What do you do when you have two kids, a truck tent and the weekend off? You go camping of course! I spent the past weekend with my kids up at our favorite place, Rustic Rafters. We packed up the truck and headed out Friday after I got off work. Traffic was backed up in the construction zones and we didn’t make camp till late! Arriving at our destination we had less than a half an hour before sunset to set camp and get the truck hastily unloaded. We were up to the challenge! Like a well oiled machine, the kids set right to work unloading and stacking our wood from the truck while I grabbed the totes and table and started work on unfolding the tent.
Before the organized chaos began I fished out my reflector sticker pack from Gear Aid and stickered the kids! There was no way I was going to let it get dark and be able to keep track of them! They worked like a charm and the kids loved the fun camping shapes! Being retro reflective, the light from your torch bounces off the stickers and right back at you and gave me an extra bit of peace of mind!
With the wood stacked next to the fire pit my little helpers set to building the tent poles and hooking up the tie downs. As Noah was coming out from putting in the last pole, Zoe was going in and unrolling the air bed I passed up to her. Noah went into the truck and came back with the pump! Bam! We were in our bags, watching a movie on my tablet in no time! I was so proud of them!!
The water from the trees made a pop-pop sound on the tent and the kids thought it was funny. About 12:30a that pop-pop had transitioned to more of deluge with a side of splash-splash! I had opened the front vent on the rainfly to let the sweet pine air flow through the tent and lull us to sleep, but now I found myself getting wet from the rain coming in. I quickly sprang up, more like undulated on a squishy air mattress and promptly closed the vent. I went back to sleep expecting to find all manner of condensation in the tent and on our sleeping bags in the morning…Much to my surprise, there was no moisture! The bags were dry and so was the inside of the tent! I wish the same could be said about our firewood!
We rolled out of the tent, rubbed the sleep from our eyes and hoofed it to the bathrooms and returned to camp and began working on our breakfast fire.….Yeah right! The unexpected rain from the night before had gotten our wood wet but just on one side, no biggie I can work with that…the real problem was that even though my waterproof matches were waterproof, the box and striker strip were not… I managed to get one lit, the tinder going and then nothing…out it went. The box disintegrated in my hands and I was left standing there, with cardboard mush and no fire. I felt the gaze of my now ravenous children burning through my soul, their little eyes showing the worry and despair at no fire, no sizzling bacon and certainly no pancakes!
This was a perfect teachable moment….
The situation was not as dire as they thought. I always have a backup plan and a backup plan to the backup plan… I set the example by staying calm and upbeat. “ I got this guys” I said as I walked to the truck and grabbed my “Bad Things Can Happen Bag”. I knew that in these damp conditions it was going to take all my fire starting knowledge to get one going. I started at the basics and had them next to me as I did. We made feather sticks, looked for dry-ish kindling…inside the bark of fallen trees, brown pine needles still on the tree and birch bark… Tinder came in the form of dryer fluff that I always have in my bag.
Out came Old Reliable (fire steel) and poof! Moments later we had a roaring fire! They were part of the process every step. I showed them that level heads prevail and where to look find what you need in nature and to never give up or lose hope… It was a great life lesson and not something that can be learned sitting in front of a tv playing video games! This is what camping is all about! We stayed in camp that day, me, cleaning and organizing while the kids worked on their new found wilderness skills.
With three meals down and the sun beginning to set, we got ready for bed and gathered round the fire. As Noah and Zoe roasted marshmallows I played my guitar. All was right with the world. A beautiful tapestry of stars poked through the foliage overhead while the fire glowed and crackled at our feet and my children on either side of me, breathing easy and enjoying just being.
Into the tent we headed, tuckered out from the days chores. We each slipped into our own sleeping bags and soon, the little ones were fast asleep. I followed shortly there after. It was quite cozy with the three of us in there! Round about 3am I was awoken by the calls of coyotes. Calling and yipping as they moved about the forest. They make an eerie sound those calls…and it never fails to mesmerize, almost enchant if you will…these wild spirits running free, no master but instinct and hunger looking for their next meal.
Building on the previous days fire lesson and stoked up another one and I again cooked.
We had a fantastic breakfast and decided to break camp, shoot some arrows and do some exploring. We took the truck and headed out into the woods. Stopping at our secret spot, the kids jumped out and grabbed their bows. They have come such a long way with their archery and I was impressed by the results. Noah broke out his BB gun and finished off the targets. We mounted up, arms tired from pulling on bow strings and headed for the trails.
With their heads hanging out the windows we eased our way down the two tracks and around mud holes. The kids have learned that those are the best places to look for animal prints and excitement would build as we approached them. Several times we stopped and got out of the truck and see if we could read the story in this mess of prints around these windows into the soul of the forest. My Two have gotten quite skilled at the “Who, When and Which Way” of reading sign and then the imaginations start to run and off we go!
Our tracking and being observant was rewarded when Noah spotted a doe with her fawn and a bit further on when Zoe pointed out a spike horn and a doe sprinting through the bush. The kids get such a thrill from watching wild life and Rustic Rafters is our ground zero for that!
The sun was hanging high in the sky as we wheeled about and onto the highway heading home. Another great adventure in Northern Michigan in the books and a few more yet to go!
As always, thanks for reading!