By Marcella Simmons
People think I am crazy for taking off on a three week family adventure in two separate vehicles with four adults and six kids ranging from six years to twelve years old; a cargo full of camping supplies packed to the brim and the family pets along for the ride…heading for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. That’s my idea of a wonderful fun-filled good old fashioned family vacation, grandma style! It has honestly become a family tradition for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Camping has its’ ups and downs and yes, it’s hard camping out and roughing it sometimes. Whether we camp out in a state park or along side a river somewhere, as long as there is water somewhere close by, we usually have a good time. Or if we stay in a extravagant motel or an inexpensive find along the way, we try and make the best of it. So long as there is no bedbugs, it’s clean and there is a pool!
Our kids are average to good swimmers but sometimes, swimming in the Rocky Mountains is hard because the temperature of the water is usually around 40 degrees. Not good swimming conditions, that’s for sure.
Being almost old (this grandma is on the backside of sixty!), I figure we better do it now while I am still willing and able. On normal camping trips in Colorado every year, our gang all pitch in and do their parts. The guys put up the tents and get the wood for camp fires and keep plenty in stock while we women watch the kids and do the cooking and making sure everyone ha a warm bed at night. And don’t forget making sure we have s’mores in the evenings.
Nighttime in the mountains can get a little cold (around fifty degrees) and it don’t start warming up the next day until around ten or eleven when the sun comes out. If it rains it don’t warm up too much. After years of doing this, we have learned to pack for colder weather. Better to be prepared than be cold!
One of our favorite things to do is go rafting. There are several outfitters that allow children under six to raft but not all. If you’re looking for a rafting adventure be sure to call ahead and find out age requirements, etc. ahead of time. It also depends on where you will be rafting too. The Arkansas river in Colorado extends for miles so you will probably be able to find something for your group.
Another thing I have learned is that kids don’t always do well staying at cabins especially since there is no pool. Cabins are fine if there is water flowing close by where they can fish or play in the water. Trust me – years of staying in cabins with our kids have taught me to call ahead and make sure there is water or a creek or something where the kids can soak their feet. Not all kids like water, I agree, but from experience, find out what amenities are available before you try to stay at cabins!
Camping is fun, but it is hard work. You always have plenty to do but keeping the little ones motivated and occupied is somewhat of a chore sometimes, especially in most cases there is no cell service or WiFi.
We are on a budget so before we leave, I find out all the information I can about the place and take advantage of any and all free stuff available for us. Then we do things according to price, time, and destination, and ages.
If you do decide to go camping, it’s important to find out ahead of time the average daily and nightly weather conditions, and find as many safe camp sites that are available to you before you get there so you’re able to choose whichever one that better suits your family’s needs. I like to make sure there are bathrooms for daytime use if we are doing primitive camping. Park rangers don’t like people pooping all over the woods and leaving toilet paper everywhere. Littering the forest is not taken lightly.
Call me a crazy grandma… but spending quality time with those I love is worth the time and effort and hard work. We don’t always camp out – we do stay at motels quite a bit. But if you go as far as Colorado (it’s over 1000 miles one way from us) with this many people, camping out is an adventure because there s something for the whole family to enjoy. When we sit around the campfire at night, and roasting marshmallows or weiners, we’re making memories and to me, that means a lot. We start out with telling stories and I encourage each child to tell his or her own story. And I pull a few out of my hat as well!
Before you know it we all turn in for the night and wake up to a cool crisp morning hoping that the next person on the trip will get up, start a fire and put the coffee on!
Stay tuned for my next blog post. In my bag I found a few suitable rafting outfitters and among other great finds that just might help you plan your next vacation adventure.