We did a lot more camping this year than we usually manage to do, which was awesome. A lot of it was in Algonquin Park. Don't get me wrong, I love Algonquin, but I wish we'd had the chance to do some back country trips, or check out a few parks we'd never been to before.
Every camping trip is a learning experience. You'll see things you've never seen before, go to a place you've never been, or learn a new skill. It's one of the reasons I don't feel guilty about pulling the kids from school to do a few days of camping.
So what are some of the things we learned this summer?
1) I learned that I can survive a night camping alone with the kids. This is a big one because if we'd had more opportunities this summer, I know I could have gone with them again. I might still go for one last trip with them even though Chris won't be able to go.
2) We pack way too much stuff. I'm not sure why this hasn't gotten any easier, but we still manage to cram the car so full we can barely fit the kids in there. Usually people begin to reduce the things they bring based on what they do and don't use...I guess we haven't gotten there yet. Or maybe we just don't use our space efficiently.
3) We still haven't gotten the knack of organizing ourselves before a trip. On the morning we leave, we're still running around in a panic trying to think of the things we'll need. This is something I'll be working on this winter: proper lists, better storage solutions, and menu planning.
4) I added 5 species of bird to my list of ones I've seen.
5) I'm horrible about remembering to bring things for the kids to do. Then Chris brings them too much...I think designating that job to the kids would be a good idea. Then again, when I told them to put any books or little games they wanted into their bags, Squatchie brought a roll of yellow electrical tape. God only knows what he planned to do with it.
6) If you plan properly, you should have hardly any food left. Usually on the last day of a trip, we will grill up all the leftover hotdogs or sausages and pig out. I've gotten better about not having a huge pile of snack type foods left over in the food bin, which means we can consolidate things into one bin and save space in the car.
7) Trying to organize a trip with a large group can be hard. You have to be prepared for plans to change or that trying to get everyone gathered for an activity will take longer than you might wish for. If there are little kids involved, it's going to take even longer. It's probably easier for your sanity to just plan on a trip where everyone sits around and chats or do things close to camp.
8) Cooking with cast iron isn't as scary as I thought it would be, in fact, it can be really fun. I was leery of getting a dutch oven because I thought I'd end up not doing something right and it would get rusty. I was also pretty sure I would screw up the cooking method and either burn everything or never get it to cook. I was wrong. It's so easy and clean up is actually easier than when you use normal pots.
9) Every camp site has merit. I spend so much time agonizing over picking a site that will be perfect, but it's nearly impossible to properly judge them based on the pictures on line. Sites I've thought would be horrible turned out to be nice, and sites that looked amazing online turned out to be less than ideal. It's kind of like picking out a hotel for a holiday. You mostly want a place to sleep and cook...and will probably be off doing other things like swimming or hiking the rest of the time, so really, as long as it's not in the middle of a flood plane, it's going to be fine. I've learned to base my choice on other criteria...is it close to an outhouse so I don't have to walk a long way in the middle of the night?
10) Camping with dogs isn't as frustrating as I used to think. Usually, we would bring the dogs for the first day, but after tripping over them and listening to them whine because they don't like being tied up, we end up driving them home and asking the neighbor to watch them. This worked when we camped close to home, but this May when we stayed at Presqui'le, it was too far to bring them home. Other than the inevitable smells that can quickly fill a small camper or tent, its not so bad.
I'm sure there are other things but at the moment those are the ones that stand out.