Camping is Like a Box of Chocolates

You never know what you’re going to get.  And that’s some of the attraction.

On one trip last summer, the weather was barely warm enough for the kids to swim.  But we made the best of it by going for a long hike in the afternoon.  The forecast low was 5oC so we warmed ourselves by the fire and bundled up before bed.  Jammies first, pants on top, socks and an extra sweater all went on before we tucked inside our sleeping bags.  While Jack and Taylor enjoyed brand new Coleman sleeping bags, Craig and I zipped together our 30+year old singles and cuddled together for warmth.

Partway through the night my bladder demanded a trip to the washroom.  I clamoured out of the sleeping bag and across the jiggling air mattress in my bulky clothing.  As quietly as I could, I unzipped the tent, slipped on my shoes and trotted out into the darkness.  The moon was so incredibly bright in the crystal clear night sky that I scarcely needed my flashlight.  But MAN was it cold!  Is this what 5oC feels like???  It felt like the inside of our freezer!   By the time I got back my teeth were chattering and so I grabbed another pair of track pants before tumbling back onto the air mattress.  Both Taylor and Jack had their sleeping bags over their heads and Craig had the strings of his hoodie tied so tightly only his nose and mouth poked out.  I shivered for what seemed like hours and drifted on the edge of sleep until dawn.  In the morning we all complained about a terrible night’s sleep.

“My sleeping bag is horrible!” Jack said.

“Mine is too,” Taylor said.  “It wasn’t warm at all!”

“Are you kidding!?” Craig said.  “Those sleeping bags are brand new!  If you guys were cold, imagine Mommy and I in our sleeping bags from the ‘70’s.”

“But yours are thicker and fuzzy inside.  Ours are slippery and cold.”

“That’s called modern, space age, heat-retention technology.”

“Oh yeah?  Well if you think ours are so much better why don’t you trade us?”

“Sure!  But be careful with that offer… no tradebacks.”

That night we vowed to be better prepared.  Worried about the kids in our old fashioned
sleeping bags, I forced them into multiple pairs of pants, socks, shirts and sweaters with hoods.  We covered our sleeping bags with extra layers of beach towels and even the spare tablecloth.

Although the weather report had promised a low of only 8oC the second night was worse than the first.   Craig and I shivered inside the new Coleman bags.  We tucked our knees to our chest and ducked our heads underneath the top of the sleeping bags thinking that our breath might warm the inside.

“The kids seem to be sleeping ok,” I said.


“Do you think they’re ok?”


“How do we know that they haven’t slipped into a hypothermic coma?”

“No idea.”

Midway through the night my bladder called again, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to poke them each awake under the guise of checking to see if they had to go.

“I’m fine,” said Jack.

“I’m good,” said Taylor.

Turns out that the kids were right; those space age technology sleeping bags sucked!  Jack and Taylor had slept soundly while Craig and I fought for our lives.

A month or so ago I read an article in the Toronto Star about the increasing popularity of ‘glamping,’ a glamorous version of camping.  Glampers  can arrive with no equipment of their own, sleep on cozy king size beds in heated yurts, and in some cases are treated to five course meals of local organic food complete with wine pairings.

Well I must admit, digging through our cooler on day three and discovering that our hamburger patties have leaked red ‘juice’ into the water surrounding our single serve yogurt containers makes me long for the comforts of a dry refrigerator.  But that wouldn’t be camping, would it?  Our trip wouldn’t be complete without at least one “Aarrrgghh!” from Jack or Taylor as their near-perfect, golden marshmallow slides off a toasting rod and into the fire.  There’s a valuable life lesson wrapped up in keeping close watch on something as fragile as a marshmallow when it’s so close to fire, and I wouldn’t trade it for a whole plate of chef prepared S’mores.

I realize that our favourite camping spot close to the flush toilets in our local provincial park isn’t exactly a ‘Survivorman’ adventure, but still there is something about it that boosts one’s ego.  You are a member of a somewhat exclusive club if you love camping in a tent.  Not everyone can do it.

Yesterday we returned home from our final camping trip of the season and already I miss the soothing rhythm of camp life.

I love that we slept together side by side, the soft breath of my children within arm’s reach.  In the morning we stirred awake and felt the world slowly coming alive.  Tents zipped open and people stumbled out into the light of day.  Coolers opened
and closed and the salty smell of bacon floated in on the breeze.

By mid morning families were parading to the beach, each person carrying as many inflatable toys, chairs and refreshments as possible.  By mid-afternoon most of us
were ready for a rest.  Lying in the tent, reading our books, we were soothed by the breeze whistling through our mesh windows and the soft roar of poplar leaves above us, applauding some far off performance.

At dusk, the beach was empty again and once our dinner dishes were done, we went for a walk along the water.  The waves washed ashore leaving behind an endless succession of unique patterns in the smooth sand.  Sand castles decorated the landscape in various states of erosion, along with the odd masterpiece like a pair of
mermaid ladies sunbathing.  Even as it sat before us, we mourned this fragile piece of art left to the elements by its creator, and so we took a photo to try to preserve it.
Here and there we found gnarly bits of driftwood, a plastic handle from a toddler’s pail and smooth flat rocks for skipping.  It seemed like a picture from a magazine; Jack and Taylor running ahead along the water’s edge, silhouetted in  the sunset.

These times are like finding the cherry cordial in that box of chocolates.  And I’m willing to choke down the occasional vanilla cream to get to it.


One thought on “Camping is Like a Box of Chocolates

  1. Beautiful photo of the kids and a wonderful story, Diane. Sounds like you are making some fabulous memories together. Still not going to convince me to go camping again though! The last time, probably 30 years ago, I was even close to camping was when Kevin and I went to a cabin at a fishing camp. I knew I had made a horrible mistake when it was explained to me that it was so cold outside I had to take a toilet seat with me when making the trip to the outhouse. Who knew warm flesh on a toilet seat could be so dangerous?!? I confess to loving the amenities of flush toilets and hot running water. Maybe there has to be an element of children in the camping mix to make it worthwhile?
    Love, Winnie

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