Updated: Aug 4, 2022
This post is a post is progress and written in parts. Part 1 and Part 2 are personal reflections leading to the realization that despite what we may think, what is meant for us will not pass us by. In this case, my case, it happened to be camping but I share this to connect with kindred spirit who have experienced this phenomenon and also to gently support anyone who may be looking for a sign to lean in to an experience they may be resisting.
Part 3 is really about being clear about how we must be true to ourselves and honor ourselves in order to engage with an experience. In my case, I needed to figure out the sleep situation and basic sanitation situation so in this section I have provided links for things we have bought and how we have worked with things to feel clean and comfortable.
Parts 4 and Part 5 are geared towards friends and family who have reached out to share in the experience with us but with lives being so busy, it's tough to have the time to do justice to the experience with one phone call so I wanted to give as much detail as possible to help folks understand the awesomeness that awaits them once they decide to join in! We use this spreadsheet which is a work in progress to guide our general preparation.
Part 1: Camping? Me? Are you insane?
I can't believe I'm blogging about camping. After my first experience with camping in August of 1991, in Vermont, where I was soaked to my skin in my sleeping bag with only the warmth of the people I went camping with to carry me through that experience, I didn't think I was EVER going camping again.
Fast forward about twenty years, Mother's Day 2011-2012, I allowed myself to be convinced again to go camping, this time in Joshua tree where our tent almost blew away in the middle of the night in a raging windstorm and our best bet was to sit in the four corners of the tent praying that our tent would not rip away exposing us to the angry elements. That was intense with a four and two year old in the tent. n\No sleep at all due to the gravel poking into our backs through our sleeping bags and dust everywhere after the windstorm.
I was certain that experience had killed any other instances of camping for our family but then again, what is meant for us will not pass us by.
Part 2: Introduction to Kings Canyon
In November of 2016, we were gathered at a colleague's house watching the unimaginable unfold. The reality that Donald Trump might indeed become the next president. Another family whom we knew through our son's baseball was also there. As a distraction we were talking about possible summer plans and that's when Kings Canyon was introduced to us. We told them we were in. They were excited that we wanted to join but as we found out later, they did not believe we were actually going to go. I'm so glad we kept those plans.
Once we were introduced to Kings Canyon, there was no going back. For our family, it's truly a magical place. Despite our extensive national and international travels, our children have openly declared that "Kings" is their "happy place" despite the fact that they are completely off line. We love it just as much. No media whatsoever but they could not be happier; playing in the river, biking to the local store to buy ice, throwing the baseball around with friends, playing mancala, sitting around the campfire, telling spooky stories, roasting marshmallows, whittling, joshing with friends and what not. The week flies by. Nothing more can be said. It has to be experienced.
Part 3: Non Negotiable Despite the Love
As we have communicated to friends about this experience, many friends have asked us for details of how we do it. For friends who want to join us for camping but apprehensive, it's so much easier to use this page as a reference to make transparent the way we prepare. From our previous camping experience, my husband decided he didn't want the same conversations and bought these items that have become critical to our camping experience; some may say it's glamping. So be it. These are non-negotiable.
If not getting a good night's sleep has also been a deterrent for you and your family, I would highly recommend this Tri-folding mattress. It comes it different sizes and is super comfortable. It instantly surface into a super quality sleeping surface. I can't say enough about it and no; this is not a sponsored link. It comes from purely wanting others to find a way to overcomes the sleep challenges associated with connecting to nature.
In case you are like us, with an SUV, then something like a tri-folding mattress will have to be carried on the roof. We found this carrier to be a good choice to protecting the mattress.
We realized that the kids wanted to shimmy onto our mattress so we ended up buying two foldable twin mattress. Currently, we line up all the mattresses, it creates a huge bed and the thought of bears roaming outside becomes less scary if you are sleeping with mom and dad. It also allows people to spread out so everyone has enough room
on the mattress.
Finally, this summer shower has been a really good buy. We fill up the water before we leave to go to the river and leave it in a spot where we know it will get direct sunlight. When we return, the water is warm and it feels amazing to wash yourself before turning your attention to chatting, sipping and cooking while the children chill around the campfire.
Part 4: Making it Our Own
We have been going to Kings Canyon for many years with friends, even through the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, there was a large group. We made an effort to coordinate with everyone that was going and had communal meals. Folks stayed anywhere between 2-7 nights. Couple of families would take on the meals for everybody. Rules were not so strict about how many people could stay at a site. There was one main kitchen set up because someone had access to the grilling equipment from boy scouts which would serve as an industrial stove set up. Lots of fun camping gears and ideas were employed to make it a middle of the way, glamping scenario.
For the last couple of years, the pandemic and rules of the park have necessitated more of an independent set up. Communal activities had to be re-thought so over the last couple of years, we have developed a detailed spreadsheet of what each family might need to bring, based on our experience, to make the whole experience enjoyable and not stressful.
We love to go for as long as possible and that ends up being a week because that's how long we can pack food that will last. After that, we have to jet. So the menu is planned based what will last for how long and also what type of food can be prepped before hand so it minimizes what needs to be done on the campgrounds.
For dinner, we usually start with the perishables so dishes like Poached Salmon with Potatoes au Gratin and Mediterranean Shrimp with accompaniments are cooked first. Then it's the Burgers with Black Pepper Potatoes. We usually also like to boil a potatoes at home kin advance and pack them in ziplock bags. We find that boiled potatoes, with their skin on, keeps for several days in a cooler like the Yeti and can be quickly spruced up into different things.Dishes like Pasta and Meat Sauce (it's not bolognese sauce, there's a difference!) or Chili with Potatoes toppings are saved for last because the chili is made ahead before we head out and frozen. That helps because the chili serves the dual purpose of a frozen ice pack.
Lunch stuff is intentionally packed with an eye towards "picnicking/hiking". We love to make tuna salads, pack deli meats and cheese and try to pack enough items for a fun charcuterie board that may last a couple of lunches.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so we definitely do not skimp on that, even when we are at home. My husband has been solely responsible for hot breakfasts every single day of the week for as long as I can remember, before and after kids. For camping, our favorite go to meal is an Unda Paratha. The closest thing that I can use to describe that is an Egg Tortilla which we have 2-3 mornings with bacon. We take instant oatmeal, Prep Ahead Pancakes or banana bread made at home which comes in handy if the kids want to head out for an early bike ride while we are still drinking our morning coffee.
Part 5: Easy Gourmet Meals
These have become a staple in our family over the years. I have yet to post these on my blog but here is a reference to them on my instagram account.
Unda Parathaa - wholesome breakfast to start the day
Charcuterie Board - perfect lunch by the river
Healthy Munchatizers - perfect while dinner is coming together
Poached Salmon - with a side of Potatoes Au Gratin and Lime Avocado Greens
Potatoes Au Gratin
Green Salad with Lime and Mashed Avocado Dressing
Burgers and Black Pepper Potatoes
Pasta and Meat Sauce