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We’re that family now. Holiday weekend comes. We have a holiday from work and we travel! For so long we were so underemployed that holidays did not mean much when it came to our schedules.

This holiday we traveled to Stanislaus National Forest to camp with another family. This was our first adventure camping as a family. Growing up, my family went each Labor Day weekend to Burney Falls, a beautiful state park with an amazing waterfall near Mount Lassen. Camping makes up one my families longest standing traditions and, as such, one of my most cherished memories. This was an exciting experiment. I’ve watched as other friends camp and hike throughout their childrens’ infancy and wife’s pregnancies. We’ve been married almost six years and this was our first time venturing out.

And it was an experiment. Many were surprised that we should only plan to go for one night (Sunday to Monday) since it takes so very many materials and so very much work. Following a minimalist camping guide, we tried to keep supplies down as much as possible. My children are 4.5, 2.5 and 1 year old, so we still had a lot of stuff.

Our intention for staying one night was to experiment, to try it out, to learn from mistakes and have a more successful trip in the future. We camped in a secluded spot away from other campers. No running water, no facilities. This was my first experience with that level of camping.

IMG_7075Our afternoon snack consisted of artisan bread, brie, hummus and red wine. What a delight to find friends with similar tastes!

IMG_7072Our campfire was our cook stove. The first night we feasted sausages and s’mores. I don’t have photos of every moment because as much as I delight in photography, I believe it’s important to unplug at times such as these.

IMG_7097A wire rack makes our stove range. Sausages in a skillet.

IMG_7101Coffee on the rocks.

IMG_7102My husband figured the science behind making pancakes on the fire. They were amazing.

To make The Most Amazing Pancakes in the World combine:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1/4 cup quick oats

2 tbsp flax seed meal

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients together. Whisk in milk and eggs.

Spray oil on the skillet.

If cooking over a campfire, heat skillet over flames until smoking, add pancake batter. 1/4 cup of batter makes for nicely shaped pancakes if you’re a perfectionist.

Makes approximately 16 pancakes.

The reason they are most amazing is because of their complexity of flavor, unlike pancakes that have only white flour. They also won’t make your kids quite so crazy.

Now for the lessons learned:

– Camping is wonderful. So good to be back to nature, away from town and traffic, to be with friends.

– Keeping the kids up to see stars canceled out the fear of sleeping in the tent for our 2-year old. They were so exhausted when they were fast asleep.

– Nursing a baby in bed while camping is awful. It’s cold and uncomfortable and made my leg fall asleep. I don’t think we’ll camp again with a nursing baby.

– We were right to stay only one night. You can endure anything for one night. The baby woke constantly after a few hours of sleep. Then she threw up. Taking care of her and cleaning up, with the lantern on, woke the older kids who then struggled with the cold and not being in their beds.

– Double check the supplies list. Don’t waste space or energy bringing duplicates between families. Bring extra blankets for kids.

– Bring fresh fruit. Don’t worry, no scurvy cases here; it just would have been nice.

– It was genius to bring the training potty seat for our oldest who didn’t have any trouble being without a restroom. Children are so shameless.

– Per my husband: you can’t have too many pillows.

– Have a water source at least within walking distance. Especially important if your baby throws up. She is much better now, by the way.

– The children did fine without toys. Back to nature! But they aren’t used to having electronics so it was not as difficult a change for them.

– Being with another family was wonderful. Our kids had another child to play with in their age group which they loved. We had someone else to share adventures with. We wives hiked while the men set up camp. We women folk watched the kiddos while the men scaled the ridge.

IMG_7069My daughter collected plants to grow in her garden. She added many bullet shells and created a sort of zen garden. We left that behind.

IMG_7107I also spent some time with my camera.

IMG_7086– Bring my telephoto lens next time.

IMG_7099My best advice for you, if you’d like to try camping with your family of young ones it so just go for it. Dive in. Know you will suffer. Don’t be afraid. You can withstand almost anything for just one night. We left after breakfast and took long naps when we got home and my husband and I went to bed at 8:45pm last night.

For our next adventure we’re planning a visit to my aunt and uncles house near the beach!

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