Thursday, July 5, 2012
Take A Kid Camping
We spent the Fourth of July with good friends again last night. It's our tradition, strange as it is, to meet them in the parking lot at Center Court Sports Complex near the airport to watch fireworks. They tow their camper out there and set it up, while we bring food, beverages and lawn chairs. We call it our "white trash Fourth," and we usually have a blast. This year was no different, though the fireworks were shortened because they kept igniting grass fires, causing the fire department to race out and douse the flames. It's been as dry of a summer as I've seen in a long time.
Our friends are bringing this trailer to Kohler Andrae State Park next week when we join them for camping, as I mentioned in my previous post.
The trailer and the upcoming trip brought to mind all the "State Park" camping trips we took as kids, many with our stepbrothers and sisters. These trips, unlike any of the "roughing it" trips of the Boundary Waters were really "camping" as most people know it. A family or families, loads up a tent or pop-up trailer and heads to a State Park a few hours north and spends 3-5 days camping.
While the BWCA is nice, I think my foundational love for all things camping and outdoors came from these trips that Mom and Jack used to take us on. St. Croix State Park was our most common destination. It was a very popular campground being only a couple hours from the city. We would load up the Impala and the Galaxie 500 ragtop and head north. There was swimming, hiking, eating outdoors and a whole lot of messing with the fire.
One particular trip we ran out of bug spray, so went to town to get some. When we came back I remember my stepfather saying "Thank God you're back. I was about ready to start spraying Raid on myself."
Then there was the time my brother in law and I were sitting up around the fire until it was quite late. He was in a lawn chair and happened to fall asleep. While he was laying there a skunk walked under his chair, right through our camp. I just about flipped my dip (as my kids are so fond of saying). I sat as still as I could and whispered "Timmy. Hey Timmy," to no avail. When I flipped a small rock at Tim, the skunk stopped and raised his tail. It sat there and looked at me for a few seconds and then ambled off. It was a close call, and Timmy slept through it all.
Another campground was Father Hennepin State Park near Isle, MN. A beautiful park. The best part about it was the beach on that 6th Great Lake known as Lake Mille Lacs. Huge waves, clean, cold water.
I guess the underlying message here is, you don't have to trek to the Canadian border to give your kids a great experience in the woods. Nor do you have to do it in a tent. Donna has great memories of camping in her family's pop-up trailer. Most states have great State Park systems, and not as great private campground systems. Take advantage of either of them to give your kids memories they'll never forget. That's what being a parent is all about.