Going camping with the kids is something that I have avoided up until this point in their lives. I had a million excuses. The kids were too little, they were too whiny, they weren’t potty trained, and I don’t really like bugs and sleeping on the ground freezing to death. The boys are almost 8 and 9 years old now. I figured its the perfect time to mom-up and start the camping adventures; after all, I was a girl scout! I can build a campfire, and teach them a thing or two about safety and survival. For the last several years I have been taking them hiking. As they have gotten older, and have a little more stamina and patience, they have come to enjoy these outdoor excursions more and more. I planned for a one-night trial run for our first camping trip, but it turned into two nights before I could resist. After driving 3 hours through Los Angeles traffic, we arrived at Malibu Creek State Park. We were the last people to arrive and set up tents just before dark.
The next morning I made pancakes, and hot cocoa over the camp stove. Following breakfast cleanup, we started a hike through the dusty trails, along with another 400 hikers, and boy scouts. It was good just to be out in the spring air, and exercising. Eventually we saw the sign that pointed to the area where the M*A*S*H TV show was shot on location. Following that we discovered the ‘rock pool’ where kids were hurling themselves off a tall rock, into the murky green water. Meanwhile my boys got a chance to do boy stuff, like climbing rocks and exploring (while their mother kept reminding them about the ticks).
Even though the Visitor Center sign said they were closed, we took a chance, and the door was open! They had forgotten to change the sign. No one was in the center, and my boys got to explore all the treasures inside, including dead hardened snakes, and examples of animal tracks in the sand. They were even invited to do the honor of raising the state and national flags.
This first walk was about 2 hours, and clearly the boys are having a good time. We went back for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a trip to the store to buy firewood and marshmallows. Our second hike was guided by yours truly and lasted about an hour. I chose a path with ZERO people on it this time. That’s more my style. There was, however, poison oak. I taught the boys to avoid that plant, and to avoid touching any plants. This trail was peaceful, and had vistas in every direction. We felt like true explorers. Instead of indulging in iPods, my boys were enjoying the pleasures of the world God created for them. The bugs, and the dirt, the flowers, and the thorns, the deer, and the birds, all became more distinct because that is all they have to pay attention to.
No camping trip is complete without the time-honored tradition of roasting marshmallows. My 7-year-old son can eat marshmallows for breakfast if I let him. I caught him eating several that day before sun down. By the time I had built a campfire, and gotten the supplies out for the marshmallows he had probably eaten more than his fair share, including just 2 that were roasted. He had more fun watching me accidentally burn mine, drop them into the fire, or simply eat that sugary goodness than eating them this night. That gooey treat had me coming back for more than I had originally anticipated.
As the evening as the temperature dropped, the campfire became even more inviting. My youngest son and I danced back and forth singing our own melody, to warm our front side, and then our backside. We were just being silly, but he couldn’t get enough of it. That’s when the moment hits me. Your children are getting that one on one mommy time, in the great outdoors under the stars with a fire blazing. We are standing in the same spot that the Chumash Indians danced with their children under the stars next to their fires. We have all the blessings and creature comforts of modern life, yet we are tied to all people before and after us. We share this earth, and are called to be good stewards. We should take advantage of the chance to see our state and national parks, and to train our children in all that we can pass down.
It’s so good for us to take our kids outside. It’s good to take them into the wilderness, and to discover the beauty firsthand.
Now that summer has arrived we will have another opportunity to camp near Sequoia National Park. There will be more lessons, and more roughing-it moments. I think of it as a training. No water this time? No toilet paper? Well we have to be prepared. You prepare in advance. How do you prepare? By gathering your supplies in advance, training, and studying. You have to bring your own water, food, toilet paper, flashlight. The same is true for your spiritual life. You have many lessons to learn. You need to be prepared. You study, and sharpen your knowledge. You come with your tools, and you prepare with fasting, reading, and prayer. You surround yourself with others who also appreciate the beauty of the faith. This is your hedge of protection. You never know what exactly the future holds. Expecting the unexpected is a good mentality in life and camping. I hope you get the chance to have at least a couple days in the wilderness with your kids this summer, to pass down some lessons, some appreciation, and some one on one quality time.
Copyright 2016 Marya Jauregui