What’s Going On: A test unlike any other

It’s a test not only of your mental and physical acuity, but basic survival skills.

You will be pushed to your limits and confronted with challenges you could never have imagined.

And by the end of the ordeal, you will be pleading with God to literally carry you through as your body is sapped of all its strength.

Ah, the trials and tribulations of camping … with children.

When I was a single man, I loved to camp. I’d go several times a summer, sometimes spending up to a week alone on a remote lake or in a mountain range.

Then I got married and while my wife is no fragile flower and enjoys the outdoors almost as much as I, we have very different ideas of what an ideal camping trip entails. For me, if I’m going to sleep in a tent, when I open its flaps in the morning … I don’t want to see another human being. At least, not one who didn’t accompany me. Ideally, that kind of isolation will require a hike in and out of the campsite, and the longer the better, which also ensures my second requirement: no highway noise.

My wife, on the other hand, has a very different requirement: A shower. She won’t go without one, and in my experience, if there’s a provided shower/bathhouse, there will be people. Lots and lots of people.

Regardless though, when young children are added to the equation, 5-mile treks to the campground are no longer an option, relegating us to the more traditional state/county parks.

With that in mind, my family and several in laws spent a couple days last week tent camping in northwest Nebraska, clearly indicating our long-term memories have somehow suffered irreversible damage. The last time this group camped together, the campsite was literally underwater thanks to a severe thunderstorm and since that time, our ranks have swelled to 11 people, including five children under the age of 10.

A friend, who confessed he has never camped with his children, foolishly asked me if I “had fun” over the two-day affair. I explained to him the goal when camping (and especially in a tent) with children isn’t necessarily to have fun. It’s to survive without committing any felonies, which amazingly we did.

Barely. But not without challenges, to wit:

One child backed into the fire pit, falling down and bruising/scraping her back (fortunately, we hadn’t used the pit yet or the injuries obviously would have been much more severe);

A second child twisted an ankle on a pine cone, and clearly felt the need to outscream/cry the other injured child;

During a trip to Wal-Mart, where $180 was spent on camping supplies (why didn’t we stay in a hotel with that money), my father-in-law would be falsely accused of hitting another shoppers’ vehicle;

Trying to minimize work and liability, we went in town to eat dinner. We discovered the nachos we ordered had a fly … baked into the cheese;

A few hours after dinner, not surprisingly, two members of our party came down with food poisoning, including my son who would throw up not once, but twice in the tent, and would require a drive to the bath house to deal with … other digestive complications.

And all that was within 12 hours of our arrival.

Fortunately though, the remaining 36 hours would prove, comparatively speaking, rather uneventful despite a surprise shower and some rather loud individuals who decided to share their music with the rest of the campground (which of course, I reminded my wife wouldn’t be a problem if I chose the site).

Considering the lack of tragedy in that final day and a half, I am somewhat optimistic and looking forward to our next camping experience in a month or so when me, my wife and the kids take our first trip to northern Minnesota.

This time though, we will be in a cabin which should greatly reduce the likelihood of a disaster.

Just have to make sure none of the kids gets carried off by a mosquito.


Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.