April of 2007 was the first camping trip that my husband and I took together. We didn’t have kids yet, but we were joined by our beagle puppy. We decided to go to Cloudland Canyon State Park, which is a nice state park up in the northwest corner of Georgia, near Chattanooga. It’s funny to think about that first trip, and our inexperience. 🙂
The walk-in camping (tent only) section of Cloudland Canyon is still one of the more rustic places we’ve camped. They have 30 sites on one side of the parking lot and off to another side were the bathrooms and the sole water source for all the sites. They were only $6 a night at that time (they’re $16/night now!). In those days, my husband worked on Saturdays, so we arrived early Saturday evening, when most of the sites had already been claimed. We chose one of the few remaining ones – which also happened to be one of the farthest away from the bathrooms and water. We got lost on the way there and added an hour to our trip, so we didn’t have much time to get the tent set up before it got dark.
I camped with my family a lot as a girl, but stopped once we moved overseas when I was 8. My husband had never camped before, but he is fairly outdoorsy and adventurous. We had registered for camping gear for our wedding and I had spent a lot of time researching some of the other things we would need, namely the tent. We had settled on a pretty expensive one from REI because I wanted something that was good and would last. We chose a bigger one because at the time, being able to stand up completely in the tent seemed important. (The next summer, we bought a much smaller tent that fit our needs better.)
So, our first camping trip, we way overpacked. We had this huge tent, and we brought way too much padding for sleeping. We also brought our huge dog crate, which we lugged all the way from the parking lot to the site and set up into the tent. (That was the only time we brought the crate – our dog did much better just sprawled on our sleeping bags, and the crate was a little ridiculous to bring due to its size.)
We weren’t used to setting up the tent so it took us a little while, and was dark by the time we finished. I set about making dinner, while Paul tried to figure out the fire. I don’t remember why, but for whatever reason the fire didn’t happen that night. We also could not get our camp stove turned on – it was one thing we had never tested before our trip, so we thought it was defective. We ended up eating cold baked beans and graham crackers because they were two things that didn’t need to be cooked.
The next morning, our puppy woke us up early. I had a big breakfast planned because that just seemed to be what you do when camping. With the help of the light of day, I realized I had hooked up the stove wrong the night before, so I was glad to see that we would be able to use it to cook. We had a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.
We then spent the morning hiking Cloudland Canyon which is beautiful. Our puppy LOVED the many stairs to get down to the falls. She was a bundle of energy. We really, really enjoyed our day exploring the park. In the early afternoon, we went back to the campsite and the dog and I took a nice, delicious nap in the tent. It wasn’t hot outside, but I was really warm from hiking so I left the doors of the tent open to catch the breeze. Unfortunately, because of that I woke up to several insects flying around inside.
We’ve come a long way from those first few trips. Here are some lessons we took away from it:
- For the two of us, a big tent was unnecessary. It took up a lot of space in the trunk and was complicated to set up. Also, the expensive Kelty tent was a little overkill for our needs – we found the much cheaper Walmart tent we bought the next year did just fine.
- We ditched the idea of bringing our dog crate after that trip – it was definitely way too cumbersome and heavy. At that time we thought a tent big enough for also a Pack & Play for any future babies would be important, but once our baby came along that was another item we didn’t even consider. 🙂
- We abandoned the memory foam bed topper and extra sleeping bags for padding because they took up SO much room. I wrote more about that here.
- We now test out all new equipment before going camping!
- We now bring jugs of water with us for cooking (easier to carry and keep the water clean), and we usually carry our dishes to the spigot to wash them instead of lugging buckets of water back to the campsite.
- We don’t do big breakfasts anymore. Paul hates getting up early, and I felt like we were either eating very late (at like 11am) or I was cooking and eating by myself, which wasn’t much fun.
- We don’t leave the tent doors wide open due to bugs!
- I realize I take a lot more pictures now. (You can see all the pictures I did take at this album on Flickr.)
We have yet to camp at Cloudland Canyon since then, but we really need to. It was a great campground and had a lot of activities to keep the whole family occupied. (We did stay in a cabin there a few years later, and got a chance to explore all the playgrounds!)