In past years, my wife, two children, and I longed for the outdoors and knew camping would be the answer. We had never been camping as a family, but how hard could it be? We decided to make a reservation at a nearby state park, which worked, except they wanted to know what type of campsite we wanted, and I told her, “A tent.” But we did not have a tent. So I bought a two-room tent thinking the kids would get one room and my wife and I would get the other. Little did I know large tents are expensive. The next step was to get sleeping gear. The tent had a floor barrier, so blankets would do the trick. We booked for two nights; we made a food list. What do you eat camping, hot dogs?

My wife asked, “Do we eat hot dogs for all three meals?”

“The kids would like that.” I replied.

“That’s no for me.”

We figured out that food took up a lot of space, so we bought storage containers. A portable grill, fishing equipment, and suitcases were also included. The back of the SUV and half of the back seat was filled with stuff. Our children were 8 and 9 years old, which gave excitement and complaining. One of the main rules before we left, was that no phones or anything with a screen were allowed to be taken.

The arrival to the state park could not come soon enough for the kids – and equipment – that were tossed around the SUV for the entire ride. The attendant checked us in and assigned us our waterfront camping spot. We were given a map of the tent area and were told to park in a large area and walk to our camping site. We passed RV sites with huge vehicles and trailers parked in their paved private camping spots. “Dad, how come we did not get one of the nice spots?”
“It’s okay, we got a tent spot.”
We parked, and a sign pointed us to a wooded trail that read “TENT CAMPING”. We unloaded ourselves and followed the trail about one-quarter mile to our site number. The kids were excited as our son screamed, “I know I can catch a fish here. The water is so clear.”
The site was beautiful with surrounding trees, and the whole family turned to each with smiles. “How are you going to get all our stuff to the site?” I thought.

It hit me, four people carrying it all. We decided on a place for a tent, and I went to the SUV, threw the tent over my shoulder, and walked. One of the other campers saw me and said, “Hi there, we have a wagon you are welcome to use. That put a smile on my face. We talked for a while, and I took his wagon. Load after load was delivered to the campsite. I unpacked the tent and looked for setup directions. I found none, and two hours later, the tent was set up. There was a firepit but no wood. I drove back to the check-in and bought a stack of firewood and a lighter. Our son was fishing as soon as we got the RV unloaded and caught four small fish. I have never seen him smile so much. Our young lady was wondering where to use the restroom. I told her behind a tree, but that was a no. My wife drove her to a restroom found on the map. They were overwhelmed of how clean and with three showers. Food was unloaded, and the decision was for hotdogs for the first night. Kids on bicycles rode up and down our trail, having a fun time. The sun was getting low, and our son began screaming, “I got a big one.”
I ran to give him a hand. It was a largemouth bass, and it looked to be three pounds or more. We kept the fish, hoping to have it for lunch the next day.

Night came with darkness, real darkness. Stars filled the sky, more stars than they had ever seen. I built a campfire, and we sat on the ground around it. “Dad, can we come back next week?” our son asked.
I smiled and said, “Maybe.”
We all took a walk around the park seeing all the lighted campers and the friendly people. We stopped with grill smoke sending smells of food being cooked. There were steaks on the grill, no doubt. We turned back to our campsite and got in our tent for the hands of Old Maid using our flashlights. It was stuffy, so we unzipped our screens on each side of the tent. We got our blankets arranged, but there seemed to be rocks or limbs under the tent floor. Oh, this was not good, hard, and lumpy.

“Apparently, we needed to bring a mattress. “It would be better if we slept in the SUV.” My wife whispered.

“No, we can’t, the kids would be disappointed.”

An hour later, they were not asleep but heard noises next to their tent, like animals. I got up and looked out the screen window, and there were three skunks next to the tent. I ducked down and said, “Do not say a word or make a move. There are at least three skunks about two feet from our tent.”

“What do we do?” I thought.

“You get a stick and see if you can scare them away. Do not come back inside the tent because you will be smelling like a skunk.” I told the wife.

“Are you crazy?”

The next morning, we cooked bacon and eggs, trails were hiked, closer looks at the big RVs, and of course, more fishing. All the trails allowed bicycles, but our shoes worked just fine. Words were said about how great the beds had been, and the skunks came up at least five times. I took an hour to go into the nearest town and look for blowup beds or cots. I found blowup beds. More small fish were caught but no keepers. Mid-morning, all headed toward the showers. That was the best thing that happened since yesterday. For lunch, the fish was on the grill, along with potatoes. The weather got hotter, and we had no a/c, so we substituted swimming in the lake. The state park had a great swimming area. I suffered for hours after blowing up the beds. If we only had an air pump…

The night brought more beautiful stars. The worst was the temperature in the tent. The plastic beds did not help with the heat. We had a new set of visitors in our camp during the night. I counted nine deer, and one tripped on our tent ropes, and we thought she was taking us and the tent with her.

We returned home with a new list of equipment to buy. Time went on, and we traveled to other destinations. We enjoyed every campsite but soon felt we needed a popup camper trailer with a/c, frig, and stove for cooking. Another requirement was a pickup to pull it and carry all the stuff. We bought outside lights and camped at sites with concrete parking for the trailer. These sites had water and electricity, also. The popup trailer we bought had no restroom and required a lot of setup time. Next, we purchased a thirty-five feet RV trailer with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a full kitchen, a TV, and two a/c units. It was better than a hotel room.

My final advice, start with a tent because you will have a lot more fun stories to tell.

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