Camping With Kids

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Categories: I'm Only One Grandma, What's it Like, Living Green?

In the Middle of Nature

Jill Vanderwood at

When my husband was away with the Navy Reserves, my sister-in-law Jean and I decided to take our kids camping without the help of our husbands. Together we had eight kids between the ages of 1 and 12--four each. We would have so much fun! After all, how hard could it be?

We prepared for this trip, down to the food and sleeping arrangements.

When we arrived at the campground, we still had plenty of daylight left. We planned to set up the tents and get started making dinner. Right away, the older kids wanted to take off to explore the nearby creek. We asked them to get their gear out of the car and help with the tents.

While getting the gear out of the car, someone locked my keys in the trunk.

Since the car doors weren’t locked, my ten-year-old son figured out how to get into the trunk, by pulling out the backseat and climbing through. He got the keys out and both moms gave a sigh of relief. We were then able to retrieve the camping gear and began putting up tents.

Home Away from Home Camping with kids
Home away from Home! Camping with Kids!

Next, the keys got locked in Jean’s car.

Camping with Kids locking the keys in the car
Oh No! This can’t be happening !

Her car was carrying most of the food!

My ‘MacGyver’ son rigged up a stick with a loop of plastic line so he could slip it into a crack of the widow and lift the inside lock to the open position.

This operation took over an hour, as he tried to get the loop onto the lock. It also occupied all the kids while Jean and I continued to set up the camp. Long after the other kids lost interest in the project, he continued working on the door locks.


Unlock the Lock
Unlock the Lock! Or walk to the Ranger station to call AAA

The older kids got to explore nature and we had no more trouble, until the nighttime—when two of Jean’s younger kids were afraid to sleep inside a tent. She traded off, walking with the kids. When she’d put one down the other would wake up! Her little ones alternated, crying for most of the night. My kids and I finally fell asleep, but Jean didn’t get any sleep.

Camping is fun! Camping with Kids
Camping is Fun!

Our plan was to camp for one more night, but after the first night we were tired, dirty and ready to go home.

Jean and I took charge of the keys. After some coaxing, the cars were packed. Kids piled into both cars, and we were on the road!

car is packed
The Cars Are Packed!

A Very Narrow Road Led To and From the Campground

Camping with Kids
a narrow road
It’s impossible to pass another car

A very narrow, dirt road led in and out of the campground. There was only room for one car to use the road at a time. If a car came in the opposite direction, someone had to move out of the way,  to let them pass.

Jean went down the road first, until a big diesel pickup, pulling a trailer came from the opposite direction.  They tried to pass so Jean pulled over. I then, followed her lead, but I pulled over too far.

I only pulled partway into the ditch!

After the guy passed, I tried and tried, with a carload of hungry, hot, whiny kids, but couldn’t get back onto the road. We got out and walked to a nearby ranger’s house to get help. He drove us back to the car. The ranger put wood under my tires, but it didn’t work.

He directed me, “Okay, go forward, just a little bit. Okay, now reverse!”

Camping with Kids
running and playing outdoors
Kids ran and played, while we tried to get the car out of the ditch!

Finally, he gave up and said, “Look, these guys put you into this ditch. They will need to get you out!”

The ranger asked us to describe the truck and trailer, he then drove into the campsite and found the guys with the truck. This big diesel came back, tires high above the ground and a high step up to the cab. It only took a few minutes with a tow rope and we were out of the ditch and back on the dirt road, going home.

towing a white car out of a ditch
It didn’t take long to get my car out of the ditch!

We promised the kids ice cream when we got back to Jean’s house. I took a shower while the kids ran through the sprinklers.

Kids having fun
Kids having fun!

Jean and I shook our heads and decided that day that we would not go camping again, without our husbands.

My husband, the kids and I enjoyed many camping trips over the years. Jean’s husband didn’t like camping and I don’t think she went camping with her kids since that day!

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