Camping has long been a type of therapy for me. Having camped since I was a kid, I’ve always loved it, and when life goes haywire, it becomes a necessity. When my brother died in 2008, I asked my husband for one thing: Go camping! When Peanut was six weeks old, it was time: Go camping! When my step-dad stepped out on our family, we knew what we needed to do: Go camping! When we celebrated our anniversary last year, we did what we love to do: Go camping.
Camping has found us on sea-level beaches, 10,000-foot mountain sides, commercial campgrounds, forest campgrounds, wilderness holes-in-the-trees, and the backs of our vehicles. But after joining our off-road club in 2009, camping has primarily been for the sake of Jeeping or hiking or some other grand adventure. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! 😉
But this year, we decided to take one of our summer camping trips to just, well, camp! No Jeeping rocky trails, no hiking 14,000-foot peaks, no surfing foamy waves. Just drive somewhere out there, set up tents, lounge by fires, drink beer, tell stories, cook breakfasts, read, wander, play, and simply soak in the sights and sounds of nature. And Labor Day weekend was the perfect time.
Our club scheduled a trip to Ouray on Labor Day weekend, but we had chosen to camp and wheel the San Juan’s last month, so we had a weekend to play on our own. My favorite kind of camping is in a forest campground, since commercial campgrounds are so cramped, crowded, and costly, and wilderness camping doesn’t offer the luxury of a restroom – beyond digging a hole, that is! My mom was in total agreement, so we found a quaint, quiet forest service campground not too far from home, packed up, and headed out for a weekend of rest and relaxation in Opher Creek.
We arrived Friday midmorning, and found the perfect camp spot, complete with a refreshing babbling brook, delicious wild raspberries, and plenty of solitude and space – as well as a vault-style bathroom! Peanut immediately began to explore her new surroundings, and found the stream nearly as fun as the large rock she could climb up and jump off into her daddy’s arms.
From the time we arrived, the fragrance of the pristine mountain air invited rest and withdrawal from the everyday. We played, snacked, and napped. Napped! Fell asleep! In the afternoon! A sleepy siesta refreshed us all for an exciting evening of camp cooking and fireside fun. Spatters of rain threatened to chase us inside for an early bed time, but soon enough, the skies cleared and the stars came out to play.
After Peanut and my mom headed to bed, Skot and I sat by the fire and talked long into the night. A couple of chilly hours later, we slipped into our thick sleeping bags, being careful not to wake the slumbering child a few feet from our bed.
The next morning was cold but sunny, and a warm fire along with a plateful of chorizo and egg breakfast hash was just the ticket to warm us up – both inside and out.
After breakfast Skot did the dishes (yes, really) and chopped some wood for the evening fire while Peanut helped stack. He is a man of many talents!
The rest of the day was a delightful blend of climbing up rocks, snacking, sitting by the creek, resting, and reading.
The evening was warmer than the night before, but a camp fire is always mandatory, and its flickering light warded of the late August chill. There was no sight of rain and the stars were especially bright and beautiful. Once again, Skot and I stayed up after our other two ladies went to sleep, but pretty soon we climbed into bed and snuggled up for our last night of camping.
Sunday morning was warm and breezy. I started breakfast: A ham and hash-brown maple pancake sandwich with a side of cheesy scrambled eggs.
Peanut helped her daddy disassemble the tent and clean it out.
After the breakfast dishes were done and the camp site packed up, we climbed back in our Jeeps and headed home. Oh, yes, just in case you thought this wasn’t really about Jeeping with Kids, here’s proof that it was!