At the urging of friends, we finally took the family camping last weekend. And I'm happy to report it wasn't the disaster Josh worried it would be. Why? Good people. Good weather. Good scenery. And reasonably good kids.
We drove up to Kohler-Andrae State Park on Saturday morning, stopping for a surprisingly good Belgium brunch at Benelux in Milwaukee on the way. The organizing family, having come up the night before, was already there. We pitched our borrowed tent, checked out the nature center (where they were having a presentation on rescue dogs) and headed down to the beach to wait for the rest of the families to arrive.
Kohler is just about the perfect place for novice campers. The campsites are lovely and wooded enough to offer a sense of privacy. Composting toilets and a water spigot were a one minute walk away and the flush toilets and showers were only a few minutes further down a path.
And the beach. It's absolutely beautiful. Soft talcum powder sands, reeded dunes and not a piece of trash in sight. Yes, it's still Lake Michigan, but seemed so much cleaner than North Avenue beach and more remote than Northern Indiana, with its views of factories and power plants.
We were one of four families sharing two campsites, and as the kids ran off in a pack and the grown-ups gathered around the fire with drinks and snacks, I was struck by a sort of present-day nostalgia. I had inadvertently recreated my youth for my children. My family frequently went camping with other families when I was grade-school age, and I recall running off with the other young ones for hours, getting dirty from falling in the woods, smelling of bug spray and campfire, my shoes perpetually soggy.
My memories were further triggered from the fact that I was using many of my mom's original camping supplies. The hammock, the campfire coffee drip-o-lator (which I used to make 5 batches of coffee Sunday morning), my old red plastic Looney Toons lunchbox filled with mismatched utensils, her Euro-fabulous white plastic picnicware and a purple washing-up basin--all items I pilfered from her basement last summer and put to use for the first time in what might be decades.
The kids stayed up way too late and woke up way too early, and I spent a good deal of the dark time in between in a not-quite-sleep as I listened to my children breathing, the wind blowing and animals making sounds. Yes, it took two nights of going to bed early to catch up on shut-eye, but it was worth it.
I'm gonna buy a tent.