Tuning Out and Tuning In

It had been way too long since I’d taken the kids camping.  Earlier this month, however, I managed to get two out of three of them to come with me and we had a great overnight trip to our family prairie.  We go out to our prairie – and other natural areas – pretty frequently, but there’s something extra special about camping.  Maybe it’s the collaborative work needed to set up housekeeping, and tend to basic needs such as food, fuel and shelter.  Maybe it’s the opportunity to slow down and spend time with family away from all the distractions at home.  Maybe it’s the chance to see the stars, listen to wildlife calls, and experience other nature-at-night phenomena that we usually miss by being at home in our beds.  Maybe it’s all those things and more.

(Ok, who am I kidding?  It’s mostly the chance to play with a campfire – at least from my boys’ perspective!)

Against my better judgement, the boys talked me into setting up camp at the bottom of a draw (there was zero chance of rain, fortunately).  One advantage of that location was that we had enough trees to support our hammock.
Against my better judgement, the boys talked me into setting up camp at the bottom of a draw (there was zero chance of rain, so I gave in). One advantage of the location was that we had enough trees to support our hammock.
Anyone who has been camping knows that food always tastes better when cooked on a campfire.
Everyone knows food always tastes better when cooked over a campfire.  We had to have two fires so the boys could “work” with one while I cooked on the other.

We filled our time with simple but profound activities.  We practiced a little archery.  The boys took turns lying in the hammock.  We poked around down by the pond.  Supper was cooked on sticks held over a fire.  When the sun went down, we walked into the prairie, laid down beneath the stars and let ourselves be swallowed up by the universe.  We identified a few constellations and saw either a satellite or the space station, but nobody really cared about identification.  After playing some cards in the tent, we listened to coyotes, owls, turkeys, frogs, and some passing cranes as we went to sleep and woke up the next morning.  I figured the boys would enjoy a chance to sleep in, but well before sunrise they woke me and pushed me out into the cold morning to get a fire started.  (Did I mention the boys like campfires?)  Breakfast was unhurried and delicious.

We weren't remote enough to escape lights from nearby towns, but we still had a pretty great night sky show to admire.
We weren’t remote enough to completely escape lights from nearby towns but we still had a pretty amazing night sky to admire.

I brought along some loppers and saws for cutting small cedar trees out of the prairie, figuring that if the boys got bored we could at least be productive.  As it turned out, they didn’t get bored and we didn’t accomplish anything productive.

Except that we did.  We really did.

15 thoughts on “Tuning Out and Tuning In

  1. Lara Darling March 30, 2015 / 3:23 pm

    LOVE this so much!!!

  2. Ron Cress March 30, 2015 / 3:30 pm

    Wonderful Chris … and I’m envious.

  3. beingbodeker March 30, 2015 / 3:41 pm

    Your night sky photo with the off-center, glowing tent is quite spectacular. Makes me want to get out & go camping, too. One of my kids’ favorite places to camp is in Preparation Canyon SP, they love prairie camping, especially running through the tall grasses under a full moon.

  4. mark nupen March 30, 2015 / 5:11 pm

    My favorite campsite in western Washington, was Lake Ozette campground accesible only by boat and midweek, no one else there!! At night “Dad what is that noise”? Just a deer munching on some weeds by the shore, and of course flash light reflection on their eyes is always cool. Yes, camping with kids is always memorable! Good story.

  5. Pat Halderman March 30, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    Love the story!

  6. Bob Stine March 30, 2015 / 6:44 pm

    How wonderful! Your boys will look back on this and treasure it. :D

  7. Gary Dunsmoor March 30, 2015 / 7:14 pm

    Some of the highest quality time…

  8. Julie Malake March 30, 2015 / 9:24 pm

    The best thing (other than the campfires) is how being Out There centers you in the Right Now:D

  9. kocart March 30, 2015 / 10:52 pm

    Kind of like going fishing with Grandpa–this is what memories are made of.

  10. Priscilla March 31, 2015 / 6:50 am

    Wonderful! We used to do that with our kids and it made them into conscientious, sensitive young adults.

  11. Chris Muldoon March 31, 2015 / 10:24 am

    You’re a superb author, Chris! I look forward to each and every post.

  12. Patti Holmlund April 1, 2015 / 9:01 am

    I wish there was a way for all kids to experience this…at least once.

  13. Brad Guhr April 7, 2015 / 9:43 am

    Love it. Great post. My boys are the same way in all respects you described.



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