How to Camp in Style

or how to get noticed on a campground…

It was the spring of 2009. I had been sick the previous winter, and had been diagnosed with chronic fatigue. My second child had been sick for months, but she managed to graduate with honors and a few scholarships.

To celebrate all our hardships we took out a road map of North America and started looking where we could go and spend a few weeks of holidays. The east and west coast were too far away, but there were mountains only-two-days-of-driving away.  The decision was made to visit the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Money was tight. We calculated back and forth, and it was just not enough for a stay at a “building with a roof” aka hotel/motel. The only way we would be able to go on this holiday was if we were tenting. We did own a tent, and most of the “accessories” that went with it.

We looked at many campgrounds, and guess what? Our tent was too big to book a spot! After hours and hours of searching and calling campgrounds, we finally found a campground that had a spot for our size of tent: Estes Park Campground!

But here’s the thing: we had never camped on our own. We had never put up a tent on our own. The only reason we had a tent was the annual camping weekend with our big family clan. We would arrive at the campground, someone would put it up and someone would take it down for us.

Family and close friends only shook their heads when they heard we would be tenting for two weeks. But we did not care. We had a destination. We had a camping spot secured. Besides, my daughters and I had read numerous books on camping and camping in the mountains. We were informed, we were warned, and we still wanted to go. What else could go wrong, right?

It was raining when we arrived at Estes Park Campground. We sat in the car and waited for a break. The break came and we rushed to put up our tent. We took out our little camping stove and I decided to make some tea. But I had trouble connecting the propane to the stove, a little part broke, the propane started escaping – under pressure – from the propane canister. I was scared out of my wits… I ran from our camping spot and laid the propane canister under a tree. We must have looked like a grieving trio as we stood in a semi-circle and waved good-bye to a warm cup of tea.

We went back to our tent to “unpack.” The girls both had huge air mattresses and this queen of the castle had to put up her military cot. The sleeping and “closet” spaces were divided up, the entrance organized and some house keeping rules were set and agreed to.

Here we were on our first evening of camping: cold, wet, hungry, and miserable. After searching through the car and our cooler we found some leftover milk and half a box of cereal. We divided it up among the three of us and ate in silence. Outside the sun had set, the rain had stopped and it was getting colder (not just cooler) by the minute. We decided to go to sleep. Following a short prayer time we all slipped quietly into our sleeping bags.

We woke up to +5 C in the morning. The sun was shining. We were hungrier than ever. The stores were still closed at 5:30 am, and the three hours we would still have to wait for a store to open seemed like an eternity. But this was a new day, and it could only get better!

The campground was empty. People were still sleeping. We went and explored the campground a bit. The first thing we noticed were the tiny tents set up all over the campground. To us they all looked like one-person tents. But as the morning went on we saw people (plural!) coming out of those tents. One tent had 6 people sleeping in half the size of our tent!

I remember one morning we slept in and got up later than usual. Next to us two guys must have come in very late and had set up their “mini-tent” during the night. They were up before us. We could hear them discussing the size of our tent. They were wondering how many people were sleeping in that huge tent, “it must be a big group on a camping trip.” We had to disappoint them when the third person came out of our tent, and that was it. We overheard their astounding comments about our luxurious style of camping.

It is said: Ignorance is bliss. That was definitely true in our case. We only wanted to have a comfortable camping holiday. We never spent a thought on being the centre of attention on this trip. But we sure did get noticed! We sure were the talk of the every campground we stayed at!

Our royal tent!
Happy faces after we bought a new camping “stove”. 

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