What I Learned From Our Failed Camping Trip

When I was a kid, I went camping every summer, either with my aunt or my girl scout troop. I’ve been trying to think of something we could do as our family that would be cheap, fun, and close to home. Camping! I thought. Camping would be perfect.

Alas, I learned that buying the equipment needed to go camping can quickly add up. But then! I Googled and found the First Time Camper Program with the Georgia campgrounds which allows you to borrow all the gear needed and get advice from a park ranger. The gear is provided by REI and Coleman and includes a 6 person tent, 2 camping chairs, a stove and fuel, 4 toasting forks, lighter and/or matches, a lantern, and 4 sleeping pads to put under your sleeping bags.

I made reservations and counted down the weeks, talking up the trip to get the kids excited. My 2 year old is excited about anything if he isn’t yelling no, but my 6 year old took some coaxing. He wasn’t too sure about sleeping outside with bugs and no electronics.

The first trouble was trying to get everything packed and organized and realizing that I should have gone shopping the week before so I’d have time to review and buy anything forgotten. I also carefully made a list and then lost it. It was our first real trip as a family and I was so disorganized!


We made it!

When we got there and checked in, our tent was already set up for us. Inside was a plastic locking storage trunk with our supplies. There was a hook up for water and electric. A park ranger came and met with us and told us about the park, showed us how to use the little propane stove, and gave us some tips on camping which included advice to stay out of the lovely greenery:


Leaves of 3, leave it be. AKA Posion Ivy

Poison ivy hides among harmless stuff which I did not know. Yikes! The itchy residue can stay for a year on unwashed clothing, so if we walked through it, we would need to immediately isolate those clothes to wash. I was really thankful for the park ranger. She put the fear of itchies in the kiddos and they stayed away from the green stuff.

During all this, Hubby had not been feeling too hot. He had been having pain on his, uh, derriere, for a few days and it was getting worse. He thought it was a pimple but it was getting bigger and more painful. He lay down for a while and the kids and I unpacked the car. We all put our swim suits on and went to the lake’s beach. We all had a blast and stayed for several hours. I did remember sunscreen for everyone and no one got burned. The boys and I are all super pale so I use SPF 50 sunscreen.

Once everyone was worn out from the water fun, we rinsed off and headed back to the camp site. We had bought fire starters which were wax in paper cups, and some firewood from the park’s visitor center. It is important not to bring your own wood, because you don’t want to accidentally introduce non native flora to the area. Anyway, Hubby got the fire started while the kids got the hot dogs and marshmallows ready to roast. I worked on stringing up a line for the towels and swimsuits. Every time I hung something up, the whole thing would fall down. It was because my temporary knot wasn’t strong enough and would come undone. I finally got annoyed and just knotted the rope and tight as I could in a more permanent knot.

Hubby suddenly started feeling bad again, worse than before, and needed to go lie down. When he did, the fire went out. No problem, I thought, I can do this.

I gathered kindling, got the matches, and got busy getting the fire going again.


Success! See?

Once I sat down and started to get settled, the fire went out AGAIN. I went to tell Hubby and found him sweating in pain. It turns out, he had a huge abscess. I made the decision right then to pack up and go home which we did. Hubby went to the ER where they lanced and drained a silver dollar sized abscess and told him there was no way he’d have been able to wait any longer to get it treated. Our little trip was a bust but I learned a few things:

Learn some basic knots because you never know what will need tying – like my poor clothes line.

Make a plan and follow through, including supply lists. Give your plan and list to other party members so if one person’s gets lost, there will be back up copies.

If anyone in your party doesn’t feel well, don’t try to stick it out. You don’t want to be stuck in the woods without medical care.

Know what poison oak, sumac, and ivy look like and bring calamine lotion, in case anyone runs into it. Be sure to bag up any clothing that comes in contact with poison plants and wash it in HOT water when you get home. I found out from the park ranger that the poisonous oils can stay active for a year on clothing so you need to get it washed off right away. Keep your dogs out of bushy areas when the plants could hide. If your dog gets it on their coat, it can spread to you.

Bring some fire starters. An easy one to make is: save your dryer lint, then wrap balls of it in strips of wax paper (about 6 inches or so), like candies. Poke the finished products down in the middle of your wood and light. My ex girl scout troop leader reminded me of this after I told her about my failure at making a fire.

What have I missed? Any good tips or camping stories to share?

About SarahK

Single mom. Cat lady. Loves red wine, thrift stores, the zombie apocalypse, artsy craftsy projects I never finish, tacos, Sherlock, and old houses.
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