We are now a camping family

DANIEL AND SIX-year-old Joni arrange kindling in the firepit under a vibrant rainbow at our lean-to site at Bomoseen State Park this month. We were thankful to have the lean-to for shelter during the big thunderstorm that passed through earlier that afternoon. Independent photo/Megan James

JONI AND A friend peer over the edge of a dock at Bomoseen State Park as the sun goes down. Independent photo/Megan James

THREE-YEAR-OLD Frankie was delighted to discover this old phone booth at Rivers Bend Campground in New Haven. It doesn’t make calls anymore, but it provided many minutes of pretend play for all of us. Independent photo/Megan James

This story first appeard on minibury.com.

At the beginning of the month my family went camping — twice. I had never camped with my children before. I loved camping as a kid, but the idea of sleeping in a tent with a baby or toddler seemed … unpleasant.

Then the pandemic happened. Everything was canceled or closed. Suddenly camping seemed like the perfect (only) thing to do to make summer feel special. And now that my kids are 6 and 3, we’re all feeling a little more flexible about sleep. So, inspired by a friend who has been camping with her two young kids almost every week this summer, we headed to two separate sites in one week: Bomoseen State Park in Castleton on a Wednesday night, and Rivers Bend Campground in New Haven on that Saturday.

Bomoseen was beautiful, with a nice wide beach for swimming and a really cool playground that was open and practically empty of other kids. Our lean-to site was situated on a marsh where we watched a family of goslings preening their feathers on a lily pad. An unusually friendly chipmunk visited us regularly, looking for snacks.

Rivers Bend was more crowded — it was a weekend, after all — but still pleasant. It’s a privately owned campground, not a state park, so it had a different feel (lots of RVs). The camp store was open for essentials, but the swings and pool were closed due to COVID concerns. Masks were required in the bathrooms, and everyone we saw adhered to this rule. We loved swimming and wading in the river. Three-year-old Frankie loved the payphone, which was inoperable, but that didn’t stop her from making countless pretend calls to everyone she knows.

Here’s what we learned from our first foray into family camping. Camping with little kids is fun! What a joy/relief to break out of our routine for a night. It is also exhausting! All four of us were wiped out the day after.

Need gear? Ask on Front Porch Forum. We scored a palatial tent in great condition for a nominal price earlier this season. Bring toilet paper and trash bags. The public bathrooms at both Bomoseen and Rivers Bend were open, clean and uncrowded. But you might not feel comfortable using public bathrooms during a pandemic. Or you might not want to trek all the way there in the middle of the night. Good to have another option. (For more info on pooping on the go, head online to our Minibury story at tinyurl.com/PoopOnTheGo.)

Bring a rope to set up a clothesline — because clothes will inevitably get wet. If you know a downpour is in the forecast for the afternoon, put your tent up after it rains.

Opt for the lean-to. It’s great to have a dry place that is not your tent to change out of your swimsuit or wet clothes. The lean-to at Bomoseen was big enough to set up a tent inside it if you really want to ensure you stay dry all night.

Brush up on how to identify poison ivy. My older daughter touched it at some point and soon enough her entire body was covered.

Bring bikes. One of my kids’ favorite parts was zooming around the campsites on their bikes, using the map we got from the park entry as an adventure guide. Bring coloring books. We felt a bit silly packing these, but the girls spent a good hour on these one night while the grownups made dinner. Go swimming after dinner. Ignore bedtime. Watch the fireflies.

If you’re only going for one night, brew coffee at home before you leave and bring it in a thermos to heat up the next morning. Sure, it’s old coffee but it’s easier than brewing coffee at a campsite.

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