Part 3 of Ah! Wilderness:  The Ultimate Family Vacation

All Goes Well

When I pull into campsite No. 47 at 5:45 p.m., the grownups are calm, laughing, and putting out the food. The kids are running up and down the open field and having a blast on the playground adjacent to our campsite. Keith is sitting in the screened-in porch, happily counting out hot dog buns. I throw my bag into the tent and join in.

We don’t have to climb a mountain in order to find peace and purpose. 

I help to assemble the folding chairs around the campfire while sipping wine and enjoying appetizers. Everyone enjoys practicing the lost art of adult conversation. As we talk, we whittle long sticks into skewers for our favorite camping dessert, toasted marshmallows. I can already taste the black, crispy outsides and sticky, gooey insides.


We eat hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken breast, Portobello mushrooms and lots of mushy marshmallows. A movie is playing in the pavilion and we all trudge over to watch it in our pajamas, carrying with us blankets, flashlights and popcorn.

An epiphany

The next day of our family vacation, my children learn for the first time how to bait a hook and cast a line. I become a braver traveling mom and let my daughter walk to the campground’s general store with her girlfriend. A dollar tucked into her pocket will buy some penny candy for her and her brother, who is busy fighting intergalactic space invaders in the video arcade. As an added precaution, I stick my cell phone in her jacket, preprogramming it to ring her father’s number in an emergency.

The moms sneak away for an hour of tennis, leaving our offspring in the care of their fathers. Somehow the children, one by one, mysteriously re-appear courtside, so we lob balls to them until boredom sets in and we all head back to camp. That night we dance like crazy to an 80s band, whose availability, no doubt, is due to lack of better offers.

On the final day of our family vacation, I have an epiphany. I realize that life has become too complex as we run around, trying to keep up with our overscheduled calendars. Pulling over from the fast lane and into campsite No. 47 for a weekend was one of the healthiest, sanest things I have done in a long time. Just a few days away from it all slowed life down just enough so I could slow down with it.

We don’t have to climb a mountain in order to find peace and purpose. We don’t have to drink lousy coffee or eat dehydrated meals from a bag. Sometimes all it takes is braving a new trail and trying out something new with four couples, eight children, toasted marshmallows and plenty of quarters.

Throw in the hot showers and we have truly reached a new peak in our lives—with no blisters to show for it.

Read Hints for Vacationing with Another Family