I have this idyllic notion in my head of camping with my family. We are all sitting around a crackling campfire, cozy in our matching flannels. I cook a Pinterest-worthy meal over the open flame while the girls dance around the campsite catching fireflies. Then after we wash the sticky s’mores residue from our fingers, we crawl into our tents and snuggle down in our sleeping bags to doze peacefully through the night.
That has never. Freaking. Happened. Not once. Ever. And yet, we keep camping.
The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Which is exactly what happens when my family goes tenting. Something always always goes wrong.
First, there was the time we got hopelessly lost on unpaved roads near Pictured Rocks. Not a lot of cell phone or GPS coverage up there, folks. After finally finding our campsite, the battery died on my minivan – which was actually a blessing, because the happy camper who gave us a jump start told us we didn’t have enough gas to get to the nearest gas station. Lesson learned.
The next year, our way to go camping in the Apostle Islands, we started by losing my purse and my husband backing over all our fishing poles. Despite the 90-plus degree heat, the AC went out in my minivan and, when we stopped to fill up, I noticed it also had a flat tire. It only took the Walmart tire techs three hours to get it changed. But hey, at least we were out of the heat.
That trip ended in the Porcupine Mountains with torrential rains flooding our tents and both girls squeezing in between my husband and me on a soggy air mattress. We woke up early – wet and cranky – and immediately hit the road, which we had to do anyway because the raccoons stole every last bit of food we had right out of our coolers. I swore I’d never camp in a tent again. Of course, I was mistaken.
We have a lovely camper up north. It has a queen-sized memory foam mattress, air conditioning and my own private bathroom. It also stays permanently parked on our land in Upper Michigan because we lack a vehicle to tow it – hence the annual tent adventures that always turn into debacles.
This year for our tenting trip, as thunderstorms rolled through Perrot State Park, we spent the first night camped out at my aunt and uncle’s house. The second day, however, was super sunny. And hot. And ridiculously humid. Our campsite was sort of shaded but offered no breeze – just bugs. So we thought we’d rent canoes and cool off by the water. Boy, did that plan backfire. After two hours of intense paddling under the scorching sun – battling black flies and gnats that swarmed your ears, eyes and nose – we were even hotter and crankier than when we started. I wanted to throw our tent onto the fire and drive away, giggling madly. But, by the grace of God, we made it through the night with only a dozen or so more mosquito bites apiece. Glad that’s over for another year.
When will the insanity end? Probably never. There’s a saying that bad decisions make good stories. I’ll probably never attain my dream camping scenario – mostly because it’s too freaking hot! But in the meantime, we’ve made some incredible memories with our kids, and insane stories none of us will ever forget.