Why we are not campers.

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15, NLT

I promised my family they would love camping in the tent-cabins at Colter Bay near the Grand Tetons of Wyoming — when in fact, I had never been camping there, nor had our family ever camped once in our existence. 

I knew we were in trouble when my husband and I pulled our minivan, filled to the brim with four teenagers, up to our campsite and saw a small tent-cabin (yes, it’s exactly that: a tent-cabin) and a small bonfire pit. (Keywords: Everything. Was. Small. We are a giant family of six—kin to Shrek—each hovering near six feet or more.) When our campsite neighbors pulled up and began to unload their multiple tubs of Rubbermaid camping gear complete with tents, screens, a propane stove, and lanterns, my children stared at me with dagger-like eyes. 

Fine. 

So, we didn’t have a stove, flashlight, utensils, plates, food, or matches. We had a pocketknife. But this was nothing a trip to the camp store couldn’t fix. Two packages of hot dogs later, along with stale buns and a few packets of ketchup and mustard we “stole” from the deli, and we were living like pioneers! Never mind we had to borrow matches from our professional camping neighbors to start our bonfire. The non-stop disapproving body language I felt from my loving family should have discouraged me, but I knew eventually they would love this whole experience!

Well, our three-day camping experience turned into a one night “get us the heck out of here” experience. Other than the fact that we spent the night in a World War II era tent-cabin where the wood-burning heater ran out of wood around 2 a.m., the temperature dropped to 32 degrees, and we were all freezing, it wasn’t a big deal. I hardly noticed the frostbite because of the shooting pain in my torn rotator cuff that zapped me every time I tried to roll over in my 1940s army cot. 

Besides, who could sleep? I was still thinking about the “watch out for the hungry bears late at night” comment I’d heard at the camp store earlier. Not to worry, I was pretty sure the shouts from our cabin sent every bear in three counties running for cover at 2:15 a.m. when my husband woke up to stoke the woodless fire and tripped over our boys who were sleeping soundly in soccer chairs. When they collapsed under dad’s falling body, their freaked-out screams likely started a flurry of bears texting one another, “Crazy Alert: Stay away from Site 37.” 

Somehow the girls slept through the chaos, but in the morning, their parsed-lip mumbles about having to pay 25 cents to take a shower in a grimy stall didn’t go unnoticed. Trying to be chipper, I reminded them, “C’mon you guys! This is how the Little House on the Prairie people did it!” Eyes were rolling. By the time we packed up our goods and pulled out of the campground, I’d had enough of the bad attitudes and forced the entire family to sing, “You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart.” (Thank you Carole King, Tapestry Album, 1970s.) 

Wouldn’t you know, once we saw the Grand Tetons and hiked up beautiful trails to see mountain views and waterfalls, not to mention the moose, bears, and plentiful wildlife (from a distance!), the entire family was singing my praises about what a great vacation this was! 

So, here’s the punch line. I promised they would love camping and to this day, the Colter Bay camping experience is the one and only vacation our family still raves, mocks and reenacts all of these years later. 

(I knew they would love it!) 

And that’s why we are not campers.

(Excerpt from Beth’s book, Wealth and Generosity, published by Harrison House.)

The point? Make memories with your family -- whether in a tent-cabin in Wyoming or by sitting around the card table playing games. You will never regret the effort and expense of spending tine with family!

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