Michael and I hosted a camping get-away this weekend at Watkins Mill State park. It's a nice state park, tucked just far enough off into the country and woods to make you think you've gone off the grid, but it's really only an hour's drive from our house. You're like twenty minutes from the encroaching sprawl of Kansas City. We invited a couple (the Willards) that Michael has known forever who have two girls around the same age as the Cabbage. So the weekend was full of little girls running off to play, learning to ride bikes, glow sticks and hide and go seek. There was lots of Play-Doh and slime. Many many s'mores were consumed.
This was a first time camping trip for the Willards. They had borrowed an eight man tent from another friend. Michael and I took turns with helping them figure out how to set the tent up while simultaneously trying to set our camper up. Michael would work on leveling and stabilizing while I showed them how to thread the poles in the tent. I pushed the beds out and popped them up on the camper while Michael helped assemble tent poles. Finally the tent was up and the camper was popped out and we were only left with the task of installing the door on our camper. The door on our camper is a two man job that usually takes us about twenty minutes of sweaty cursing to get in place, but this time we popped it into place right on the first try. No sweaty cursing required.
It seems to me that there needs to be a proper initiation process for first time tent campers. It sort of makes or breaks you as a camper. It is the defining moment that determines whether or not camping is going to be something you do more than this one time. Mine involved a rabid raccoon attack. It was a terrifying experience that ruined our tent and almost a relationship, but we survived. A new tent was purchased and the relationship prevailed. We learned that we were made of strong camping stock. The Willards' initiation came in the form of a storm that included lightening and high winds and a torrential downpour. One corner of the tent collapsed but was easily set right. The rain fly, the whole tent really, flapped so hard in the wind that it seemed that the only thing keeping the tent on the ground was the weight of their bodies. Yet, they emerged the next morning with minimal damages and they were mostly dry.
Despite the storm and being plagued by yellow jackets (I looked them up, they're Western Yellow Jackets, mostly harmless unless provoked; three out of seven of us managed to not provoke), the Willards declared this trip to be a success, so much so that they said things like "the next time we do this we'll...."
I'm glad that they enjoyed the experience.