This weekend I am going camping at Pinery Provincial Park with my family and Sandbox Lady and her family of 3. We are car camping, also known as 'not camping'. It is rather amusing to look at the way I went camping with my family when I was young and this camping trip: I remember trekking through the rain for hours up and down mountains, portaging canoes over several kilometers and carrying everything needed for a week on my back and this weekend I will be bringing along extra pillows, twice as much food as I think I will need, stuffed animals and huge beach towels. Not that these differences are going to make this not fun of course, as although there is some appeal to the hardcore approach and I quite enjoy packing really light and making the best of it, it is hard to think that they are the same activity at all. Aside from the fact that we are going to use a tent in both situations they basically bear no resemblance to one another.
It has me wondering about the allure of camping and what people get out of it. Certainly part of me wants to use this as a training mission to get Elli acclimatized to tents and eating outdoors so I can more easily drag her along on later, more challenging trips as she gets older. That said, there is a lot of appeal to spending a few days outside, swimming, making sandcastles and sitting beside a campfire at night without having to deprive myself of all the joys of civilization. I don't know how much of this is me wimping out on doing a real trip and how much is just acknowledging that small children don't do well on long hikes and it wouldn't be much fun to try.
Last year we tried this same thing at the same place and it was a disaster. Elli was desperately sick both ways, refused to sleep until midnight and woke up with the sun. The weather was rainy and extremely unseasonably cold and we ended up spending much of our time shivering under our towels for warmth in the middle of July; not exactly the picture of summer relaxation. We ended up leaving a day early in the hopes of actually enjoying some part of the weekend. I might like to phrase it as a tactical retreat but anyone at all could be forgiven for calling us cowards who ran away from an exercise that surely could have built some character.
Regardless of the fact that the weather is supposed to be better this time we are still aiming at sleeping 3 people in a small tent including a small girl who constantly thrashes about and wakes up and has never learned to share a bed. Perhaps we need to follow a normal car camping paradigm and get roaring drunk in front of the fire every night, at least that way we will sleep deeply and soundly and not worry at all about the twitchy little person beside us. I hope I don't end up crashing in the van on a flattened out driver's seat to avoid an overcrowded tent, that would be a rather poor set of sleeping arrangements from nearly any perspective.