I have a very clear memory of my first camping trip. Neither of my parents had any previous experience, but they packed their enthusiasm and our brand new family tent, and away we went.
We found a campground just outside town and pitched our tent.
Well, I guess we should go for a hike, my dad said. So we left for a trek, while my mom stayed behind to make dinner.
It wasn't long before my sister tripped on a root, grabbed the closest thing she could reach and ended up with a handful of stinging nettle. There was a lot of screaming and an early return to our site. That's where we came upon my mom, who was accustomed to cooking in a wok, struggling to put together a meal.
Camping didn't stick for our family. The tent became a backyard fort, and my parents bought a small trailer so my mom could have her much-needed stove top. Still, I have countless memories of bonfires, marshmallows, and starry nights.
I went to a very granola-ish university and lived with a gaggle of roommates who knew their way around a campsite. We met up every summer until we started having our own families. Though I was happy to let others take the lead, when it came to setting up tents and cooking over fires, it's a tradition that gave me some of my greatest memories from my early 20s.
When JB and I started dating, he joined me on some of those camping trips and proved himself to be quite an outdoor enthusiast, too.
In fact, his enthusiasm was so contagious that he convinced me to spend two weeks travelling across Canada with two sleeping bags and a tent—to celebrate our respective graduate school successes. I'll never forget waking up beside him on the stunning Cabot Trail to the sounds of the ocean filling our tiny tent.
There was never a discussion about whether we would camp with our own kids. It was a given.
But we weren't immediately confident we could pull it off (read: JB had to convince me). It wasn't until we had two kids that I was ready to give it a try. And despite some long nights with restless toddlers on air mattresses, it has become our all-time-favourite family tradition.
I recently wrote a short piece for Today's Parent magazine, and heard it provided insipiration for some of my fellow parents.
Let's keep that inspiration flowing. Here's one of our easy-to-make-ahead camping favourites:
Chicken Souvlaki Under the Stars
Marinate (anywhere from one hour to overnight) 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup balsamic dressing
3 tbsps lemon juice
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
We grill the chicken at home and store in an airtight container on ice until we are ready to prepare it. Then we re-heat over the fire or on the camp bbq. Slice and serve with pitas, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, feta cheese, and tzatziki. ***Veggie friends: substitute with meatless chicken or tofu***
So go for it.
S'mores, stars, sun and sand.
Roll out your sleeping bags and take it all in.