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The Reluctant Camper

07/15/2016 14:08 ● Published by Dan Greeson

Shea, Sloan and Jessica Speer stop for a break on route to Gilpin Lake in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. Photo courtesy of the Speer family.

By Jessica Speer

It’s 5:45 p.m. on a steamy Friday in July. My husband and I are scrambling to pull off a promised weekend camping trip. By the looks of our overflowing truck, it appears we’ll be gone for the rest of the summer. 

For full disclosure, I’d better share that I fall into the novice camper category by Steamboat standards. Growing up in the suburbs of Phoenix, my family’s idea of an outdoor activity was walking to the mall – even that rarely happened. 

Thanks to the intervention of a childhood friend’s family I did experience camping. The nostalgia of unplanned days, campfires and, of course, s’mores is forever lodged in my memory. 

In adult life, my husband and I have shared a few off-the-beaten-path backpacking trips, but the birth of our first child brought such endeavors to a screeching halt. The mere thought of diapers and the great outdoors was enough for us to avoid camping until the past few years. 

Our daughters, 10 and 8, are at the special age when camping is magical. Magic because all of our family’s household rules do not apply when camping – getting to bed on time, staying relatively clean, limiting chocolate and marshmallow consumption and all sleeping in the same small space. It’s no wonder they love camping. It’s me that lacks the energy these days. The thought of adding another item to the to-do list – “pack for camping trip” – is enough to raise my blood pressure a few notches. 

But I promised, so here we go. We’ll be at Buffalo Pass in 20 minutes – the perfect distance for this weekend excursion. Far enough to feel like we’ve gone somewhere, yet close enough to avoid carsickness and to zip home if we forgot something crucial. 

We back out of the driveway and head to our last stop: the sandwich shop. I usually pride myself on healthy, home-cooked dinners but for the sake of time and sanity, we grab some hoagies on our way out of town. 

I glance at the girls in the back seat, bouncing with excitement as visions of s’mores dance in their heads. I lean back and take a deep breath, relieved and amazed we made it out the door before sunset. 

By stroke of luck, we find an open camping spot nestled in the trees with the bonus of a stream nearby. Camping karma is on our side. The kids are immediately inspired by the important task of finding kindling and roasting sticks. 

Before long, the truck is empty, the tent is up and the campfire is blazing. Success. 

We fall into our camping chairs just as the sun dips behind the mountaintops. The fire crackles and dances, mesmerizing us all. The girls, now coated with dirt and bug spray, are completely engaged with their fire sticks. No one speaks for a while, content just to be. 

I gaze up at the black sky, and see it sprinkled with stars. The bustle of our lives has lifted momentarily. I settle into the fleeting feeling of having nothing to do. We’ve been away only a few hours and already I’ve lost track of time. 

My shoulders relax a little as I savor this moment, grateful we made it out the door. Grateful for these magic moments with my family. Grateful to live in such a beautiful place. Car camping success? Check. 

Living, In Print Jessica Speer Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area

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