|Hm.. I wonder what that sign means?|
Every camping trip is an opportunity to gain nuggets of wisdom by making mistakes ... and let's just say some of us have gained a lot of nuggets.
Here are our 8 worst camping mistakes, at least so far:
1. Arriving late
There's nothing quite like setting up a big tent in the dark while three kids say (not in unison but repeatedly) "Can I have a S'Mores?" Cue the mosquitos. Seriously, I know it's hard to get out of the house, but get to the campsite by three. Then you can unpack while the kids play, make a big fire and locate the flashlights and the bug spray before dark.
2. Setting up in a valley
Each campsite has its own eccentricities and it's your job to figure them out. We once pitched our tent in what turned out to be the bottom of a little slope. It seemed inconsequential until it poured that night and the tent filled with water. A little rain is nice, but not on your feet at 4am.
3. Camping on a slope
Usually, when you choose a campsite with a tent platform, it means the site is built into a hill - thus the reason they put a platform there, to provide you with someplace flat to pitch your tent. Which is fine when you're sleeping. But the rest of the time you will find yourself, your kids and your belongings constantly rolling down the hill.
4. Being all relaxed about the tent zipper
I think the first thing we taught the kids was to CLOSE THE ZIPPER! on the tent, and we probably yelled it about a hundred times just to make sure we got our point across. And then ONCE we relaxed our vigilance - ONCE! - and spent the whole night swatting mosquitos out of our ears. Don't be like us. Be vigilant.
5. Not bringing enough warm things
We always bring plenty of things for the kids and they have warm sleeping bags but once we didn't bring enough blankets or clothes for the grownups and had to steal the children's little shirts to wear as hats. Nice.
6. Forgetting salt, coffee, tea, sugar or a corkscrew
It's a sad day when you can't salt your steak or open your wine. And for some of us, morning can be bleak and meaningless without coffee.
7. Not hanging up the garbage
There may not be any bears near where you're camping, but I'll bet there are dogs or coyotes. There's nothing like meticulously picking up every little bit of foil or what-have-you to leave a nice, neat campsite, then coming back from your nature walk to find your garbage strewn all over the site. Yuck. So bring a rope and tie the garbage up high to a branch.
8. Disregarding posted signs
If the sign says, "Caution: Electric Fence" and has a big zig-zaggy lightning bolt on it, that probably means it's an electric fence. That doesn't mean, "Try it and see if it's an electric fence." Zzzt!
Have fun, and as Sergeant Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) used the say on Hill Street Blues, "Let's be careful out there!"