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Camping With Barley Part 1

Updated on July 20, 2009

The Concept

I love camping. I always have. I think more people should do it. It’s a great way to spend time with family, get away from the grind, and meet new people. I couldn’t wait until my grandson was old enough to take camping. We would spend a week in a tent, just Bailey and me. This would be a rite of passage. I coveted the chance to share my camping knowledge. We would explore the woods, wet a worm, and wake up to the smell of brewing coffee and bacon. I imagined nights around the fire, roasting marshmallows, talking about the day’s events and planning the next. Oh, the delights that awaited my unsuspecting grandson. This was going to be a great experience.

The Setup

I have never raised a child from birth. I met my step-daughter (I hate that phrase) when she was eleven, and by choice, I have no (biological) children of my own. When Bailey was born I looked forward to watching him grow up, and I loved the idea of being a grandpa. I could watch him grow up, and actively participate in his life, without having the responsibility of being a father. In fact, I told my daughter that my job was to spoil him, and when he smelled like he was spoiled, I’d give him back. Little did I know just how much I had to learn.

As Bailey approached his fifth birthday, I was anticipating our first camping trip. I was comfortable with the fact I could handle seven days alone with him. So preparations were made. The gear was packed, and we were on our way to Tomahawk Lake State Park. The only stop we had to make was to pick up a borrowed canoe.

The Drive North

The trip north went smoothly. The canoe was successfully fastened to the top of my Blazer. We played games and talked about camping stuff. Snacks had been carefully planned and were satisfactorily deployed. Strategic stops were made to break the monotony of sitting in one place. I even came up with a way to address the inevitable “How much longer, Puppa?” question. At the time, Finding Nemo was Bailey’s favorite movie. Since kids have no sense of time, I correlated the timeline of our four-hour trip with memorable points in the movie. So when Bailey asked the inevitable question, I would say something like “Nemo has just met the sea turtles?” or “Nemo just escaped from the fish tank.” That way he would know how close to the end of the movie we were. It seemed to satisfy his curiosity better than “We’re almost there.” A good start and a major milestone achieved. 

The Arrival

When we reached the campground, we scouted the perfect site. We found a campsite on the water; not too far from the beach, just far enough from the bathrooms, with a water pump close by. We posted our permit and began to setup camp.

I remember going camping as a kid. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car to do what I did best; be a kid. There were trails to run, frogs to harass, fish to catch and other kids to find. Adventure was so close the air reeked with the smell of it. Unfortunately, there was work to be done first. Anticipation squelched by the harsh reality of setting up camp. My hands may have been helping, but my mind was elsewhere. I actually think my dad secretly derived some pleasure from keeping me busy, rather than letting me fulfill my destiny. Usually, enough huffing and whining from my sister and I would result in a pardon from the warden.

I know that Bailey must have been feeling the same way when his door was opened and the safety restraints released. So when Bailey looked up at me and began the sentence with “Can I,” I thought about my dad. There was a playground not too far away, filled with the sounds of fun. I explained the rules, and let him go. Camp was setup, the canoe was beached, and I was off to find my grandson. 

Our First Day

When I got to the playground Bailey was sitting in the sand with a red-haired boy, and they were talking. He looked a lot like the red-haired kid from the Harry Potter flicks. I don’t remember his name, so I will refer to him as the red-haired kid. I do remember that he just couldn’t bring himself to call Bailey by his name; he called him Barley. Anyway, Barley and the red-haired kid became fast friends and were inseparable the rest of our stay. He even spent one night with us, in our two-man tent.

All three of us walked around the campground and familiarized ourselves with the layout. The red-haired kid was quite the guide, pointing out all points of interest. We stopped to meet his parents, and his six to nine siblings. I lost count; they all looked the same, just different heights. Stephen King came to mind. All the red-haired kids were well mannered and their parents were salt-of-the-earth types. We had a nice chat. While we were walking back to the campsite, I kept wondering how they managed get all those people into their tiny little pop-up; not too hard I suppose if you stack them just right. We changed into our swimsuits and headed for the beach.

The beach at this park was great for kids; nice and wide, with plenty of sand. The clear water deepened gradually and was nicely warmed by the July sun. We played, and talked with other campers, and generally enjoyed the sense of “instant camaraderie.” That’s one of the nicest benefits of camping. People seem to lower their guards. I wouldn’t doubt that a lot of these folks probably don’t socialize much at home and camping offers them a release. After our swim we headed back to the campsite to enjoy our evening.

Nothing beats eating in the great outdoors. The meals can be simple and tasty, and lend themselves well to the palettes of children, and I encouraged Bailey to participate in the process. I watched as he skillfully roasted his hotdog; which any gourmet knows is the perfect complement to a fine can of fruit and perfectly-aged box of juice.

We followed dinner with a card game and some roasted marshmallows. Since Bailey hadn’t slept all day, and not too well the night before according to my daughter, it wasn’t long before Bailey was bitten by the bug of exhaustion. I tucked him into his sleeping bag and reveled in the simple perfection of the day.


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    • puppascott profile image

      puppascott 8 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

      You must have an unending source of subject matter to draw from. I am envious, in a good way.

      You bring up a good point. I think it is important to show my grandson some survival skills, and along the way help him understand the beauty in simple things and the world around us.

      Thanks for the comments.


    • profile image

      Ghost32 8 years ago

      Scott, I couldn't wait to figure out why Bailey became Barley in your titles for this series. Great discovery!

      As a kid, I loved camping. Well, duh.

      As a teenager and young adult, I slept on the gound or in my car a lot while traveling the rodeo circuit; it was probably during that period that camping became more "survival" to me than "recreation".

      And Pam spent nearly 3 years homeless just before we met 13 years ago, most of that time camping (ducking Ranger Rick, gettting swept down a wash during a flash flood, etc.) in a so-called 3 man pup tent, often with a loser companion dude. (He was not the survivor; Pam was.)

      Then we spent several weeks camping in 2 locations in Montana before getting our survival cabin built in 1999.

      Summary: If you can enjoy the next generation and they can pick up survival skills at the same time which might save their bacon at some unspecified time in the, that's a win-win situation!

    • puppascott profile image

      puppascott 8 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

      Welcome to the campsite. Here's the Off and a stick. Grab a Marshmallow and relax.


    • SheWrites808 profile image

      SheWrites808 8 years ago

      This is such a nice journey! I am 100% there :)

    • puppascott profile image

      puppascott 8 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

      Kids have that ability to find friends wherever they go. It's amazing what a lack of pretension and trust can accomplish.

      Thanks for checking out this hub. I hope you enjoy the other two.


    • tony0724 profile image

      tony0724 8 years ago from san diego calif

      A nice beginning of bonding with the Grandson . Is It not great how 2 kids can be In a sandbox and be perfectly content ? I will catch up on the rest of this too . Thx Puppa !

    • puppascott profile image

      puppascott 8 years ago from Michigan (As far as you know...)

      Just remember, Advisor, the bears are more afraid of you than you of them.

    • advisor4qb profile image

      advisor4qb 8 years ago from On New Footing

      One encounter with a bear was all I needed to bow out gracefully.  Sorry, the only camping I will be doing from now on is in hotels!

      Good hub though, for the brave.