Camping for the first time with Oden was a huge deal. What a joy to share something we love so much with our baby! We had a great time in the beautiful Utah desert with him, but we realized pretty quickly that we’d outgrown our teensy little trailer. We bought Betty when it was just the two of us, and she was perfect for what we needed. Then we added Cholula to the family, and things got a little cozier. Camping with my growing pregnant belly added a new challenge to finding comfort. Throwing a baby into the mix (and all of the gear that goes along with one) really pushed the limits to what worked within that 13-foot trailer. We spent the weekend constantly juggling STUFF from one place to another, seeking any empty space to prep food or change a diaper or put Oden down for a nap or make formula bottles or wash dishes. We both bonked little Oden’s head on the ceiling at some point. It was doable, but it wouldn’t be for long- that little 2-month-old was only going to get bigger! It’s amazing how much a baby really does change things. I swore we’d never get rid of our beloved Betty and it took one camping trip for us to be on the search for her replacement. (Sigh.)
The good news is that we found a spectacular new rig, still pretty darn small but with enough space for our family to continue to grow for years to come. On the heels of the concert we’d recently taken Oden to, we named him Willie. Compared to the charming but old school Betty, Willie has more bells and whistles than we know what to do with: a fridge, heat and AC, an oven and microwave, and even a little bathroom (specifically for potty-training!). We won’t use a lot of the goodies often because we mostly camp in areas without RV hookups, but the space and layout are great for our new needs. We couldn’t wait to get out with Willie to test him out. Last week, we packed up our little circus and headed to Durango, Willie in tow! We’d visit with friends in town and camp with Grandma and Grandpa for a few nights. The timing of the trip was specifically planned to coincide with Sarah’s visit to the states. When one of your very best friends moves to the Middle East for over 3 years, you find a way to see her when she’s back on U.S. soil! Sarah had a baby less than 2 months after Oden was born. Our babies would get to meet. What a dream come true for me!
True to form, I over-packed. Better safe than sorry- especially with a baby, right? Next time, I’ll pare down my packing list now that I know what we truly need and don’t need. We rolled out of the driveway significantly later than planned and prayed that Oden would cooperate for the 7-hour drive. No such luck. A sore mouth full of budding teeth, a too-small car seat (a fact we discovered on the way HOME), and too long in the car made for a rough ride for baby and parents alike. Because we had to stop so often, the 7-hour drive took us 10 hours, and Oden wasn’t the only one in tears at times. But we made it, just in time for Grandma to read Oden a story before bed (and for mom and dad to have a well-deserved cocktail or two!).
John had to do some work in the morning, so after one of my mom’s delicious breakfast casseroles, Oden and I strolled Main Street with my folks to do a little bit of shopping. We ran into Sarah and another sweet friend, Heather, and compared our sleeping babies. Look how big Oden is compared to sweet Silas!
Later, another friend who is a new mama, Jessica, hosted a lovely ladies’ lunch at her house. What fun to see the babies interact, though Oden’s excitement freaked out little Rayna. Three new babies within a group of friends is special! Thursday night, we had more time with dear friends when Liz and Roland hosted a get-together. We’ve spent a lot of time with Liz and Roland over the years, and it’s pretty cool to have our son become part of the crew!
That night, John gave me THE BEST present: a night of sleep. He took over all of Oden’s nighttime and morning feedings and sent me out to the camper with earplugs to get a night of uninterrupted slumber. I snoozed from 10:00pm until 8:30am! It was fabulous! Oden joined me for his morning nap, which was also fabulous. I love how he’s holding my hand in this photo.
We spent Friday morning prepping Willie for three nights of camping: stocking the fridge, filling the water tank, etc. We are rookies to this kind of camping, so my dad showed John the ropes. We met my parents at Vallecito Campground, 45 minutes from Durango and full of tall pines with a river running alongside it. John set up Oden’s jumper and got Willie situated (super quick and easy!). My dad imparted some valuable camping wisdom to his grandson and my mom made us a delicious dinner. She always remembers dessert, which Oden was very curious about! We ended the night early, snuggling into the new camper. It has two pop-out beds, and John calls one of them his “snoratorium.” I ended up in the other one with my babies (furry and non-furry). Everybody wants Mama.
Camping mornings tend to start early, and with a baby, there’s no other choice! Those mornings are my favorite- waking up in a sleeping bag with a chill in the air, sunlight filtered through pine trees, heating water on the stove for a warm wake-up washcloth and to make coffee. John snuck out early for a long mountain bike ride with some friends and Oden and I took it slow with our respective morning beverages. We had a leisurely day with Grandma and Grandpa, walking the dogs and playing card games. A little rain storm came through right at nap time- cozy!
Sarah, Cordell and little Silas came by our campsite for happy hour. Oden just loves seeing other little people! We hosted dinner that night, and I made a super-yummy Mexican-style chicken “hobo” meal, cooked in foil packets on the grill over the campfire coals. It was simple but so tasty- I can’t wait to make it again!
Sunday, we split the work with making breakfast- I made a sweet potato and egg hash and my mom made skillet bacon over the fire and camp toast. YUM. It was another slow day, with my dad and John putting together Willies BBQ and Oden jumping away in this jumper while my mom and I cheered him on. He’s such a happy baby! John attempted a little hike with Oden (during which he fell fast asleep) and I snuck away to say goodbye to Sarah and her family. It will be so wonderful when they move back to Durango next year and I know she’s just a car ride away!
The rest of the day was spent watching Cholula patiently stalk a squirrel out of her reach, playing cards under the pine trees, and simply relaxing together. We had one last picnic table supper- tasty pork loin, camp beans, corn on the cob, and salad. Oden fell asleep without a struggle and let his parents have a few minutes of peace and quiet with the crackling campfire before bed. John played a little bit of guitar, and the combination always works like a drug to get me to fall asleep. It’s my favorite lullaby!
It didn’t take long in the morning to shut up shop (Willie makes it super easy!) and hit the road. The drive home was slightly shorter than 10 hours and I’d like to report that it was relatively easy, but that would be a lie. (We ordered a larger convertible car seat the moment we got home!) The truth is that the difficult drive home almost deleted the happiness of the week for me, but I didn’t let that happen. I tried to focus on Oden’s smiley moments and got out into the mountains onto a trail the very next morning to preserve the good juju. It worked!
It will only be a few weeks until we’ll be spending more time with my folks, this time in Hawaii! (Fact: Grandparents can’t stay away from their grandchild for very long.) Willie’s first excursion proved to be a big success, and it’s clear we made the right choice with the camper switch. The leaves are starting to change on the hillside across the valley from home and I know this fall will be full of little camp-outs close to home. And now, thanks to Willie, we have a camping theme song! Just can’t wait to get on the road again…