Last Friday night I set out on my first camping adventure with my baby girls. My good buddy Mike was able to secure some land for our day point five campout about 20 minutes North East of Tyler. This is a great spot due to the proximity and the available camping amenities. About a month ago Mike was mentioning an upcoming father son campout to which I butted in and proposed the question “Daddy/Daughter”? “Of course!” was his reply. Sweet action! The Dixon’s were in.
I LOVE camping and any excuse to do more of it is perfectly fine with me. Since the birth of our children I have always desired to establish an at minimum annual camping trip with them. Being only 3 and 4 now, I was a little concerned that my hands would be too full taking both Addison and Kamryn. I was told that if I took one girl, I had to take both. Understandingly I agreed that was going have to be the plan. Challenges are good, right?
As the days approached I started putting out feeler statements like, “Who wants to go camping with daddy in a tent”?! to which Addi with her typical inhaling “Huuuuuhh!” continued her response with “I DO!” Kamryn however was skeptical as expected. She LOVES her mommy and the thought of mommy not being there took some convincing. That’s when the mention of Twizzlers, shelled peanuts, fruit snacks, and cuddling were thrown into the bargain. The chip that sealed the deal though was the statement about riding there in daddy’s truck. They adore riding side by side with me in Kip’s single cab pick-up.
With everything I could think of taking to occupy the “down time” that camping desperately beckons, I made sure to pack paper and crayons, comfort blankies, kites and snacks out the waa-zoo. Some how in my plea with Traci not to pack too much girly stuff, Addi and Kam’s clothes still happened to get packed into princess backpacks alongside their pillow-pets. Lovely! I’m in for it.
We excessively packed everything a week long camping trip would require, loaded it into the truck and set off towards our destination for the night. On the way I discussed what to expect when camping. I told them that camping was all about “Chill’n in God’s creation.” Actually I made them repeat that by posing the followup question, “Girls, what’s camping all about?”. “Chill’n in God’s creation.” was the nearly in sync reply from the two tiny angles to my right. “That’s right!” I closed the statement specifically for the oldest of the two angels who has some difficulty with “chill’n” as you could put it for this intense and overly questioning, 4 year old teenager.
In excitement we were some of the first to arrive. We traveled down the green grass field road on the property to the small fishing pond over the hill. This is where the festivities would be held. Beautiful. We met another father and his son and chatted about where we should setup our tent for the night. We found a semi-flat area and started working. The girls insisted on helping and I insisted to not prohibit their “helping”. We tacked the tent to the ground with its stakes, slid the fiberglass poles into the proper sleeves and then lifted the poles into place as the random formless tarps became a tent. Squeals and the joyous comment “Huuuuh, IT”S SOOOO BEAUTIFUL!” was exclaimed. Awesomeness.
We proceed to fill our house for the night with our gear. We built a pallet out of some old comforters and sleeping bags, rolled out their adult sized mummy sleeping bags and then topped them with their favorite blankets and pillow-pets. I laid out my mat and bag right next to theirs and smiled in wonder as to what night-time would bring.
Burgers and hotdogs were on the fire. All the participating dads and their sons had arrived and setup camp. Dinner was served, we ate the smoked saturated goodness and then decided to take a walk around the pond while there was still light. When we got to the other side we walked into a huge field of weeds/wildflowers. Addi and Kam frolicked about in the field. They were seriously yelling, “It’s SO BEAUTIFUL!” and “Oh WOW!” as they skipped through the weeds. Reminding me that the simple positive side of things is what is most important. Usually on strolls through our neighborhood we are posed the question, “Can I pick one of those?” to which we always reply, “Those aren’t our flowers. We can’t pick other people’s flowers.” This evening however, these were THEIR flowers. Ripened for the harvest and bloomed for their happiness. They were in what their tiny minds conceive as Heaven. I watched with gladness and a heart full of joy, a taste of what I perceive as Heaven.
We headed back to our campsite, set our camping chairs around the refueled campfire and awaited s’more time. As the other groups were still out exploring we decided to take another shorter walk now that it was getting dark. With their new special camping flashlights in hand, my little chicks followed me around the pond again. This time we couldn’t help but notice the night time beauty. The sky was clear as the 90 percent full moon began to take over the duty of illumination. “It’s sparkly and beautiful!” Addi stated in seeing the moons reflection on the slightly ripped waters of the pond. In returning with the other families, we made the customary campout dessert then headed off to bed. Before that though we had to “go potty” and brush teeth.
Fortunately for us there was a “cabin” on this property available for just that. Unfortunately I have 2 girls under my wing for this campout and every time they need to “go potty” we had to load up in the truck and drive up the hill to this house. I’m sure all in all we made about 6 trips there in the short span of time we were there. This house was the typical late 70’s house that has been stuffed with old hand-me down beds, tvs, that “old piano that we can’t figure out what to do with” and cookware specific for the weekend getaways and guest lodging that takes place here. The girls found this house a bit creepy at night, so did I. Usually we went straight in, did what we were there for, then scurried back to the truck. Adorning one of the wood planked walls was an old western, sepia colored saloon-like photo with some old cowboys holding rifles. The question was asked if those were the people who lived in the house. Another question was if this house was where the 3 little pigs lived. I couldn’t help but answer yes to that one.
We drove back to our tent, changed into out p.j.’s and got the girls snuggled into their sleeping bags which easily swallowed up their tiny, delicate bodies. All you could see was their sweet little round faces poking out from the top. Super cute. With a couple tight squeezes and more kisses than usual, we closed the day as in ritual with prayer and the “Barney song”. I laid down, slid into my bag and then the questions really started. They usually request to “iChat for a few minutes” at home and I knew with this new experience it would take a while for them to feel as ease and fall asleep. A few minutes of chatting and we were all fast asleep in our “beautiful” tent.
The next morning I woke to smiling girls, the sunrise, 40 degree temperatures and a nauseating headache. We took our customary morning trip to the potty and began to prepare breakfast for the group. Kam and Addi both held their share of fishing poles and even got a bit muddy. After breakfast we drove around to discover more of the vast property and the other ponds. I even talked chicken little (Addi) into crossing over a 2 by 12 board “bridge”. Next we broke out the Barbie kites and played more in the flower filled field. Beautiful day but as the minutes increased, so did the intensity of my headache. We quickly broke down our tent, threw our equipment and unrolled sleeping bags into the bed of the truck, said some quick good byes and headed home to rest.
Asking the girls what their favorite part of their first camping trip was Addi said “sleeping” and “throwing rocks into the lake”. Kamryn answered, “Going potty in the 3 little pigs house.” All in all this was a great first camping experience. I was honestly quite skeptical going into the weekend with Kamryn’s non-committal answer and the thought of these princesses enjoying the art of “chill’n in God’s creation.” They LOVED it and so did I. I am so excited to be able to continue what we’ve only just begun with this new adventure. I am a very proud daddy of the two cutest little campers around.