Last year, at least I think it was last year, my mother and father in-law aquired a camper. My sister and brother in-law also bought a camper. Last year was the first year that all of Jeff's side of the family started getting together to camp. We hadn't been camping with the kids, and really hadn't camped other than a night here or there in a very long time. Come to find out, pretty much all kids LOVE camping. I remember loving camping and although it is a little more difficult as an adult, I still really enjoy it.
As a kid, you don't have to pack up all the food, you really don't care about showering, sleeping on the ground poses no problem and bug bites are there regardless if you went camping or not. The only thing I distinctly remember hating were the bathrooms when I was a kid, and actually they don't bother me so much as an adult. I have seen the worst of the worst in Italy and Japan, a mere state park bathroom seems homey and scented with the outdoors, more rustic than disgusting and cannot compete with a millenia old hole in the ground at the Colisseum.
This year we ventured to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois, it is lovely. It has 20ish miles of trails that lead to canyons and rivers and waterfalls for the kiddos to explore. And even though it is in Illinois, it has trees! Woods actually, think woods that breed an amazing amount of mosquitos and poison ivy. The kids loved the woods and were able to run around behind our campsites for hours chasing each other and exploring. We are wary of camping in Illinois simply because it is flat and who wants to camp in a field? I think Jac and Mia said it best when they were concerned over the "corn cobs that are following us" on the way north. Those suspicious corn fields literally follow you everywhere in Illinois! But it was a great trade off, we got a few degrees cooler even though we had to endure the flat endless corn field of a drive.
Sleeping on the ground and being pregnant, wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It would have been better if the air mattress hadn't lost air halfway through the night. (Is it really impossible to make an air mattress that doesn't lose air, really). But, the fact that I got to use my in-laws bathroom in the middle of the night twice made everything alright. I was very concerned about that. There were port-a-potties about eight campsites up, which would have been less than delightful at 2am and of course there always are the woods. But come on, I am not above peeing on the ground in a worst case scenario, when you gotta go, you gotta go. It is not something I strive to do, but in the middle of the pitch black with poison ivy everywhere, I think not. Jeff, by the way, has not qualms about peeing on the ground in the middle of the night with no flashlight, go figure.
Highlights of the trip, hiking to the St Louis waterfall was great. It was an easy hike that even I could do. The food of course, I love camping food and must have loved it so much that I gained two pounds. (How can that happen in two days? Hopefully it is just water weight.) Evenings around the campfire, although the mosquitos were VERY persistant. I have been trying to stay away from pesticides, but after being bit about 40 times in an hour we pretty much dipped ourselves in Off. Not that it seemed to do much. Poor Jac, he actually faired pretty well on his body, but he got two bites on his face. His nose and eyes swelled up like someone had punched him, I kid you not it was awful. After two dose of Benadryl he is looking more normal.
Only one more thought to leave you with, Friday nights at a campground are Hell. Even family camping where no alcohol is premitted (although we determined that some funny stuff was floating through the air...), people are beyond obnoxious on Friday night. Dogs allowed to bark, dragging a full cooler down two campsites in the middle of the road, kids playing tag, Grateful Dead sing along with a portable amp (I am not joking), and the coup de grace a car alarm set off for some ten minutes. All of this happening after 11pm. Call me old, but I don't think I acted that badly in my heyday, and these people all had kids with them. However, Saturday, worn out from the lack of sleep and the lovely hiking the whole entire campground was out by 10:30. Earplugs are definitely in order for next year.