This past weekend the family & I ventured out on our first camping trip. It was supposed to be Mother's Day weekend, but a stomach bug postponed the trip. My hubby & I had been anxiously awaiting this trip, and had talked for a few years now about when the right time would be to take a rising 3 year old - we could not have timed it better!For starters, we are huge fans of the NC State Parks system, and now that you are able to make reservations online & via telephone, instead of "first come, first served," it makes planning that much easier. We selected Hanging Rock State Park for it's proximity from our home (less than 2 hour drive west) & the activities. They have plenty of well appointed family campgrounds & very easy access to water, bath houses, hiking trails, etc. For those that are feeling a bit more inclined to stay closer to the indoors, they even have cabins to rent!
We have always been avid "outdoors people," with our most recent trip to the Canadian Rockies being a 5 day ultralight backpacking excursion. This trip was a serious change of pace, and a real luxury when it comes to camping - coolers, air mattresses, real food (not the dehydrated variety) - this preggo was in heaven ;)
All in all, the trip was a total success with just the right mix of downtime & adventure. After heading to bed fairly late Friday night, Wyatt slept until 8:15 on Saturday morning! Slept through all of the other kids at the campground riding around past the site on their scooters & bikes, and the early morning sounds & smells of campfires & breakfasts being made. A hike lasting a few short miles on Saturday to a waterfall kept us busy, as well as story time up at the Hanging Rock Visitor's Center. Of course there was plenty of time set aside for enjoying a campfire, as well as roasting first marshmallows.
No matter what your level of camping/outdoor experience is, I think anyone would enjoy a camping trip to one of the awesome State Parks in our system. Here are some tips I can share after going with a toddler (as a side note, I have not been paid to mention any of these products - they were just what we found to be useful!):
1) Get them their own flashlight - we selected one that was both a lantern & a flashlight. This way, we had the ones we needed, then he had his own to play with all night. We also grabbed a few glow sticks from the dollar bin, which were both entertaining & can serve as a night light in the tent.
2) We purchased a family tent that divides into 2 rooms, which definitely made it easier for all parties to sleep through the night. Wyatt knew we were right next door, but we didn't have to feel like we were right on top of each other. The tent we selected has plenty of room for more than one child on each side, plus each side had it's own door making it easier for Mom & Dad to come to bed after everyone else was asleep without disturbing them.
3) The other purchase we loved for the trip was a kid's Aerobed. Wyatt is still not in a bed, but even so, this mattress has 4 inch sides to it, so throughout all the tossing & turning each night (and there was plenty of it) he never rolled out onto the ground. It came with a fleece sheet, so all he needed was a blanket over top, or even just some warm footed PJ's this time of year in NC. I am already looking forward to using the bed again on vacations & hotel trips.
4) Although being away from all the things we rely on everyday - cell phones, PDA's, Internet, TV, etc - it was such a nice break for us. Wyatt absolutely loved all the undivided & uninterrupted attention from Mom & Dad, as any child would. We were also able to put him to task on quite a few things that he seemed to find pretty rewarding - finding different sized sticks to help with the fire, holding the tent stakes for Dad, helping hammer in the tent stakes & most importantly how to roast a good marshmallow.
Here are some favorite pics from the trip - I hope it inspires you to get out & enjoy the great outdoors with your little one(s) this spring & summer!
When Kelly isn't spraying on bug spray in the great outdoors, she can be found blogging about her toddler adventures at Monkey Man.