People think I am crazy for taking off on a three-week family adventure in two separate vehicles with four adults and six kids ranging from twelve to seventeen years old; a cargo full of camping supplies packed to the brim and the family pets along for the ride…heading for the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. That’s my idea of a wonderful, fun-filled, good old-fashioned family vacation, grandma style! It has honestly become a family tradition for us and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Camping has its ups and downs and yes, it’s hard camping out and roughing it sometimes. Whether we camp out in a state park or alongside a river somewhere—as long as there is water close by, we usually have a good time. Or if we stay in an extravagant motel or an inexpensive find along the way, we try and make the best of it. So long as there are no bedbugs, is clean and has a pool!
Our kids are average-to-good swimmers, but swimming in the Rocky Mountains is hard because the temperature of the water is usually around 40 degrees. Not good swimming conditions, that’s for sure—especially with rivers that have rapids. The run-off from the mountains is usually the reason for the rushing water.
Being almost old (this grandma is just a little over sixty), I figure we better do it now while I am still willing and able. On normal camping trips in Colorado every year, our gang all pitch in and do their parts. The guys put up the tents, get the wood for campfires and keep plenty in stock while we women watch the kids, do the cooking and make sure everyone has a warm bed at night. And we don’t dare forget the s’mores for the evenings around the campfire.
Nighttime in the mountains can get a little cold (around fifty degrees) and it don’t start warming up the next day until around eleven-ish when the sun comes out. If it rains it doesn’t warm up very much. After years of doing this, we have learned to pack for cooler weather. Better to be prepared than be cold!
One of our favorite things to do when we get to Colorado is go rafting. There are several outfitters that allow children under six to raft, but not all. If you’re looking for a rafting adventure be sure to call ahead and find out age requirements, etc. ahead of time. It also depends on where you will be rafting. The Arkansas River in Colorado extends for miles, so you will be able to find a rafting company that will take your family out.
Another thing I have learned is that kids don’t always do well camping or staying at cabins especially when there is no pool. Cabins are fine if there is water flowing close by where they can fish or play in the water. Trust me – years of staying in cabins with our kids have taught me to call ahead and make sure there is water or a creek or something where the kids can soak their feet. Not all kids like water, I agree, but from experience, find out what amenities are available for kids before you book! Bored kids can make your trip unpleasant to some degree.
Camping and staying in cabins is fun. You always have plenty to do but keeping the little ones motivated and occupied is somewhat of a chore sometimes, especially in most cases there is no cell service or wifi.
We are on a budget so before we leave, I find out all the information I can about the place and take advantage of any and all free stuff available for us. Then we do things according to price, time, and destination, and ages.
If you do decide to stay at a cabin resort or go camping in tent or RV, it’s important to find out ahead of time the average daily and nightly weather conditions, and find as many safe campsites that are available to you before you get there so you’re able to choose whichever one that better suits your family’s needs. I like to make sure there are bathrooms for daytime use if we are doing primitive camping. Park rangers don’t like people pooping all over the woods and leaving toilet paper everywhere. Littering the forest is not taken lightly.
Call me a crazy grandma…but spending quality time with those I love is worth the time and effort and hard work. We don’t always camp out – we do stay at motels and resorts quite a bit. But if you go as far as Colorado (it’s over 1000 miles one way from us) with this many people, camping out is an adventure because there is something for the whole family to enjoy. When we sit around the campfire at night, and roasting marshmallows or wieners, we’re making memories and to me, that means well worth the sacrifice. We start out with telling stories and I encourage each child to tell his or her own story. And I pull a few out of my bag as well!
Before you know it we all turn in for the night and wake up to a cool crisp morning hoping that the next person on the trip will get up, start a fire and put the coffee on!
About the Author
Marcella S. Meeks has been writing since 1988 and has articles and stories published in several publications and newspapers around the country such as The Logansport Tribune, The Mansfield Enterprise, Light and Champion Newspaper and the Bossier Press Tribune; other credits include magazines such as Adelaide Literary Magazine, Funds for Writers, First Writer, Authorship (National Writer’s Association), Primary Treasure (Pacific Press), Guide Magazine (Pacific Press). Smarty Pants for Children, Christian Educator, and God’s Word (Pentecostal Publishing House) to name a few. She graduated from WRITER’S DIGEST SCHOOL of Nonfiction Writing; and ICS School of Short Story/Journalism, as well as The Institute of Children’s Literature: Writing for Children and Teens. In addition to writing, her next greatest passion is traveling around the country with children and grandchildren.
Featured image by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash