Wednesday, May 1, 2013

camping 101

Steve and I embarked on our second camping adventure this past weekend.  The first time we went camping, we did pretty much everything wrong.  We arrived at the campsite after dark so putting up the tent was...interesting to say the least.  We brought expired food and ended up having nothing but chips for dinner.  It rained pretty much the entire time.  So this time, we were determined to do it right.

For those of you ever contemplating camping, don't be scared!  I have never been much of a camper but Steve and I have found a way to make it enjoyable for both of us.  Not to mention it's a great way to really get out in nature and experience it to the fullest. 

If you're thinking about giving it a try, here are my top 10 camping tips:

1.  Pick a pretty park.  We ventured down to McCormick's Creek State Park in southern Indiana.  It had great hiking trails and bike paths, and was just a short trip away from home.

2. Pick a cozy campsite.  At McCormick's Creek, you can choose to camp "modern" style or "primitive" style.  While "modern" lets you have access to real bathrooms and showers, we found that the campsites were much smaller and filled with RVs since each modern campsite has an electric outlet.  We opted for a "primitive" site, which was further back in the woods and offered a lot more privacy.  (Sidenote: you still get a bathroom in the primitive sites... it's just not as nice :) )
3.  Bring a good tent. I bought this one for Steve for his birthday and it snuggly fits two. It has a rain cover so that if stormy weather arrives, you aren't soaked. See how excited Steve was to use his tent!
4.  Tarps are incredibly helpful.  We laid one down underneath our tent to keep any moisture in the ground from soaking the tent floor.  You'll want one that is just slightly larger than the size of your tent. 
We had an extra, so Steve staked it down in front of the entrance to our tent.  It gave us a clean(-er) space to take off our shoes, etc. before climbing into the tent.
5.  Go overboard on supplies.  No, really.  We were thankful that we decided to bring those extra sleeping pads underneath our sleeping bags, that third flashlight ("just in case") and that extra bag of ice.  Since you're technically in the wilderness enjoying nature, the last thing you want to do is have to drive to the nearest town to pick up something small like paper plates.  Also - bring your own toilet paper.  You'll thank me later.
6. Bring lots and lots of firewood. If you're like us, you'll want the campfire going all evening. It's key to the entire camping experience. Not to mention camping in April can be really cold at night!

7.  Bring your bikes.  It's the best way to get a feel for the land without driving your car everywhere.  It's also a good way to exercise before you eat tons of "camping food" (see #9!)

8.  Plan out your hikes.  The last thing you want to do is get lost in the wilderness miss a big landmark, so get a map from the park office and plot out your hikes or nature walks. 
9.  We didn't want to have to pick just one classic "camping food," so we ate our dinner in multiple courses.  Course 1: hot dogs & baked beans.  Course 2: grilled cheese.  Course 3: smores (of course).  

10.  Take the time to look and listen for God.  There's something about being surrounded by nature that makes me feel closer to the Lord.  I feel as though I can sense Him in the breeze or in the fresh greenness of the blooming trees. 

Go on a short walk by yourself.  Take some time alone to reflect on God's glorious artwork and to commune with Him.  Steve and I both were blessed to really experience Him on this trip.  We now each have places in the Park where I know we will return one day and remember how He spoke to each of our hurting, broken, sinful, human hearts and reminded each of us of His love and faithfulness.  This was by far the highlight of our trip and something I wish for each of you.
Good luck, and happy camping!

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