It’s kind of ironic that camping was such a big part of both my husband’s childhood and my own, but we have only taken our children camping less than a handful of times, and that was in an RV. RV camping is a very short story. My great uncle gave us and older RV that he wasn’t using, but thought our kids would enjoy. They loved it! We loved it! They played in it everyday that it sat in our driveway. We took it out a few times to some different local campgrounds and learned the hard way that you do not want to have to hold the sewer hose over the dump station.
You want to make sure the ceiling vents are closed before you drive near any overhead branches or basketball hoops. After we got our feel for the RV, we decided a longer trip would be great. We left for a state park in Southeast Ohio with three eager children, only to make it just less than an hour away before it broke down. We spent four days driving between the RV, our house and thankfully one of my relative’s houses that lived fairly close to where the RV had broken down. After four days, several hundred dollars in repairs and a final cracked engine block, RV camping was over for this family.
We haven’t camped in anyway, shape or form, since the RV incident (now probably 5 years ago). Recently, I found a 10-person tent on sale and thought camping might be fun – again. After a weekend at that same Southeast Ohio state park that we tried to go to in the RV, I am now writing this blog with very limited mobility and sore muscles in places I didn’t even know could be sore.
My husband made reservations at – what looked like – a fantastic campground. We followed the signs up the hill only to find a 130 x 50 clearing on a hill with two pavilions, 10 tent sites, no shade and a rundown Go-Cart track. I think my face may have expressed anger, but it was more shock. We didn’t even get out of the van, but immediately Googled other tent camping options nearby.
Thankfully we found a KOA with one tent with electric site available! This really was a beautiful campground, but compared to the first option it was the Taj Mahal of campgrounds – private showers and bathrooms, a pool, an adventure room, a little gift shop with a bit more than a snack bar, and SHADE! The actual site was a little uneven, but no complaints – it had shade, a fire ring, picnic table, water access and electric. Did I mention shade!
All-in-all tent camping was fun and I’m sure we will do it again, but with a few modifications…COTS! I thought air mattresses would be fine for a two-night stay. Rethinking that…air mattresses were better than the ground. The first night I woke up, looked over and saw my daughter’s had gone flat, so she slept with me on my twin air mattress. The second night, I woke up sweaty and freezing at the same time, only to realize I was sleeping on MY twin air mattress with both my daughter and my youngest son! It was like a human can of sardines!
Really, we didn’t spend much time at the site. The first evening we did a little sight seeing. Thankfully we ate before visiting the spillway. The spillway has this great hill and of course we had to race to the top. Going down, I had the great idea to race my middle son. It had just rained hours before and the grass was still wet. For a quick second, I must have thought that I was like ten years old again, but halfway down the hill my weak leg muscles quickly reminded me that I’m a 39-year-old colorectal cancer survivor with long-term radiation side effects…one of them being NO muscle tone in my upper thighs and hip joints. I wish someone would have been taking a video. First, I felt my body going faster than my legs. Then my legs gave out and I landed on my knees, bounced into the air, landing and then sliding on my right shoulder and face with my arms nowhere near helping me stop. One arm was stuck under my body and the other stretched out in front of me only tearing grass as I slid like the truck in the Harry Chapin song – 30,000 Pounds of Bananas. When I finally stopped, my kids rushed at me like I may have died and I couldn’t even get up. I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath enough to even move. Finally standing, I was covered from head to toe in fresh, wet grass clippings. That spillway was on the stretch of road from our campsite to everything else we did that weekend. We couldn’t pass it without laughing!
My husband booked an early morning zip line canopy tour – 2 ½ hours and 11 different lines for a combined length of over 7,000 feet. This truly was the highlight of this weekend trip. The nervous smiles turned into gleaming excitement. This will be one of those childhood memories that live on forever. Our daughter – the slightly cautious child – was running and jumping off the platforms by the end. Our middle son made sure his Go Pro recorded everything, and the youngest let go of the line to fly like Spiderman, as performed by one of our guides.
After a grueling morning, one might want to rest, but with little time left we headed to hike the state park. Gorgeous waterfalls, overhead cliffs and a natural recess cave with stairs, stairs and more stairs. Deep in this valley with thick trees overhead, the humidity felt more like a rainforest than anything located in Ohio. There are signs all over the park – Stay On Trail – but of course no “pit stops” to be found. Not once, not twice, but three times our boys climbed far enough off the trail to find a tree they could hide behind.
The drive back to camp was a blur of exhaustion. A few s’mores, some ice cream from the snack bar, a hot shower and three of the five of us were in bed before nine. Surprisingly this family did an OK job of working together to pack up in the morning, and with only a little complaining we were in the car by 9:30 Sunday morning. We are a road trip family, so if there is a quaint town or attraction, we will find it. Instead of driving directly home, we stopped to see the campus of Ohio University.
We pulled into our driveway by late afternoon with enough energy to empty the car. Last night I sat on the couch, and I woke up there this morning. Today, my muscles are just sore enough to remind me of the fun that was had, but maybe a little too sore for any heavy lifting, long walking or laundry (Yeah, right!).
The best part of this trip…no cell service! I need to put some more rules into place for home electronics. It was so nice to actually talk, look at each other face-to-face, see a smile not an emoji. My daughter sat on the couch with me when we got home. We talked about her social life, her desire for a new hair style and plan for the week. Say what??? The teen talks! We should definitely camp more often!