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Camping is not for everyone

Published Oct. 1, 2012

Courtesy of Pokagon State Park

Camping sounds so romantic — the smell of wood smoke around a campfire in the wilds. Seduced by the image, my family decided to camp overnight at Pokagon State Park in nearby Angola, Ind.

First clue, we couldn’t get all the gear packed into the car. Two tents, food, cooking gear, sleeping bags, inflatable bed, flashlights, extra clothes: it all wouldn’t fit into our family car. We stuffed the girls on top of all the soft stuff and slammed the doors shut.

We left our dog with friends — possibly our only smart decision.

Arriving at the park, we pulled without incident into our spot, complete with electric outlets and water. Unpacking was easy — the car was so stuffed that everything tumbled out when we opened the doors, including the girls. The campsites were small and close together, more people than nature. Few were tenting like us, most arrived in RVs or pop-up trailers.

We rolled out our borrowed tent. Neither my husband nor I knew what to do next. The girls got their small tent up in a jiffy, as we pondered our next move. We had nothing to pound the stakes into the ground with except a cast-iron frying pan. Gamely, my husband picked up the pan and started to pound. The Good Samaritan across the way came over to help. An avid every-weekend camper, he had the tools and knew how to put up a tent.

The girls fled as the super-loud motor inflated the mattress. Yes, we brought an inflatable mattress: a queen-sized double high. I, for one, was not going to sleep on the ground. After pumping the mattress up, it occurred to us that the bed was bigger than the tent flap; deflate, start again.

Finally it was time for dinner. Did we say that we picked Pokagon because it had the Potawatomi Inn with its historic dining room? The food reminded me of summer camp, but at least I didn’t have to cook it. Fortified, we headed back to our campsite.

Courtesy of Pokagon State Park

We lit our fire, roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. This camping thing was OK. Turning in for the night, we called out our good-nights and settled in.

Right then, the nice people across the way decided to bring out their guitars and sing. Hopefully singing was not their day jobs. As we lay on our now slowly deflating bed (must have been a rock that second time), my husband and I discussed just how long the floor show would continue. After an hour or three, the serenade ended, only to be replaced by an alcohol-fueled, tell-all, family confrontation — reality TV, campground edition.

Finally, someone stomped off and blissful silence ensued — broken only by our daughter screaming. We rushed out of our tent to see what was wrong. The girls had set their tent up on an anthill and the ants attacked the chocolate and marshmallow smeared girls. Moving their tent and shaking out the ants took another hour.

Crawling back onto our now completely deflated mattress, my husband dropped off immediately and started snoring. I listened hard to hear the sounds of nature; mostly there was a cacophony of people snoring and motorhomes whirring. I drifted into a broken sleep. Morning came swiftly, heralded by a pack of 10-year-old boys riding their bikes and whooping, loudly.

The cast-iron pan came in handy, again. We whipped up some bacon and eggs, made coffee and only ingested a small amount of dirt. Now it was time to do something fun. Pokagon State Park offers boat rentals and escorted horse back riding. We could take a hike to the lake, or around the park; visit the Nature Center.

We looked at each other and silently started to pack up the car. Everyone wanted to get out of nature and take a hot shower.

Some families just aren’t cut out for camping.

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