Our First Family Camping Adventure on Our Own

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Our family has been trying to go camping for weeks now, but we have been thwarted consistently by other obligations or threats of bad weather. This past weekend we took the plunge in spite of a less-than-desirable forecast of thunderstorms and high temperatures. We arranged care for our pets, loaded the minivan, and made the short drive south to Fort McAllister State Park for our first camping adventure on our own.

In the past we have camped out with my son’s Cub Scout troop, which is great fun, but we wanted to see how we would fare on our own in the wilderness, aka campground. This has become an important mission for our family because, crazy or not, we are planning to camp out for four nights in Maine this summer during our vacation. So before we live out the storyline for a new National Lampoon family vacation camping movie, we thought it would be a good idea to test out our camping skills and preparedness a bit closer to home.

The campground was quite nice, with an elevated spot to set up the tent, along with running water and an electric hookup. The bathroom was a short walk away, as were the playground and dock. The Magnolia Trail that we explored a few times was smooth enough for our bikes, and wandered through a lovely Spanish moss-draped forest with views of the river and marsh.

As for wildlife, we saw an armadillo, osprey, dolphins, and several deer including a couple fawns. At the dock we watched one man reel in a sting ray and another carry his catch of blue crabs back to his campsite where he said the pot of water was already boiling.

But the real excitement started with the sun’s retreat. That’s when the masked bandits descended from the trees, and skipped around the edges of the campsites, looking for an opportunity to move in on some food. There’s no telling how many raccoons we saw. One raccoon tried to open our cooler with my husband and sons sitting right there! In the morning our campsite, and even my son’s hat that he had left on the table overnight, was covered with little raccoon footprints to remind us of our furry visitors.

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All in all, our camping trip was a success. We had a great time in the outdoors as a family. We worked together as a team. We discovered some items that will be handy to have next time around. We even survived the heat and humidity and some thunder, although the real storm graciously passed us by.

Most importantly, perhaps, we gained some confidence to apply to our upcoming vacation campout. So, hopefully we will not return from Maine with Griswold-style stories to tell. Although there is something to be said for having a good story to tell. Anyway, I’ll let you know how the Big Campout goes…

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