Thursday, September 19, 2013

Father/Daughter Backyard Camping Trip

Camping has always been a part of my childhood that I love to reminisce about; the cooking out under the stars, the long hikes to nowhere, and the adventure of sleeping behind four walls of nylon. As a kid, you never really think about the work involved and planning that takes place. To be honest, that's the way it should be! This past weekend, I took my daughter on her first camping experience and wanted her to remember it well.

Riley and I have talked about camping for a while now and there always seemed to be something that threw the plan off. Not this weekend! We had one night to camp and we decided to do it urban style... right in the backyard.

This would be Riley's first ever camp out. I wanted to make it memorable in the best possible way for her. She would only see the FUN side of camping. My goal for the night was to make it so enjoyable she asked to camp again. As parents, we should focus on these things with our children. They will learn about the work and tough stuff as they grow, but showing them the fun side and allowing them to be kids is something many of us lose sight of.

As I started to pull down the sleeping bags, pads and tent from the garage, Riley asked me if she could help. A four year old asking if she can help. I wasn't going to make her do anything, but I knew if I allowed her to help, no matter how long it might take to set up camp, she would remember it. Handing her a sleeping bag, she claimed it was too heavy, so I said I would take it. Immediately she responded with, 'No, I can do it.' That's my girl!

Setting up the tent was wonderful in many ways. First, she wanted to help me unfold it and get it in the right place, which she did with a smile. I showed her how to put the poles together, but knowing full well they would be too much for her to handle I said I could do them and she could go on an adventure. Even in our 150 sq. ft. back yard there is an adventure to be had. Once I had the poles together and began erecting the tent, she watched in amazement. She had so many questions and I absolutely loved it!

With the tent up, we set off to get the pads and bags in and ready to sleep. She was a big help the entire way and I could tell she really enjoyed it. I was sure to tell her that a tent is not complete without stuffed animals and a few books to read, and she promptly agreed. Inside the house we went for pillows, books, and stuffed companions. Watching her try to carry out six large stuffed animals was great. This time she let me help carry a few, just so they wouldn't get dirty.

Once it cooled down and night had fallen, my wife made a trip to the store to surprise us with S'more fixings! A lack of a fire pit didn't slow us down as we roasted marshmallows over the gas stove and made the best S'mores ever! Riley agrees that S'mores are a great dessert, no matter what the occasion.

I didn't tell her, but I was going to let Riley stay up late and have fun. We read some stories, but most of all she wanted to hear about my camping adventures when I was young. It was a great opportunity to tell her about the adventures her Grandpa Q, Uncle Ben, and I went on in my youth. She soaked up every word and I enjoyed sharing every single story. I had a great childhood and was able to experience so much because my parents were creative and fun. I wanted to be sure to return the favor.

Shadow puppets and listening to some of her stories followed and before long I could see her eyes getting heavy. After our bedtime prayers, we lay down and went to sleep. Well, she did. She slept well while our neighbors’ dog flipped over plastic tubs or something for a couple hours in their garage and that kept me up. Then there was the sprawling out and feet in my face as Riley moved around in her sleep. I honestly had to laugh because she was sleeping in a tent for the first time and I was happy. I was able to get some sleep, but woke up at 7:00 AM ready for coffee. Wouldn't you know it, a few minutes later, Riley popped up and said, 'Good morning Daddy!' She immediately wanted to call Mommy on the walkie-talkie and after a quick, ‘We had better not do that at 7:00 AM on a Saturday,’ she decided to read me a few nursery rhymes.

Soon after, she wanted to open the zipped up window to see what was outside. Our resident hummingbird was there to greet us just before getting his breakfast. Riley pointed him out, along with a few other birds. It was great. Riley was all smiles and ready to play in the tent. She said she had enjoyed a great night of camping with her dad...and you know what? So did I.


  1. This has me smiling ear to ear. I am pleased that it was a wonderful experience.
    I paused and reflected on some of my own camping experiences, both good and bad. I would not change a single one.
    Thanks for sharing this with me, and thank you for getting me to recall past events.

    1. Good to hear you enjoyed it, John. It is great to remember our youth and share it with others. I also had some good and some bad camping trips, but I also would not trade them. I enjoyed every one of them.

  2. I think it's time for Hazel and I to go on another camping trip. Maybe venture from the yard to the neighbors woods this time.

    1. I look forward to hearing all about it, Jerud!

  3. That's awesome, Al. Those backyard camping trips were a big part of my childhood, and sharing them with the newest generations is a great way to plant the seeds for an outdoors future. Plus, it's just a kick in the butt to enjoy that sort of bonding time with the young'uns.

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