Well it’s not every weekend that you can gather up a crowd and head out to enjoy the great outdoors. Last weekend though was one of those rare times. And boy what a crowd we had – and what fun it was…
This was the third year of the great Buffalo Creek Camping/Mountain Biking extravaganza so we get better at it every year – a little more organization; a little more planning; and a lot more of the comforts of home. The group keeps getting larger too. At one point we were to be a band of 60 (yes, 60!) of intrepid campers. Interestingly (or frighteningly based on your point of view) there were to be 30 kids in the group. Alas such was not to be and we ended up with a group of 43 including 15 kids. Still not a bad show of support for the great outdoors.
There are a few reasons why the group gets larger every year: the kids have a great time; all of the parents watch all of the kids, not just their own so you get some time off from parenting; the mountain biking is fantastic; and as a group we reject the idea that camping equates with deprivation. If your mental image of camping includes pint-sized tents, dehydrated “food”, instant coffee, and generally being so miserable you wish you were home already, then you need to come with us.
We don’t stack up with a Butterfield and Robinson level of luxury but we do just fine, thank you very much. Those among us who have camped with the kids more than once all had the most jumbo of the jumbo tents that Costco or Target sell. Ours is particularly sweet in that in addition to its size (sleeps 8 – perfect for the three of us!) it has a door. Not just a zippered flap mind you, but a door with a stiff frame that opens on a fabric hinge (Thank you Coleman!). Some of the tents have a covered “porch” area that provides shelter for all your stuff leaving more room inside the sleeping part of the tent.
The super-sized tent that you can actually stand up in is only the start. Then you add one or more inflatable mattresses, real bedding (hmmm…soft sheets….down comforter…real pillows…) enough kitchenware to meet most any culinary desire (more on the great dessert contest in a minute) and lots of real food, beer, wine and snacks and you start to get a picture of how we camp. We take “car camping” to mean that you shove a whole lot of stuff in the car and head out of town. We’re limited only by the carrying capacity of the car. It’s like home only better in that there’s no internet, cell phones, television or pagers. And you wake up to the cool crisp air of high altitude camping.
By day we mountain bike, hike, climb “mountains” (when you’re 3-8 years old, everything is a mountain), play in the creek and otherwise just have a great time. At night we build a campfire, make s’mores, tell stories and have fun. One thing that is continually a hit with the kids (besides the s’mores) is glow sticks. Ten bucks at the dollar store buys a lot of happiness for the kids. Where better to have a glow stick necklace than in the darkness of a forest. And they make great night lights for your tent too.
To further distance ourselves from deprivation of any kind, this year we had a dessert contest. You had to make the dessert in camp, though prepping ingredients at home was allowed. MB’s entry of apple crisp (3rd place) made in a cast iron dutch oven and cooked in the fire pit was yummy. As were the peach cobbler (2nd place) also made in the fire and the fresh baked ginger bread cookies (Gold Medal) served with freshly made ice cream. The contest was a lot of fun, and much tastier (and healthier) than last year’s “Favorite Potato Chip” contest. Like we said, we get better at camping every year.
We all had so much fun that at the end of the weekend almost every one of us wished we had booked an extra night. We weren’t wishing for the comforts of home (we had all of those with us!), we were wishing for another 24 hours with friends and family. That’s when we knew we had the right mix of creature comfort and the great outdoors. Next year we’re going longer.