I actually went camping once when I was in the 4th grade — it was one of the best and worst experiences of my life. My class won a trip to Malakoff Diggins to live like miners of the Gold Rush. I recall my excitement to camp outside, make food from scratch, and mine for gold. Daytime was fantastic, but this sheltered city kid didn’t count on the dark nights and the bugs! At night I was afraid for my life and was kicked out of every tent in the campsite for my hysterics. And because of that experience, I decided camping was not for me.
But after hearing about the good experiences of others recently, I decided to give camping another try as an adult. A friend of my family hosts an annual camping trip at Lake Don Pedro in California, so I decided to come along, and knew this trip would decide the fate of my camping future! However, I vowed it would not be like last time. Luckily, I was going with experienced campers, and I told myself to get used to the idea that I would see some bugs!
The lake was simply breathtaking. And our campsite was nice, clean, and inviting. Our set-up crew consisted of my husband, best friend, nephew and God son. We let the boys put up the tents. It was their first time and we were pleasantly surprised by the excellent job they did…but camping did give us a few challenges. Our first night we realized we forgot our Tiki torches. We had just a few citronella candles, which did little to light our site and deter the bugs that get fierce at night!
Another moment of discomfort came when a fellow seasoned camper warned us not to turn over any rocks or step in any holes.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because of rattle snakes,” he calmly stated.
“Excuse me?!” I screamed. “Are there really snakes here?”
“Yes,” he said. I turned to my husband shrieking “You didn’t tell me I’d have to deal with snakes!”
“I didn’t want to you to be afraid,” he shrugged.
Right then, I wanted to pack up my family and run like hell! But I quickly calmed down, and resolved to be extra careful.
On a brighter note, the showers and restrooms were very clean and close by, which was a plus. And without the torches, we noticed how absolutely beautiful the night sky was. We could see stars for miles, although it was still a challenge to keep our millennium children entertained without TV and video games. The constant question from them was, “Now what?” But we assured them we would go swimming the next day and they settled for the night in anticipation.
The next morning we got up early, cooked breakfast, and set off on the day’s journey. We enjoyed a day full of swimming and boating in Lake Don Pedro in 103 degree weather. The children did back flips off of the boat into the cool lake, which was a big hit. Our day ended with a delicious BBQ and sound sleep. We rose early the next morning, packed up and headed back home.
Overall, did I enjoy camping this time? Absolutely. Will I ever camp again? Yes I would. It was a great experience and a fun way to bond with my family — and my husband and I have decided to make this a tradition for our family for years to come.
Field Report: Tales of a Novice Camper