Memories in the Making

Carol Kloskowski

© Copyright 2012 by Carol Kloskowski

Photo of a pop up camper in a campground.

Before I married and had a family I used to think camping was something only Boy Scouts did. However by the time my husband and I were the proud parents of seven children, we were a camping family. It was the only kind of vacation we could afford to take. Once our kids became adults and began lives of their own we had accumulated a multitude of camping memories. Some of our trips, although originally near catastrophes, became hilarious with the passage of time. Treasuring those memories, we were sure our camping days were over. We sold our pop-up camper, but shouldn’t have.

New two new camping trends were developing. Some seniors were now traveling around the country camping in large gas guzzling trailers. That definitely wasn’t for us, but we did get hooked on the second one –an extended family camping trip which could include grandma, grandpa, their children and their children’s children getting together at a centrally located campground in campers or tents to have what should be a fun-filled family bonding time. Does this sounded interesting? If this type of camping might appeal to you read on and learn from the mistakes we made on our first extended family camping trip.

Two summers ago, five of our children, their mates, and fourteen of our grandchildren were going camping together and they wanted my husband and me to come along. The idea of camping with fourteen grandchildren (most of them under the age of seven) was too much for my husband. He decided to take a pass. I couldn’t wait to go.

My son David, his wife and their children had camped at a Yogi Bear Park Campground in Indiana the year before and thought it would be a perfect location for our group family trip. It was close to the Chicago area were we all lived. It had two pools, one indoor and one outdoor, a fishing area, water slid, playground, and an under-roof area with lots of picnic tables set up for games on rainy days or campground activities in the evening.

Each of my children was renting or borrowing a pop-up tent-trailer or a tent, except for my son, Bill. With the youngest children and Tracey, his wife, who wasn’t a camping enthusiast, they decided to rent one of Yogi’s little cottages. I would stay with them, since we’d read on the website that a Yogi cabin could sleep six.

Because of the years of camping we were sure this Yogi Bear campground was going to be a perfect place for our trip. Unfortunately, we would discover we still had a lot to learn.

The park was lovely. A big cut out of Yogi Bear waving, greeted us as we entered. Our families’ campsites were all together in front of a large covered pavilion with many picnic tables and nearby washroom facilities. These campsites had it all, I though. I was wrong.

Then there was the little cabin Bill’s family and I would be staying in. On the Web the cabins were advertised as “bare bones.” We never questioned what “bare bones” meant. We should have. There was no kitchen area or appliances. We were going to cook communally and we had a large cooler so that didn’t matter much, but there was no bathroom. That was going to matter.

Besides being “bare bones;” it was tiny. There was a picnic table and benches on the small porch, but no room for anything else. The cabin consisted of two bedrooms; the larger one had a double bed and just enough space for the baby’s port-a-crib. The smaller bedroom had miniature bunk beds on both sidewalls and a small window in the middle of the exterior wall with an electrical outlet under the windowsill. That was the cabin. It might have been okay for some families, but it definitely wasn’t okay for my son’s family with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and grandma.

Once we got over our initial cabin shock, we moved in and began to set up. Billy, my son’s four-year-old, would sleep in one of the top bunks; his three-year- old brother would sleep under him. Since I’m not three feet tall anymore, and I weigh more than fifty pounds, tiny bunks beds were definitely out of the question for me. I pulled the remaining two child-sized mattresses off the extra bunk beds and made a bed for myself under the window on the floor. It wasn’t so bad, (after all, I had been a tent camper before we bought the pop-up).

One thing was fine about our cabin—the reasonable price. Because of it we didn’t complain about anything, even when we realized that we were about two blocks away from the rest of the family. The cabins were in a different area of the park. Again our fault, we hadn’t asked how far from the family campsites our cabin was. At naptime, and more importantly, at bedtime, when the adults and older children gathered for the communal campfire, at least one of us cabin dwelling adults would be back at the cabin if we wanted Bill and Tracey’s children to go to bed. My daughter-in-law was growing grimmer by the minute.

In spite of everything, our cabin group had a happy first day. Instead of the campfire that night, we sat on our mini porch with a candle and some wine. It was fine; even though the loud rumble of heavy highway traffic on the Interstate, probably only 100 yards away, played in the background as we talked.

Later I had no trouble falling asleep on my tiny, vinyl-covered mattresses, but awoke after midnight needing to use the bathroom. To get there, equipped with a flashlight, I walked through a maze of silent, eerily black streets full of electrically humming camping trailers. I had forgotten about this part of camping.
Again late the next night, nature called. Although by now I had made a few trips back and forth to the bathroom; this time, on the way back I got lost. Beginning to panic, I finally saw a light that turned out to be coming from the cabin area. No more camping without a bathroom in view, for me I decided as I tip-toed around my sleeping family to my min-mattress.

On weekend nights the Yogi Bear Campground provides activities in the pavilion, the pavilion that was right behind our family’s campsites. Either music or Bingo numbers being called were blared over the pavilion’s PA system. Most of the folks camping nearby didn’t seem bothered by this. Our family had something else in mind. We wanted a family campfire and roasted marshmallows, someone telling a spooky story to the kids with maybe an owl or two hooting in the background, and quiet conversation once the kids went to sleep, not a deejay’s loud music, or some loud masculine voice calling “B-2, I-18, Bingo!”

Sunday morning was fine though. A local minister, with a guitarist and vocalist held a service in the pavilion, and hymns were sung and most of the family didn’t even have to get dressed or leave their campsite to attend.

Next came the “curling iron incident.” On Monday, our last morning, I’d plugged my curling iron in the outlet under the window in the tiny bedroom my grandsons and I shared, and curled my hair while the little darlings slept in their bunks. When I finished, I unplugging it, left it on the floor and went out to the porch to sit with my son and his wife. About fifteen minutes later, we heard a heavy thud, and their older son, Billy’s cries. He had fallen out of the top bunk. Holding his back and screaming, he complained it hurt when he sat, and that he couldn’t stand up. Had he fallen on my curling iron? Too much time has passed for it to be hot, but I felt terrible about having left it on the floor near the boys’ beds. All the adults in our family group took a look at Billy’s back as his cries grew louder and louder. The consensus was that he needed to go to the nearest hospital’s emergency room. Several hours later, he returned with his smiling parents. Ex-rays had been taken. Billy was fine. With that good news we all kissed good-bye and headed off in different directions home.

Now, here’s the list of things to remember after reading this.

1. Ask questions about what exactly you get and don’t get if you rent a cabin or camper.

2. Check locations of sites carefully if not all together.

3. Check locations of highways, airports, raceways, whatever in relation to your site.

4. Check very carefully the distance from your site to the nearest bathroom.

5. Check carefully the location of your site in relation to scheduled campground activities.

6. Make sure you bring all your health insurance cards and information with you.

P.S. We went to another Yogi Bea Campground last summer, but this time we did the proper planning. No one stayed in the little cabins. We camped next to each other in an area that wasn’t near the pavilion or the highway. Tracey and Bill borrowed a friend’s camper this time. Everyone else again had a tent or pop-up, including my husband and me. Yes, he came this time, but he insisted on buying us a camper first. I insisted that it have a toilet. So begins a new generation of camping memories, some heartwarming and some, I promised my daughter-in-law Tracy, would d get funny with the passage of time.

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