Camping is like flying

You consider it successful when nothing unexpected happens.

Shenandoah National Park, July 2019

Shenandoah National Park, July 2019

Brian and I took the kids camping this weekend effectively ending a 8+ year hiatus from packing, tent-pitching, and fire-building that started around the time I got pregnant with Marin. It all seemed really hard (and unnecessary frankly) with little kids.

Last winter we decided we had sufficient voice control to keep them on the trail, out of the trees, and away from the fire. So with a new monster tent purchased and a site reserved, we told the kids. “Guess what?! We’re going camping next weekend!”


Worried faces.

And, then you could actually see the question bubbles forming above their heads.

“Are there bears there?” “Will we see one?” “Will it eat us?” It went on and on with every possible iteration of that essential question. It turned into the longest running conversation about bears ever in the history of the world. We did our best to assure them there was no cause for alarm. It didn’t work. The inquisition continued.

When the weekend arrived, we got our stuff together and headed out. My mom says camping is like moving which is so, so true. You need something from every room in your house. The van was PACKED.

Within 20 minutes of driving into Shenandoah National Park out of Front Royal, we came across a bunch of stopped cars with people pointing at the hill. “A baby bear!”

I held my breath— both selfishly wanting to see one and not wanting to see one at the same time. Alas, the little guy disappeared before we spotted him so we drove on. No bear.

Checking into Mathews Arm, we were inundated with information on bears and how to store our food. The right answer is always c). In the locked car. Got it! So we parked, started to unpack, and put up our new tent. Even with “help”, it only took about 14 minutes. We blew up the air mattresses (oh yeah, we were not joking around) and made our beds. We spotted lots of beautiful butterflies but no bears.

We then headed off on our hike. The map said it was an easy, 1.5 miles loop that would take about 1.5 hours. At first, I thought it must be a mistake and then looked at the three pairs of short legs around me and figured they were exactly right. To our delight, there was about 90 percent less whining than anticipated. About halfway, they claimed to desperately need a break- which was really just a ploy to pick the M&Ms out of their trail mix. Reinvigorated, we made it back. No bears.

Then, there were multiple hands of Uno and a long game of “Amazon package delivery” in and out of the van. No bears.

We made dinner and went to the ranger program. Ranger Denise told us lots of funny and interesting stories about bears. But, we saw no bears.

We then made s’mores, brushed our teeth, and got settled in for the night. No bears.

The next morning, we woke up to gorgeous sunshine coming through the trees and birds chirping all around. As Brian made pancakes and sausage, Marin looked across the picnic table asked, “Did a bear get us in the night?” I was confused. Was this typically literal kid asking some kind of meta, surreal question thinking we were all sitting around a picnic table in heaven? She clarified, “No. Did one come to our campsite?” Nope, no bears.

As we’re driving out of the park, Linc in the way backseat reflectively says, “Hey, remember that red car yesterday that said they saw a bear but there was no bear? They were just wasting my time.”

I hear you buddy and am so glad. We needed this first camping trip to be completely uneventful. No surprises and no bears!

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