The Great (Intimidating) Outdoors

Thumb Butte Hike, 4/20/12

I grew up in the middle of the woods, surrounded by acres and acres of trees. Most of my memories are of being outside; playing in the dirt, running through the sprinklers on a hot summer day, or exploring the trails that ran through the forest. As I got older though, I started to prefer more indoor activities. I always played sports and still enjoy hiking and trail running, but really spending time outside by way of camping has not always been high on my list of things to do.

Although my family and I did always spend a week or so every summer "camping" down in Cape May and loving it, the campground there (minutes from the beach and equipped with showers, bathrooms, a clubhouse and pool) was the closest I ever got to really roughing it. Later on in college my sorority decided we should take big camping trip into the Flagstaff wilderness, which turned out to be quite the interesting experience. To sum it up, the night consisted of crazy elk rubbing up against our tent while making the strangest noises, Autumn trying to hammer a tent stake in with a piece of wood, only to discover it was a huge piece of hardened animal poop when it crumbled in her hand, and waking up to insane, pouring rain at 5am. Yup. So needless to say it didn't help with my growing distaste for all things outdoors.

But recently something's been happening. I've been having this need to spend time outdoors, to go hiking and climbing, and to sit on top of the hills by our house looking out at our town. I'm not really sure what it is, but there's something about being in the middle of nature that makes me feel more alive than it ever has. And now Hank and I have somehow found ourselves talking about taking our first camping trip as a family.

I have no idea how to camp though. And maybe that phrase is completely ridiculous- maybe you don't need to know how to do something like that, but being a planner, I feel like in order for me to feel prepared and comfortable I need to know how.

So Hank and I made a little goal. Sometime, before it gets cold, we are going to go camping. Nothing crazy. We luckily live smack dab in the middle of prime camping country so it will really just be one night away, basically down the street. We'll start small. We don't own anything camping related so we'll have to do some shopping and borrowing. We have lake gear, beach gear, and one measly backpack for hiking, but no camping stuff whatsoever.

It's bizarre to me that I'm so excited about borrowing a tent and spending the night sleeping on the ground. My old self would have been shocked I would find this so attractive, but it's something I've been drawn to, and something I'd love Henry to grow up enjoying. One of my goals for this year was to try new things, and camping has been on my mind for the longest time.

So I ask any of you seasoned outdoors-men and women, any tips for first timers camping with a toddler?  Or maybe you just want to tell me "Don't over think it and just GO!" just like so many of our more outdoorsy friends have been saying (after they finish making fun of us and talking about how "us camping" is a reality show they'd absolutely subscribe to). Either way, help!