Finally, it’s camping season!
For May Long, Finn & I packed up the car, and got the heck out of town! Just a little ways though, at least for this first trip. 🙂 After a mild snafu with our original campsite (note to self and others: the Lions Campground in Stony Plain, while nice and clean, is almost strictly parked RV’s and doesn’t permit campfires! OMGWTF!) we made a quick last-minute call to Elk Island Retreat, and they were lucky enough to have a tenting site available that we could have! It’s a great little private campground I discovered by accident on Google Maps a month or so ago. It’s about 20 minutes east of the city, just outside the west gate of Elk Island National Park, so it was close to the city while still offering a nice wilderness environment. They have an RV section, a gorgeous tenting area with nice big, private sites and lots of trees, and a couple of kilometers of trains through the wilderness to explore. There are also tipi sites, with a tipi set up on a platform so those without tents can still get out & camp, and some trappers cabins as well. It was just about perfect for us.
A quick digression about how I camp: I prefer to tent. I spent my youth bouncing between tenting as a scout, and going on vacation with my parents in their trailer. I’ve got a fair bit of experience both ways, and still, I much, much prefer to tent. Primarily, I think that there is a cultural difference between tenters and RVers, one that values connection to the outdoors and nature (tenting), and one that values having creature comforts close at hand while being in somewhat close proximity to nature (RVing). You can see this difference manifested in most campgrounds or RV parks, where the RV section is usually row after row of gravel pads separated by a lonely row of towering aspens, and where going outside means sitting on a camping chair underneath the awning of your trailer, but the tenting section is a little wilder, a little more private, and a little more set aside. Obviously this is a sweeping generalization, but it’s one that RVers in particular seem to reinforce at every opportunity.
Our campsite was a little off the beaten path; the owner gave Finn & I a tipi site that hadn’t been set-up for the year yet. It was even more secluded than normal, so we were isolated from any potentially rowdy campers, which was definitely appreciated at bedtime, though it was a little bit lonely after Finn was in bed and the site all put away for the night. The tipi sites come with a cooking shelter that we put to good use.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to my tent. This is my dream tent, literally. I grew up watching Scout troops from the US come up to Canada, armed with rows upon rows of Eureka Timberline tents, and I have always dreamed of owning one. They’re a little on the pricey side, but last year I found a SCREAM of a deal on this one (specifically, it’s a Eureka Timberline Sequoia 4XT, the XT denoting an Outfitter-designated tent with reinforced floor and more sturdy seams and zippers) and jumped right on it. It’ll be perfect for the boys & I to explore the wilderness. If Mom ever decides to come along with us… well, we’ll need to get a bigger tent. 🙂 I’ll go into details in a full review of the tent down the road. So, a big part of camping for me is eating, and we did a lot of that. I got Finn to help me as much as he could, and we talked about how cooking is different at home and when we’re camping, but also how it can be the same. So, no more warm milk, but we still got to have a hot chocolate in the morning to help warm us up. He was super excited to help wash the dishes too, especially since the sink could be down at his level. I had to do a fair bit of rewashing, but that’s totally fine by me.
We spent the rest of our time going on walks and exploring the campground. There is no playground equipment at the campground, so we had to fill our time doing other things. That meant lots of walks, and lots of time spent talking about nature, the trees, animals, and the cycle of life. It also meant cool poses and silly faces sometimes too. 🙂 Then, because Finn is still a little boy and there are only so many nature walks he can go on, I let him be silly and play with the buttons and knobs in my car, which he loved.On Saturday night, my big sister (not pictures here, she’s a little camera shy ;)) and brother-in-law and their beautiful kids were in town visiting from Saskatoon, and found a little time to come out and roast some hot dogs and marshmallows with us too. Finn had his very first s’more, and enjoyed it just about as much as he made a mess of himself. So, all in all, I’d rate this adventure as a success! It’s always so much work going camping, getting everything together and then unpacking and cleaning everything afterwards when you’re home, but for me, it’s totally worth it. Our next trip will be further afield, but in the meanwhile, I’ll definitely be keeping Elk Island Retreat in my back pocket as a great place to get away form the city while not being too far away from the city.