My family and I just got back from a 4 day camping trip in the mountains. This is one of those things we’ve been meaning to do with the kids, but just never seemed to work into our schedule between soccer games, work, school… basically life! The last time we went camping as a family was 9 years ago. It’s pretty easy to track the time because it was when we took my stepsons on a road trip to see Mount Rushmore and our daughter was 7 months old. By the way, 7 months is a great age to camp with infants – can’t crawl or walk yet, but are fairly easily entertained and not up every hour.
This time we went up to Shadow Mountain Camp Site just outside of Grand Lake, Colorado. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a mountain camp site with fun activities nearby. Cost was only $17 a night! There are multiple camp sites in the vicinity – Arapahoe Bay, Willow Creek and a few others that I can’t remember the names. We went during the week and didn’t need a reservation, but if you are going on the weekend I’d reserve a spot just in case. Camping is pretty popular in this area.
Activities for Kids
Grand Lake has a lot to offer families. In downtown, there is a swimming beach, lots of places to rent boats, miniature golf, bowling, and multiple places to get ice cream. There’s also horseback riding, ATV rentals, and, of course, fishing. We didn’t spend much time in Grand Lake proper because we were really enjoying being together as a family, fishing, playing cards etc. But we did hit town on the last day to get some ice cream and the kids took a dip in the lake.
Wildlife in Colorado
We saw a ton of wildlife – this big Grand Daddy Moose was laying around enjoying the sun. We also saw some deer (still had velvet on their antlers), fish were jumping near the spillway, chipmunks were abundant – but best of all we saw a black bear and a llama!
The bear was benign, just dumped over a couple of coolers and the dumpster in the campground. I thought it was SO cool to see one! Hubs was a bit more protective of his family and didn’t encourage us going to take a better look at the bear. I really wanted a picture, but o’well.
The bear also broke down the forest service gate where they keep the llamas and so we had two llamas loose in camp. My 3 year old was too cute “Did you see the black Mama?!!” Although not politically correct, it was really funny and had us chuckling all morning.
My Favorite Camping Insights
- Family Bonding – The best part of camping was just hanging out with my husband and kids without any interruptions or places to be. It took a day before we settled into a more relaxed frame of mind, but unplugging completely, working toward common goals, and talking to each other was priceless. We are a much more connected family than we were before we went camping and I fully intend to have more trips like this with the express purpose of creating stronger family bonds.
- Smores – There is just something about making smores on an open campfire that beats almost any other dessert. We’ve roasted marshmallows at home, but I don’t think our kids have had full blown smores – with the graham crackers and Hershey’s bar – until this trip. It was a nightly ritual that everyone enjoyed and will definitely stick in their memories.
- Mountain Air – The mountains get pretty chilly at night, but that means that you wake up to a refreshing temperature every day and since the wildflowers were abundant, the air smells delicious! Nothing beats breathing crisp mountain air.
What I’ll Bring with us Next Time / Do Differently
There is the obvious stuff – like a tent, sleeping bags, and food. But there are a few things we didn’t bring that I’ll make sure to take along with us next time. It’s hard to believe we left anything behind considering how high our truck was piled, but it’s true.
- Games – I brought cards, but next time I’ll bring a puzzle or Chinese checkers or something we can all play. Chloe isn’t really old enough to play cards.
- Pillows – Somehow my kids thought to bring pillows, but hubs and I didn’t. A rolled up towel only goes so far as a pillow.
- Sweatshirts – I made sure everyone brought at least one sweatshirt, but didn’t even consider Chloe would want to lay down in the lake in all of her clothes. An extra sweatshirt would have been a good thing.
- Hats and mittens – It gets pretty nippy at night – even in the summer. Hats for when we went to sleep w0uld have been a good idea and they don’t take up much room.
- Cup A Noodles / Soups – We cooked pretty well each night, but the convenience of just heating water and having food ready (that the kids like) is priceless. I don’t know why I didn’t think to bring these in the first place, but I won’t forget next time.
- Wet Wipes – We got pretty good and dirty in just 3 days. Having wet wipes to at least clean our hands before eating would have been very convenient. We ended up using soap and water, but the option of wet wipes for when we weren’t near clean water would have been nice.
- Check what my kids packed – Every morning I told my kids to change their underwear and put on clean clothes if the ones they were wearing were pretty dirty. My 9 year old daughter? “Oh, I didn’t bring any underwear. We’re just going to be here 3 nights.” Eeeeew! I definitely need to work with her on hygiene!
There is so much more I could tell you, but this post is getting a little long so I’ll have to share more later. And in case you wanted proof that I was there too….