Usually, I start blog posts with a photo of participants. But on the Friends School Fall Family Camping Trip, our natural surroundings (as you’ll see in the photos) were truly an extra participant that added joy and laughter to our experience. The fall foliage, the deep blue sky, the waxing moon, the crisp, cool morning, and the balmy sunlight of midday added a sense of paradise to our camping trip.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that our participants were adventurous, interesting, laid-back people. One was a former Eagle Scout, another grew up hiking in the Sierra Nevadas. And the boys took to their first camping experience like fish in water.
The boys’ dad told a co-worker about his upcoming Sure Foot trip and his co-worker replied, “Surely your kids will get bored!” Once in the woods, we adults laughed at this sentiment. From the moment we stepped out of our cars at the trailhead, everything we did became an exciting adventure to these boys. The older immediately offered to carry our lunch (very heavy!) in his backpack. The younger turned his family’s tent into a clubhouse the moment it was erected. And both boys found plenty of dirt, sand, rocks, and sticks to play and build with.
A couple moments stood out to me about this trip:
- The older boy was more reserved and quiet than his younger brother. He kept Dana and I at arm’s length most of the first day – not out of fear or rudeness, but just because he’s a private young man. But by the end of our trip, he spent all of his time helping us with the camping gear. He helped us un-clip the tent poles, stuff the sleeping bags, shake out the tents, and strap gear to the backpacks. Here’s a photo of he and Dana working together to attach a sleeping pad to a backpack.
- Though a camping trip is supposedly “roughing it,” our group spent several hours on Saturday afternoon lounging at the beach! Though the air temperature was only in the low-70s, the sun was intense and we soaked in the rays and waded in the chilly water of the Chattooga River. The boys splashed in the water, built canals in the beach, and got thoroughly sandy. By about three o’clock, Donald (their dad) and I were warm enough to brave the water. We goaded each other on, stripped to our shorts, and dove in. The water was so cold, I immediately got an “ice cream headache” and Donald could only take short breaths. But after a minute to acclimatize, we swam all of the way to South Carolina (across the river) and back. The water was invigorating and by the time we returned to camp, we were mostly dry and had smiles plastered on our faces.
- The sky was so clear that we were able to track the progress of the night by the route of the moon. Donald reported that the window of his tent was positioned perfectly so that each time he awoke during the night, the moon shone in at a different position in its arc across the sky. By the time Dana and I stirred in the early morning, the moon had set, leaving the sky inky black with pin pricks of starlight. Only in the clear skies produced by crisp fall air do we get to experience light like that.
On Sunday morning, we woke up when the sun began to rise. By the time I emerged from my tent, Dana already had a toasty fire crackling and water boiling for drinks. Though the air was chill, the sunlight caught the tops of the trees, promising another warm day. We shivered our way close to the fire, warming our hands and toes before drinking cocoa and warming our bellies.
Though the fire and warm beverages helped, the best way to warm ourselves up is to walk. So we took a 2-mile day hike, led by our fearless 5-year-old leader. He practically bounded down the trail – even the portions he called “bumpy” (rutted trail with lots of rocks and roots). We took a break alongside the Chattooga and watched small fish swimming in the water. By the time we turned to hike back to camp, we had all taken off our sweatshirts and jackets and were comfortably warm and pleasantly tired.
I feel like I’m somewhat of a broken record when it comes to expressing my joy at getting to lead family camping trips. It’s so obvious to me how important it is for families to step outside of their normal routine and have a weekend in the woods.
Does a trip like this change a family? Can a camping trip be transformative? I’m not sure. We had a lot of fun, but I’m not sure if we became different people during this weekend. We did, in this case, help parents who love the outdoors be able to introduce their children to the simple joy of falling asleep to the sound of running water, crickets, and wind in the trees. And the kids reminded their parents of just how adventurous they are.
I hope my family can always remember to, every once in awhile, break our comfortable patterns and revisit the simple things we have always loved!