Every summer my extended family gathers at a Wisconsin State Park for a long weekend of camping. This year we camped in the South Kettle Moraine, and had the poor timing of hitting both the drought and the heat wave. Upon arrival, everyone was disappointed to learn campfires had been banned. The kids love roasting s’mores and staying up way past bedtime watching the flames . The adults sit in a circle around the campfire each night catching up and reminiscing. Most of us wondered: What’s the point of camping without a campfire?
The first thing I learned this trip is that you can’t keep a Schmidty down. We are a resourceful bunch, determined to have a fun weekend despite the weather. No one cancelled when they saw the weather forecast or turned back when they received the bad news about the campfire ban. When the kids wanted to roast marshmallows, we got out the portable gas grill. When the adults wanted to chat, they made their circle of chairs in the shade or in the lake. When it got too dark for the kids to play, we pulled out the Lite Sprites Tree of Life light-up toy to serve as their “campfire”. We may have cancelled on canoeing to instead see an air conditioned movie on the hottest afternoon, and perhaps set a new record for ice cream and swimming during one of our trips, but we still bonded together as a family and came home with plenty of new memories. Isn’t that the point of a family trip?
The second thing I learned this trip is that nature is even tougher than a Schmidty. Sure, the grass in the campground was completely brown and dead because there are no sprinklers in the Kettle Moraine. But still the trees were green and the scenery was beautiful. And after only one brief thunderstorm, which we actually enjoyed cooling off in, new blades of green grass were already shooting up among the brown. Every night I fell asleep to the song of crickets and every morning I woke to the chirping of birds. The running joke was you could spot five chipmunks running around the campsite at any moment, though I’d have preferred not encountering one inside the women’s bathroom while I was taking a shower. And my daughter smelled more flowers and chased more birds, butterflies, and fireflies than I could count. The forest wildlife can’t hide out inside with air conditioning, and I’m glad we didn’t either. My daughter was thrilled to earn her Wisconsin Explorer patch and she brought home a firefly she caught for show and tell. In the course of four days she learned more about nature than an entire unit in her classroom might teach her. And she can’t wait to go back next year. Isn’t that the point of camping?