Melissa Smalley joins the 100 Mile Free Press (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).

Melissa Smalley joins the 100 Mile Free Press (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).

Tales of the not-so-happy campers

It’s that magical time of year when winter is about to become a distant memory and we can finally start looking forward to summer.

The next month or so will be that “sweet spot” after the snow melts and the mud dries, but before the mosquitoes arrive to feast upon us.

Having just started the shoulder-season chore of packing away winter gear and pulling out the summer toys and camping supplies, I can feel the excitement of another season of adventures just around the corner.

With our kids now at the perfect age for summer fun like camping, bike rides and long days at the lake, I’m looking forward to making the best of every opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors.

But it hasn’t always been so idyllic.

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When our kiddos were much, much younger – far too young to be naively attempting things like camping, in retrospect – my husband and I still tried to enjoy all the activities we had so enjoyed as a young, childless couple.

We would excitedly pack our four-door hatchback to the brim with everything we needed for two days of camping with our little angels.

And without fail, we’d head out on our fun little family excursion and have an absolutely terrible time.

The worst of these occasions was a trip to Whidbey Island in Washington State when my daughter was just shy of two-and-a-half and my son was two months old.

It rained the entire time, the floor of our tent was a soppy mess and between the four of us, we were lucky if we got a few hours of sleep the whole weekend.

There had been traces of family pressure not to miss this trip – it was an annual Father’s Day getaway that my husband’s family took part in every year.

And I suppose I had something to prove as the cool, adventurous, can’t-hold-me-back mom I thought I was back then.

But when I woke up that second morning in a damp sleeping bag with miserable children and bags under my eyes the size of roasted marshmallows, I was done.

We packed up our soggy gear, skipped the special Father’s Day breakfast and called it quits on attempting to camp with such young kids.

It took a few years before we braved camping again – with the tent officially retired and a new-to-us 1970s camper trailer in tow, it should be noted. The lesson learned? Don’t try to rush experiences that your young children won’t remember and you will – for all the wrong reasons – never forget.

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