Sixteen of our closest friends commune with nature and live it up.

Before our family vacation, our house looks like an army barracks gone awry. Piles of clothes, stacked laundry baskets and assorted gear lay spewed across the floor. A rolled up sleeping bag teeters precariously on top of the sofa. The cat is temporarily lost amidst the clutter. The scent of insect repellent fills the air.

This can only mean one thing—it’s time for our annual family vacation camping trip. But this time we’re foregoing the intimacy of our usual family vacation at a local state park to embark on an outdoor adventure with sixteen of our closest friends—four couples, eight children — all communing with nature and living it up during a hassle-free weekend at a private campground.

My goal is to keep these special people in my life long after a weekend in the woods.



Nature as Liberation

I have always loved the outdoors. There’s something liberating about leaving behind the hectic, stressful, chaotic world and ditching all worldly possessions to heed the call of the wild.

Before we had children, my husband and I would spend many weekends loading our minimalist belongings into backpacks, hoisting them upon our shoulders, and carrying them to the summits of various mountain peaks. We would leave behind the luxuries of our everyday world, eat delicious dehydrated dinners and drink hot caffeinated sludge while huddled together in a lean-to. Inner peace and calm complemented blisters and muscle pulls as we became one with nature.

Nowadays we camp family-style. We’ve traded in our the lightweight, state-of-the-art two-person backpackers’ tent for a three-room "condo" model that sleeps six, complete with zipper-controlled partitions and plenty of pockets for books, makeup, and other “suburban survival” gear.

Our backwoods inventory includes a portable screened-in room where we enjoy eating our meals safe from the blood-sucking mosquitoes, stinging yellow jackets, and annoying no-see-ums that attack us relentlessly. We fill our bug-free haven with the essentials: three cartons of cookware, two coolers, a six-pack of beer, two bottles of wine (white and red), Diet Coke, a bulk supply of juice boxes, potato chips in wavy, barbeque, and sour cream varieties, ibuprofen, allergy medicine, a corkscrew and a can opener. We also bring along the Game Boys, DVD player and video games to ensure every comfort from home makes the trip. “Roughing” it means we settle for hot dogs and hamburgers instead of surf and turf.

So much more to read!  Click here for more Ah! Wilderness:  The Friendship Chapter

Read Hints for Vacationing with Another Family