sleeping in the tent next to us. And, Claire is sleeping like a log.

So, with no way to breathe life back into the situation, all I could do was try to will myself to sleep.

And, then it started raining, hard…and the wind started blowing, hard. At one point, I was afraid the tent would upend and we’d end up in a pine tree, but it stayed fastened to the ground. I kept checking the seams and window for water, but the tent held fast! Our tent didn’t leak!

I think I got about two hour’s worth of sleep, maybe three…patch-worked together in 15 or 20 minute increments.


The kids slept in, so none of us stirred from the tents until after 8am, which was perfect. We made breakfast and broke camp. We navigated Breakneck Pass Road (without breaking anything, actually) back down to the highway, and headed home.

Breakneck Road Pass - the easy partPhoto by J. VanHatten

So, even though it rained, and even though a Mack Truck ran over our tent in the middle of the night, popping our air mattress and then crushing our bodies, we still had a fabulous time. Even though we look as though we’ve been attacked by an army of mosquitoes (and we were!), we still had a fabulous time.

It just goes to show that when you’re with the right people, you can laugh at the rain. You can hobble around and laugh at the kinks in your back. You can laugh at the mosquitoes that rival those in the Midwest. You can laugh hysterically (so you don’t cry) as you try to point out the best way around or over the boulders in your breakable car.

You could look at what happened on our trip and think that it sounded horrible! What terrible luck! But, that’s just not the case.

Over the years, I’ve learned that the most essential piece of camping equipment is my Wand of Positivity.  That seems to make all the difference.

What about you?  Do you have any fun camping stories to share?  Tell us about them in the comments!

Author: JoAnn

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  1. I love camping/backpacking but have yet to love it with the kids. The first year we took my daughter, she cried all night and most of the day. Last year, son and father got explosive diarhhea. One was in the disgusting outhouse all night. As for the other, I spent my afternoon cleaning out his poopy carseat at the laundrymat.

    We did not go back this year.

  2. Oh, no, Ladies!

    We keep SAYING we’ll take the kids camping, but we don’t ever quite get around to it. After reading these stories, I’m not sure we’ll EVER get around to it.

    I would definitely need to borrow JoAnn’s wand.

  3. My camping story happened when I was a kid. Mom and I were sleeping in the camper, Dad and my brother in the tent. The next morning Dad asked my brother why he made so much noise when he got up in the night. As my brother was explaining to Dad that he did NOT get up in the night, a Park Ranger came by. The Ranger was making sure all campers were okay as there had been a bear through our campsite that night!

  4. We have gone on single over-nighters with the kids, including once when I was pregnant with #3. (My DH gracious got me a camp cot for the trip we took when I was 7 months pregnant! – We don’t use it now because one of the kids always rolls under it in his/her sleep and much confusion ensues.)
    Do things go wrong? YES. It rains. We forget something essential, like the marshmallows we promised the kids we’d roast. Someone needs to go potty in the dead of night and I can’t find the flashlight!

    But it seems the magical moments always outweigh the bad — my son discovering a stand of aspen saplings shorter than him and making the connection that they will grow into the towering trees around him. My daughter traipsing behind me as I identify wildflowers, cooing at the colors. A chipmunk coming to check out our camp gear and the kids getting as silent as I’ve ever heard them be (while awake), breathlessly watching it scamper across our cooler.

    You can’t schedule those moments. You have to just go, and let them happen. And keep the positivity wand handy for when the wind & rain comes!
    Oh, and I always plan to get NO SLEEP while camping. Then getting any is a bonus! 🙂

  5. Amber and Wendy: Crying and sickness and bears…OH MY! 😉 Thanks for sharing your stories!

    Kagey, I love how you said the “magical memories outweigh the bad…” and how you have to let them happen. That’s so true!

    And, I could totally see Claire rolling under a camping cot and getting confused, too! 😉

    Keep the stories comin’! I love reading them!

  6. Oh, and Lori! Don’t let all this scare you. Camping with kids really is an experience like no other. And you can borrow my wand at any time. 😉

  7. This is a perfectly timed post! We have campground reservations for this weekend and we also moved two weeks ago (so we are essentially camping in our house right now…lol!). I’d almost decided it was too much effort to go this weekend, but now I can’t wait!

    I grew up car camping as a kid and moved on to back country camping as an adult. I am sure I ought to have some bad memories, but I can only recall the magical ones! And the deep sense of peace and happiness you can find in the wilderness! My husband on the flip side never went on an actual camping trip until last year. He actually liked it and so our agreement is that we’ll go for as many nights as my son is old (last year 1, this year 2)!

  8. Alison, I love the nights per years of age thing. That’s a great idea! Claire is 3, and she would have easily camped for 3 nights. We did 2 nights at The Grand Canyon: And there were flush toilets at the campsite! That made it super-easy. The one we used in the writing piece above had no facilities, but she was okay with that, too. *I* was the one who was done after one night. LOL

  9. We like to camp in the backyard with the kids. Two years ago we moved it from our lawn to the great outdoors…she was 4 1/2 then and didn’t miss a beat.

    I found sleeping outside an easier transition for us…I think it was all the backyard camping. My older child loves it…baby is too young discuss…Getting the kids to enjoy the outdoors has to start somewhere. This year we initiated a couple of cousins during the Great American Campout –
    Best of luck to all you thinking about it!

  10. Hi. I have a blog at where I feature people’s posts about camping, and I would like to send my readers your way. Of course I would give you credit for quotes and would link back to your site.

    Thanks for considering this,

    Jean B. in SC

  11. i love to have some camping once and a while because it is exciting.^

    <a href="Most recently released posting from our own online site

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