In an attempt to bring ourselves back into the camping spirit now that we have children, we bought a pop-up tent trailer this spring. I admit that we swallowed our pride when we parked it in our driveway. It really put a damper on our camping “street-cred.” Just as we defiantly swore we’d never buy a minivan just because we had children (and, for the record, we still have not succumbed … yet), we also swore to never “car camp.”
Our first expedition with this clunking announcement of parenthood was to Algonquin Park. We spent a weekend at Achray, and it was wonderful. It really renewed my faith that perhaps I would once again enjoy camping. We could use the pop-up tent trailer just until the kids got older and strong enough to canoe and portage with us. It would all be okay. (Well, actually, I knew that everyone in the family would like camping regardless … who’s kidding who — it was all about me. Stella’s been a regular camper well before she was out of diapers, but always with her father. You can read her great tips for camping with kids here on the Kids in the Capital site.)
This is what the view looked like from our camping site at Achray, Algonquin Park:
With such a great start to our new life as “family campers,” we were keen to head out again. On the Thursday night before the May long weekend, we had not found time to plan anything but felt like taking off. We did a very quick google search for a camp ground in the Lake Placid area. I had fallen in love with this area during the winter and I was keen to go back during warmer weather. Our google search led us to a style of camping we had never done: the “ultra-campground.” These campgrounds were huge, had paved roads to the sites, an outdoor pool, a children’s playground, hot showers and flush toilets. Hubby hesitated; I said: “Come on! It’ll be fun! It’s not our style but the kids will love it.” So we booked it.
And this is what the view looked like from our site at the North Pole Campground in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State:
I think you’ll agree that both settings look beautiful. But there was a vast difference in reality. What you can’t see in this photo is that there were people on sites in front and back of us, with only a mere few feet between. Also, while that water looks inviting, you couldn’t actually swim into the river from the campground — just look at it. To go for a hike, fish or swim, you had to leave the campground. So, really, there was not much to do with the children at the actual site itself. They got bored VERY quickly.
And what do children do when they get bored? Whine. (Whining is actually a “nice” way to describe the screechy phase my two-year-old son has stumbled into lately.)
And who was in those camp sites in front and behind us? Other families, right? That’s what I would have thought … I mean, who in their right mind would choose to camp like this if not weighted down with diapers and other kid paraphernalia?
As it turns out, though, it was retired couples. Not only did this mean that our children had no playmates about, but that I immediately felt uncomfortable … other parents wouldn’t even notice if our children were loud or rambunctious, but the quiet couple sipping drinks next door? Oh my, I couldn’t help but think that I was ruining their weekend.
Since there was really nothing to do at the camp site itself, my kids were constantly wanting to go to the playground. And if I wanted to sit around a playground all weekend, I would have stayed home! If I’m going to go through the hassle of packing up to go camping, I want to be surrounded by nature. I don’t want to have to walk along a highway to get to nature, I don’t want to have to get in the car to get to nature, and I don’t want to worry that my kids’ natural noise-levels are disturbing other people.
Now, that was my experience in an “ultra-campground.” The North Pole campground itself was top-notch: spotlessly clean, with friendly, helpful staff. But it wasn’t for me. At all.
I was miserable. So much so, that we packed up and drove home a day early.
I have since spent every spare moment re-planning our summer vacation. There is simply no way in hell that I am spending my summer vacation — my first vacation in over a year and a half — road-tripping with our tent-trailer, as originally planned. And I’m getting no complaints because NO ONE wants to be with me when I’m miserable!