I checked over the contents of our minivan: 3 giant rubber maid containers stuffed with everything from food to blankets, 1 cooler filled with beer, Bacardi and, oh, more food, 1 water jug, empty (we like to take our chances with the delightful water pumped from the campground wells,) 1 tent, 2 front bike tires, 2 duffel bags and a doggy "diaper bag," several pairs of shoes, 1 dog bed, 1 bed and 2 adult passengers. That was just the inside. On top we had a Tule roof box filled with camel backs, lawn chairs, jackets, and other odds and ends, beside the box were 2 bikes! Yep, looked like we were ready for a 2 day camping trip! The trouble with having a mini van is that, because there is room for everything, we bring everything. On the other hand, the good thing about a mini van, is that there is always room for everything!! We pulled out of Calgary Friday afternoon, filled with anticipation of the adventures one is guarenteed to find in the great rocky mountains! After seeing our third "Campground FULL" sign, it became apparent that a lot of other people had decided to leave Calgary in search of adventure on this, one of our first forcasted hot weather weekends! We eventually found a quiet campground at a place called Sibbald Lake. We found a perfect campsite (close to the outhouse and surrounded by trees) and began to set up camp. This is one of my favorite things about camping, setting up. Marty is master of the tent and tarps, though this time, because we had been promised sunshine by our weather network, tarps weren't part of our set up. He can set up the tent, almost entirely by himself. I, find the trees to set up up the high line for Scout. Once she is securely fastened to the cable between two trees, I can begin hauling out our bedding. Marty, it turns out doesn't believe in "foamies" or therma rests, Marty, needs a mattress, and this year we bought a big one! Friday was it's debut! It comes with it's own built in pump and though we struggled to get it through the door to our tent, once inside, it fit perfectly, leaving just enough space on my side of the "bed" for Scout's bed and on Marty's side for our duffel bags. While this air mattress is a far cry from what I remember putting my sleeping bag on as a kid, it works for Marty and me.
I remember old, stinky foamies rolled tied, tied with twine and that is what Aim and I used. Nic, being the youngest, and getting last pick, slept on this orange bubble mattress that made the same crinkly noise those plastic bed wetting sheets make. My sleeping bag was OLD, it used to be mom's and I am pretty sure I remember there being deer heads on the inside of it. I also distinctly remember the blotches of blood, reminents of a bleeding nose, that had stained the outside of it. I loved that sleeping bag and would not let anyone else use it! Aim's was orange and it had a tricky zipper. One time she actually zipped her knee up in it. She still has a scar on her knee, thanks to that lovely orange sleeping bag. Nic's was tiny, thin and brown. She almost always had to have another blanket on top of her. As shabby as these bags sound, now that I describe them on the screen, we honestly loved them and the foamies. Nothing says camping to me, like the blood stained sleeping bag and twine tied foamies, nothing!! Our family had a big tent. There were two rooms, well three, if you counted the "entry way." Us kids slept on one side of the tent and mom and dad snored in the other room. Our duffel bags and shoes littered the entry way. We also traveled with a screen tent. We set it up, along with our sleeping tent in every campsite. The screen tent, was our "cook tent." The picnic table always got carried into it and our traveling kitchen sink did too. You laugh, but serioulsy, we had a fold up kitchen sink, made specifically for camping families! Dad had a huge propane lantern that lit up the picnic table for late night card games and popcorn eating. Ooooo, camping pop corn....YUMMMMM! I don't care if it was the cups of oil used to make popcorn on the propane stove that made it taste so good, I have never had better pop corn than the stuff dad made on that stove!! (We did bring a paper bag for proper shaking of the pop corn...see previous blog, if you have no idea what I am talking about!) We were not big "sit in your lawn chair and read" campers, but we definately did all have our own lawn chairs. We'd spend hours sitting by the fire, whittling perfect marshmellow sticks. Sticks we'd cook a few marshmellows on, then spend hours burning in the fire pit. If you got the ends just hot enough to glow red, but not hot enough that they wold break off, you could use the blackened tip to write stuff on the rocks that outlined the firepit. Dad had given us each our own pocket knife, (ofcorse they were all three identical, probably bought at a"three for one" store special,) but Dad had taken the time to melt into each knife our initials so that we could tell them apart. Lots of kids are not allowed to use knives at campfires anymore, but Dad had taught us about using the knife "away from your belly" and none of us ever cut off any fingers!
During the day, I remember fishing, the odd hike, where we'd listen to Nic wine and moan for someone to carry her (wow, that whining 6 year old is a far cry from the world traveler, biker, hiker, she is today,) swim in the lakes and chase each other around the campground. We'd get as dirty as possible and though there was rarely a bath before bed, we always brushed our teeth, "roughing it" was no excuse for neglecting your gums!! There were no DVD players in our tents, no ipods or headphones to cover our ears and let us escape those around us, no DS's and no lap tops. We had eachother, our pocket knives, fishing poles, water wings, fruitloops, potatoe chips and marshmellows and we didn't need anything else!!!
Marty and I had stuffed the van full of all kinds of extra stuff, including a ridiculously huge air bed, but all we really needed and enjoyed over the weekend were our headlamps, our hiking boots, our pocket knives, our stoves, our marshmellows, Scout and each other. My heart and head are filled with awesome memories of family camping trips, but Marty and I are combining our childhood experiences to create our own version of camping and I am excited to keep making new memories!!