Television commercials make rustic tent camping look like such fun. The weather is picture perfect. The adults are smiling. Children are laughing while toasting marshmallows on sticks and making s’mores. Everyone is decked out in fashionable outdoor clothing. And the tent and all camping gear is brand-new and top quality. By the time the commercial concludes, you just want to pack up the car and hit the road. Time to take the whole family to one of those picturesque locations and commune with the great outdoors!
In reality tent camping is usually too hot, too cold, too rainy, or too buggy. Often more than one of those at once. In addition, usually something essential to putting up the tent or fixing dinner has been left at home. Kids whine because they are bored, there’s no WiFi or cell service, and people are forced to actually make conversation with each other. Adults accustomed to the comforts of home miss their sports and convenient bathrooms. Do you STILL feel like packing up the car?
My paternal grandfather used to take his two sons camping back in the 1950s. Subsequently, my Dad decided to keep up the family tradition and take his three daughters camping in the 1970s. At the time we lived in central Illinois and my grandparents had retired to Sun City, Arizona. So Dad decided we would go visit them, camping along the way. Ahh, memories!
Dad packed up his old green station wagon (with the super stylish faux wood paneling) with food, gear, and his little girls (10, 7, and 7). A brave man indeed! We would drive all day, which went about as you’d expect with four family members cooped up in a packed car. In the late afternoon we’d stop for the night. Sometimes we went to a campground with bathroom facilities, but other times we truly roughed it. Yep, Dad would take three little girls to a “campsite” with no bathrooms.
My parents were divorced, so Dad was on his own. He was a skilled camper, but he wasn’t quite as skilled at handling three little girls away from home. Any reasonable person would bring toilet paper, but Dad was all about truly getting in touch with Mother Nature. Needless to say, my sisters and I learned early on which leaves to use and which ones to avoid like the plague!
One night we camped on a mountain ridge with gorgeous scenery all around us. It was cold and windy. But we had a nice campfire and the night sky was beautiful. In the morning Dad stoked the campfire and fixed scrambled eggs for breakfast. Well, my sisters and I didn’t really like scrambled eggs to begin with. The fact that they became ice cold after a couple of minutes did not make them any more appealing to us. So we would not eat them. Boy oh boy, Dad was maaaaaaad! He told us we weren’t leaving until we ate our breakfast. But his will was nothing compared to three unhappy little girls who were willing to sit there all day and starve before eating those cold scrambled eggs. Finally Dad packed up camp in defeat, and we left. I don’t remember the rest of that day. But, I do clearly remember what we had for breakfast the next day: Oreo cookies and sweet red cherries. Apparently Dad had decided to make breakfast more pleasant for the sake of all of us. Smart man!
In later years we all learned to laugh about our camping memories. And we all went tent camping many more times, in many more places. My sisters and I eventually became well-versed at all things camping-related. We learned to look past the heat, cold, rain, and bugs and find the joy in the great outdoors. All thanks to our Dad.
But….. I still don’t care for cold scrambled eggs.
Laura Schupp resides in Zion Crossroads with her husband Rick and two cats. She would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.