Family Camping, inexpensive or too costly


at Cade's Cove 2013
Isn't it all about getting back to nature, the intimacy with grass, trees and rivers while stripping down to the bare necessities, casting off our modern day lives?

I am the outdoorsy type. I can “rough it.” Or at least, I use to could.

In my younger days, going tent camping, which is known as primitive camping these days, was considered recreational.

It was also a great way to have a cheap vacation with the kids.

Back then, I had a young back, a firm bottom and was not so addicted to comfort.

Today, my seen-its better days posture craves memory foam, tempurpedic stuff or sleep numbers. Add my hot flashes which call for an air conditioner and a fan, my aging hair craves a shower, hair gels and hair dryers, my morning routine requires a coffee pot, my nightly bathroom visits necessitate nearby plumbing; all making my comfort zone high on my priority list.

Anything less is miserable.

Camping is, and can be….miserable. Yet, as hard as it is to go through it is much easier than saying no to my boys.

Not all Moms’ are camping mothers. 

However, I am all for an adventure and when the guys get the fever, three pairs of eyes stare hungrily at me while I digest the dirty word ‘camping’ being pitched.

Flashes of memories made by a campfire, the best tasting eggs and bacon, the recollection of the sound of quiet, star lit skies so vivid away from civilization made me say yes.

But my enthusiasm waned quickly as my hubby began announcing the plan.

Happily he exclaimed, “It’s going to be in the forties at night, maybe thirties.” Great, I thought, cold camping. Had to be better than hundred degree camping which I endured a few summers ago, but thirties? Must camping be always in the extremes?

As we packed and planned, I realized camping is not what it used to be.

What happened to roughing it? It seems we try to recreate home comforts. Camping has become high tech and gadgety.  Our planning included computer research, online reservations and Google map visual tours and GPS navigation to route us to our destination.

Once the SUV is loaded, bike racks filled, shell packed on top, we begin the journey to the campground, this time it’s another trip to Cade’s Cove in the Smokies.

We bring technology with us on the ride: phones, IPods, DVD players, and DS video games should keep the back seat occupied, guaranteeing a few less, “Are we there yet” whines.

Arriving after dark at our campsite is no biggie, LED lighting is bright, new fangled tents almost put themselves up, and you already know your campsite number and instructions.

Thankfully, the bathroom was next to our site and I stuck a couple of solar landscaping lights so I would not have to walk in darkness, which ended up being a great ideal since a huge pile of bear droppings was a foot away.

I found out later the bear visited our site late at night and I have wondered what I would have done when on my nightly visit to the rest room had I encountered the bear. Screaming? Running? Fainting? Alas, I will have to wait till next time.

I was out of touch with the world for awhile, no social media status to check, no pinning, no posting, no breaking news and no bells and whistles. Fresh air, biking and hiking and amazing views were the replacement.

That is why people camp.

Before, it was a way to have an inexpensive trip with family. Today, it’s a bit more costly to camp. The options of a primitive campsite to a full electrical one can start at $20 bucks a night but average $40 plus.
Cabin camping is now offered more and more. It is a small cabin or structure that only has bed frames and thin mattresses, no bathroom, just a room and it can costs as much as a decent hotel room. At least at a low rent motel you don’t have to put shoes on, tromp through woods several yards away and hope Michael Myers or Jason aren’t hiding in the shower stalls when you get there.

Usually, the only scary villains are spiders. But I can’t talk about it yet, I may need therapy.

With expensive camp sites, today’s camping begins to tally up. You add camping accessories from fancy pots and pans, fold-up chairs with cup holders; fold up aluminum sticks for making smores to luxurious sleeping bags. If your budget allows you can purchase an expensive blow up mattress, hundreds of dollars, but we bought a second-hand inexpensive one for less than five bucks.

The recreational activities use to be cheap too. A store bought bike to ride and decent shoes to hike were all you needed. Today, the bikes are fancier with fancier bike carriers and must wear fancy helmets.
My hiking shoes are the most expensive shoes I own. My special hiking socks were eighteen dollars. Socks! We have hi tech hiking sticks, breathable fabrics for clothing, hydration packs on our backs and a hand held GPS. You carry ultra lite gadgets for the just-in-case you need it scenario. By the way, “Ultra lite” is another phrase for ‘cost more.’

Some folks pay thousands of dollars to outfit their hiking or camping lifestyles.

Don’t forget, on vacation you must bring a camera. Digital is today’s way to capture your memories, whether by phone, IPod, or digital camera. No more 24 numbered rolls of film to hope you got something decent at
the end of your trip only to discover your film didn't catch, or got exposed, or you have shaky fingers.

Now as I reflect about my camping experience, the question is, was it worth it? Did I fulfill my objectives?
If my objectives were to get back to nature, yes. Even with all the technology around me, in my camping trips I have seen some breathtaking sights and stood at the base of gorgeous waterfalls and felt the spray. I have seen Elk and heard their bugling as they did their strutting stuff. I have been close to bears, 8 point bucks, turkey and foxes all within the campsite.

If my objective was to have an inexpensive vacation, then yes. Compared to our Walt Disney World vacation, we reduced our cost at least four thousand dollars.

If my objective was to spend quality time with my family and get away from the daily routine of life, well then….mission accomplished.

The most important excuse to camp is to take the kids away from their routine, their plugged in attitude and to tune in their parents. Kids love the full attention. Why even on the ride to camp, they ignored their gadgets and talked and asked questions! Now that’s what I call a successful adventure.

Plus, I see my favorite chiropractor once a month.


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