My husband and I had gone camping as kids growing up, and even been camping once as a couple before kids. But we never took the camping plunge as a family of six before last month.
And when the time came to prep camp bins and pack up a duffle bag and load up the car — it was surreal for me. I felt like such a grown up, it was kind of weird. How were we taking our four kids camping, for two whole nights? It seemed like something other families who have their act WAY more together might do. And yet, it was here. Our first camping weekend.
We packed the car and then loaded the kids in and then packed more on top of them (you know how that goes, right?). We drove about 3 hours north and found a dispersed camping area (read: it was the wilderness but sometimes people camp there – no facilities, or even people around, for that matter). This was certainly going to be an adventure!
What followed were two days full of surprises. There were the circumstantial kind – it dipped below 30 degrees both nights, much lower than forecasted and we weren’t exactly prepared (though had enough gear to get through it just fine, including my mama skill of hourly waking, worried the baby was going to freeze). Then the second evening we went to start our car to charge our dead cell phones and the car wouldn’t start. We were stuck out in the wilderness for real at that point.
It was around 4 pm when we made the discovery about the car, and we had planned on leaving the next day, so we made the executive decision to not worry about being stranded and to enjoy our last evening in the woods. We prayed and crossed our fingers and let it go. This was the best choice ever.
We took everyone and hiked over to the edge of the rim of a huge canyon and stood agape at the view. It was like a combination of being in Tuscany and a very green mini Grand Canyon. We didn’t even fire up the phones to catch a pic because it was just that special. Some moments are meant to be completely experienced, and not captured.
The moment lasted about 5 minutes as we looked up and saw storm clouds coming in fast, so we raced back to camp in time to hunker down for a night of 50 mph wind gusts. I felt like Dorothy, and like the wind was going to sweep our tent up and blow it away to Oz or something. It was only our second night ever camping as a family and this was definitely a baptism by fire (wind)!
The next morning we contacted family who then contacted the sheriff’s department, who texted us (coolest thing ever) and during a short stint in good cell service we received the text and were able to relay our location. An officer came and jump-started our car and the whole thing became a story for laughs instead of the opposite it could have been. I think my husband secretly was holding his breath until we were loaded up and on our way home in the car, but I felt exhilarated!
Somehow despite all these crazy circumstances, the biggest surprises were found amidst little hikes and walks and discoveries in between the crazy. We saw my tween angsty boy completely bloom into someone with passion. You parents of tweens and teens know how big of a deal it is to see your child have passion about something (other than, say, Minecraft). My daughter showed us that the girly-est pink princess obsessed 2-year-old can be the most legit hiker outdoor person in the family.
My husband and I discovered new areas in our lives that God wanted to stretch and grow and blossom. I discovered new ways of dealing with fear and being out of my comfort zone, but most of all I discovered how much our family loved each other. Of course I always knew we have so much love between us, but to see us all in an environment where teamwork is the only way, where there really is no one else out there to cling to but each other and the spirit of God in each of us – well, it was so thrilling it was nearly painful coming home and back to the modern race of life.
I want more, I feel thirsty for more bonding and more experiences and more time to be our true raw and real selves. I am so thirsty for more.
I love our home and our life here in the city suburbs. But I simply cannot believe how much life was injected into our souls in one little trip. Like the defib was placed on our collective family hearts and we got a much needed jolt. We found the heartbeat of our little tribe again.
I’m so ready to find more ways of experiencing life like this together as a family, anywhere we can. Do you take special trips (or do special things right in your hometown) to find the heartbeat of your family? I’d love to hear about your experiences, too!