The onset of 2013 brought with it great tragedy.  Though I stop often and reflect on it,  I try to guide those reflections toward something positive by converting the grief and sorrow into motivation and determination.  I’ve kinda done that growing up too; I hate being sad (who does?).  As a kid, I always tried to convert any sadness I had towards something to an almost angered defiance to enrage a “fire of will” to see me through to the completion of my goals.  My favorite quote seeding from high school was “what doesn’t destroy me only makes me stronger,” which I think embodies this idea of converting emotions to meet better ends.

With the tragedies came a wake up call: life is short, so maximize the quality of it.  Trade in the TV, the browsing of the internet, and the boozing… trade all that in for an active appreciation of nature (which nature herself is truly life incarnate).  In those moments of sad reflection earlier this year, I vowed to make that trade.  Trust me, I’m weary of not following through (talk and daydreaming are easy), but the impact of this particular wake-up call gave me the converted determination to see this one through.  Just to be sure, I put down my solemn oaths to paper to solidify their execution.

Oath #1: be more adventurous through nature (Live like Luc, right?).  The checkpoint: take the family on a multi-day hiking/camping trip by year’s end.

Let’s see, Pam and I have been camping maybe a total of 3 times in our 10 years of marriage… with that eye-watering frequency, multi-day hiking/camping isn’t something that I can obviously just dive right into (especially with young kids).  So we’ve been taking baby steps.  The first step, accomplished the week we moved into our house, was backyard camping (if you want to call it that): cooking dinner in the kitchen, eating it outside, roasting marshmallows around the patio firepit, and spending the night in a tent.  Sure, it wasn’t exactly roughing it, but you have to keep it fun for the kids so you can raise them up to appreciate nature adventuring too.  Two weeks later we did the same, but this time we cooked dinner and breakfast outside on the camping stove without relying on the house amenities.

This weekend was the next step toward that checkpoint.

Living on a farm (that we don’t have to maintain) has its advantages:  we have acres upon acres of property that we’re allowed to camp on.  So we loaded all our gear into backpacks and began walking.  Brenden carried the sleeping pads and his blanket, Marissa humped in some granola bars and dried foods, and Pam and I hauled the rest.  We hiked about a mile from the house and found a good spot near a small woods and a stream.  We hiked at a kid’s pace (stopping a lot to look at snails, slugs, plants, rabbit shit and other wonders of nature) and let the kids point the way to the “perfect” campground.

Hiking to the camp site

It had been raining the day prior and was still drizzly and cloudy, so it was quite muddy.  But hey, you can’t control the weather and we’re in England for crying out loud!  It’s supposed to be overcast and wet a lot.  Besides, if we waited for the perfect day to camp, we’d probably be waiting for a few months.  Once we arrived at the spot and got the kids’ proud approval, I unpacked and set up the tent.  The kids helped Pam gather some firewood and got a fire going.  As you can see in the photo below, I use “the kids helped” in the loosest of manner: a kid’s attention span yielded maybe 3-4 twigs for the fire… good enough for the age.  Ha, I should say “Pam got a fire going” in the loosest of manner as well… Pam lighting a fire is akin to trying to grow a garden without using water – it doesn’t come easily in either circumstance.  I do have to give Pam credit though, she got a good one going after about 30 minutes and store-bought fire starter (it’s a start, right?).

Firing up the campsite

As I said, there was a stream next to us where I got our water from.  We tried out a few store-bought dried meals, but they weren’t all that tasty.  I might have to start making my own MREs with a dehydrator or something.  We did bring the marshmallows which, as always, is a huge hit with the kids.  But after his second marshmallow, I was surprised when Brenden said “one more marshmallow and then I’m going to bed.”  So go to bed they did, and Pam and I followed shortly thereafter.

Lights out

Like the weather, another thing you have to tolerate whilst camping in Jolly Olde England is the fact that the sun rises at like 4:30 in the morning!  Unless I’ve been up for more than 24 hours (and even then…), light always rouses me from my sleep.  So from 4:30 until about 7:30, my sleep came in bouts of 20-30 minutes.  The kids awoke about 30 minutes after I got Pam stirring.  Once up, Pam made a breakfast of pancakes and hot chocolate while I broke down the camp back into our packs.

a hearty camp breakfast

And now for the mile-long trek back to the house.


Take aways for next time?

  • Buy waterproof shoes.  The kids had galoshes, but Pam’s and my shoes were soaked to the point where you can hear the water squish from your socks with every step.  Thank goodness for the campfire we made… until the next morning when our socks were standing up by themselves.
  • Make your own meals rather than relying on store-bought crap.

Oath #2 to follow in 2 weeks…

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