Thursday, October 9, 2014

Things I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Baby Camping

The marina at Pinecrest Lake Resort

Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest is a family camping dream, with movies in an outdoor amphitheater, food and supply stores, restaurant and coffee bar, not to mention a clear blue lake fully stocked with rainbow trout and ringed by Sugar Pines, Redwoods, and granite. Kimo and I felt confident in our camping skills until we brought our 6 month old baby to Pinecrest on a two-night camping trip. Even with grandpa’s borrowed camper van we were overwhelmed at times. 

Mossy trees on the lake

Here are some things I learned, which I wish I knew about camping with baby before we embarked on this trip:

Extreme weather will scare you. When it dipped into the 30s at night I worried that baby Wilder was not warm enough. While camping, you have very little control over the environment. When your baby is too small to tell you how cold he is, it can be scary!  I bought a Capilene base layer onesie and leggings set from the Patagonia Outlet the day before our trip. Boy did I wish I had a back-up set when the pants and the onesie got poop on them the second day in. Wilder wore them again, poop and all, since I wasn’t going to let my baby freeze! 

Expert Advice - Bring doubles of baby hot and cold weather gear in case your first set gets dirty. Prepare for the weather to be more extreme than you think it will be, just to be safe.                                                                                                    

We arrived shortly after a rain.

Everything will be 4 times as difficult as it is at home. Take brushing your teeth as an example, which I straight neglected to do at times on our trip. At home, you walk into the bathroom, pick up your tooth brush and brush. While camping with baby, you need to get your hands free (baby needs to be passed off, meaning both of you have to stop what you’re doing), locate your toothbrush, toothpaste, and water, then get to business. 

Expert Advice - Pack neatly and know where your gear is so it’s easy to find. Don’t camp for more than two nights. Believe me, by day three you will be aching (figuratively and literally) for the comforts of home. 

Sunset begins over Pinecrest Lake. Wilder and I are standing in what is the swimming area during summer. They slowly drain the lake throughout the fall. 

One of you will do all the work. Wilder’s dad did all the camping chores on our trip. Just ask me, did you cook? No. Did you make a fire? No. Did you unpack? No. Did you use propane to light the lantern, the stove, or the heater? No. Did you pack up the van on the last day? Nope! I didn’t do any of these things because Wilder was in my arms nearly 24 hours a day. Even thought we had a bed in the van, Wilder would only nap while strapped in his Baby Bjorn. We even brought a Pea Pod baby sleeping tent, which he spent all of 10 minutes When we tried to use it a second time he screamed to get out of it. 

Expert Advice - Bring a baby carrier to get your hands free. Have a couple places where baby can be put down to free your hands once in a while. If your baby isn’t as fussy as Wilder, maybe you’ll actually be able to put him down.

Da campsite. We had the place to ourselves. 

Lack of sleep affects you more when camping with a baby. Parenting is like the longest marathon you will ever run in your life. The sleepless nights that come with a new baby build up until you live in a constant state of fatigue. Uncomfortable sleeping arrangements while camping just make things worse. We slept on a camper van bed too small (and too short) for the three of us. I slept on my side and Kimo contorted into impossible positions in order for the three of us to fit on the bed. When you have to carry a baby around for the entire day, you don’t want to wake up sore and tired already. 

Expert Advice - Bring your favorite pillows from home. Bring extra warm blankets. Bring painkiller for soreness the next morning. Again, limit your trip to two nights. A good nights sleep is imperative for all the extra work you will be doing. 

Kimo's birthday dinner - pumpkin chicken pozole made by Kimo!

People will be generous with you. Kimo tried to fish but, alas, he was out of practice and didn’t catch anything. However, we didn’t go without, two different fishermen gave us fish they’d caught that day. We ate them drenched in Louisiana fish fry, pan fried over the campfire, with grilled corn and baked beans on the side. Lucky for me, Wilder’s dad is a chef. 

Expert Advice: Talk to your neighbors. We scored free Rainbow Trout and firewood from others. When we left, we gave our extra firewood to our neighbors. 

Wilder in the van with daddy.

Camping with baby will bring you closer as a family. Despite the difficulty of our trip, we didn’t argue once. Daddy had some breakdowns from the pressure of keeping the camp up for the whole family, but they passed quickly. Camping on a blue lake ringed with Sugar Pines and Sequoias and regal granite rock faces made us feel blessed - not just to be in such a stunning locale, but to be experiencing it with each other as a family. Wilder clearly enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We loved sharing the High Sierra with our little one. 

Expert Advice - Allow yourselves to enjoy each other’s company. Tell each other how grateful you are. Look up at the trees, mountains and stars. Take it in and enjoy. 

Good morning lake says the baby tree. 

Would I do it again? Honestly, no I would not. We will wait a while until Wilder is older to brave camping again. It wasn’t the relaxing vacation we need with our busy baby lifestyle. Once we decide that Wilder is independent enough to brave the wilderness as a family, you bet we will bring extended family members along with us to help watch the baby. I look forward to a time when we can camp again, it just won’t be any time soon. In the meantime, there are always cabins. 

Mr. adorable with Mrs. exhausted but happy
Wilder helps daddy fish

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