I originally considered calling this blog “Yes you can” with the goal of encouraging women to gain confidence by accomplishing things considered “blue” jobs. In a heterosexual household, blue jobs, like changing the car’s oil, taking out the garbage and refinishing the deck, often categorize as men’s tasks.
Camping was never a blue job per se, but within the context of my marriage, with kids in tow, it was certainly a shared responsibility. Now, solo-parent camping has become a source of pride.
First obstacle: overcoming judgement
The first obstacle for me was to surmount my judgment of car camping being for squishy people. Once self-identifying as a (semi)hardcore mountaineer, I prided myself on carrying all my needs on my back.
Inspired and awed by Lynn Hill, Melissa Arnot and Meagan McGrath, my mountaineering experience includes ice-climbing in New England (yes with ice axe and crampons), summiting a 14,000’ (4267 meter) peak, assorted multi-pitch climbs, back-country skiing and sleeping in a snow cave.
Safety when camping
As a responsible parent of young children, it is my job to ensure their safety. For me, this requires acknowledging our human placement within the food chain. Grizzlies, wolves and cougars all rank above the unarmed camper. And although grizzlies and wolves may sound like mythical creatures extracted from Red Riding Hood fables, they live true and free in British Columbia.
Not to scare you, rather, I encourage you to think carefully about the risk and opportunity you take with your children in the pursuit of nature and the great outdoors. A populated campground may not be the remote, quiet sanctuary you yearn for, however, recognize that if something goes awry, people are nearby.
Camping with the ratio of one parent to two kids requires planning. Thinking about the aforementioned safety concern; booking months ahead to secure a site; acquiring the time off from work; deciding what meals to shop for and prepare in advance; determining what items you need to set up a comfortable camp and cook outdoors; and purchasing or borrowing said items all falls to you. A lovely camping holiday does not just pop-up from a trailer. It takes work.
Even with the most careful planning and prepacking, in all likelihood, you will forget something. In the past, we’ve camped with friends and they’ve rounded out our kitchen setup. Without them, this year our campsite lacked cereal bowls and a sharp knife.
From necessity springs ingenuity. My daughter enjoyed her cereal out of a tall, plastic cup. My son devoured his Mini-Wheats from a small metal mixing bowl. Once rinsed, I had my choice.
The standards of domestic diva Martha Stewart really don’t jive with camping. Let go your ideas of perfection.
Between the shopping and packing, expect that camping will typically take one full day of preparation before departure and one full day of clean-up at the tail end. Camping is work. Fun work, albeit work.
If you’re not up for it, don’t sweat it. Stay-cations can be funtastic. Or if you have the means, all-inclusive by all means! Don’t judge yourself harshly if camping is not your thing or seems too overwhelming. There are many opportunities for kids to experience camping with school trips, scouting/guiding organizations, and summer camps.
I did not camp with my family growing up. I developed a love for nature and the outdoors as a young adult.
I will never forget overhearing my ex-husband coach a colleague for a first-time camping trip. “Make sure to bring a comfortable camping chair and your favorite beverage. A chair and beer, that’s what you need.”
Car camping enables more comfort than backpacking. Enjoy it. Take your pillow. Pack a cot or an air mattress. Anything goes—if it fits in the car (or the rocket-box or the trailer).
For camping meals, make ease your number one priority. Order extra take out the week before and freeze it. Make a double portion of chili, soup or stew and freeze it. There’s nothing wrong with hot dogs or multiple nights of Kraft Dinner or pasta with jarred sauce. Easy peasy is the way to go.
The Lakeside Campground at Hotel Lake has become my happy place for camping. Each site has a water spigot, an outlet and a picnic table. They have a communal freezer, indoor washrooms and private showers.
Lowbrow glamping, set in a scene reminiscent of the 1980’s movie Dirty Dancing, it’s fun, relatively easy and comfortable. This year, an electric tea kettle was a welcome addition to our site. Luxurious to have that first cup of tea ready without having to ignite the stove!
Do the math. One parent, two kids—you’re outnumbered. Face the fact that you will likely be the playmate to one or the referee between the two. Perhaps your kids will meet some new friends at the campsite. That’s a welcome bonus of a populated family campground. Or if you’re comfortable with the additional responsibility of tending to another person’s child, inviting a friend can make all the difference to everyone getting along. Or even better if you have an adult friend with kids, ask them to join you. Two grown-ups can manage a campsite and kids better than one.
Make fun a priority. This year, I splurged and bought a $35 inflatable boat with paddles to tour the lake. Bring rafts and special treats for the kids. Mine love Oreos, Lara bars and s’mores.
I prioritize fun for myself, too. Each day before my kids arise, I get up early and do yoga. It’s my quiet time to steal away and pay respect to my body, nature, and those who have gone before me. It’s sacred, precious time.
Cost of camping
A private campground is more expensive than a Provincial (public) campground. The site we book is $35 per night for two, and $5 extra for each additional person up to six. My two kids and I camp for $40 per night. Considering a hotel would cost at least $100 per night, we’re saving $60 per night. By saving $60 on accommodations, that frees up enough cash for a meal out, or an ice cream each day, or a kayak rental. Drop judgement of spending too much. Life is short. Enjoy it.
This year I saw a beaver, frog, and eagle. We hiked up Pender Hill and to the Skookumchuck Narrows. Where the Salmon Inlet and Narrows Inlet pass through the Sechelt Rapids, the whitecaps and whirlpools take on a life of their own, rising and falling more than six feet (two meters) from top swell to low ebb. It’s an amazing place reminding of the great power of nature.
Reminder for life
We came across a newly erected trailside memorial for a man who died while hiking last month. My kids and I were very touched reading his detailed obituary. This monument reminded us to enjoy each moment and to love. We will all die — the day and the way remain a mystery — but we will all die. The way we live is ours to write.
Wish Upon a Star
I try to book our camping trip each year to coincide with the Perseids meteor shower. It’s a special treat for my kids, growing up in a city with light pollution, to stay up late and, like Charlie Brown awaiting the Great Pumpkin, seek the promised shooting stars.
However, unlike Charlie Brown, we were not disappointed. The Great Star Show arrived.
My kids later asked me what I wished for on my shooting star. I said I wished that when they grow up, their camping trips to Hotel Lake with their mom will be some of their fondest memories.
My daughter assured me they already are.