Camping During Coronavirus
Currently, at California State Parks, all camping is by reservation only. Most campgrounds are also only partially opened, meaning less people per campground. This basically makes camping just about the best social distancing vacation there is right now.
On Monday evening last week we started talking about how restless we were and wouldn’t it be great if we could get away for just a few nights. First, we checked Airbnb but quickly realized that wasn’t going to be an option, at least in the areas we were interested in going. Then it hit us - camping! The last time we went camping was back in February (so pre-coronavirus lockdowns). We went to Joshua Tree and it was a dream trip. Camping is always the answer.
We decided to check reservations at all the campgrounds near our house to see if we could book a trip for the coming weeks. And just our luck - a site was available at the lake by our house (Lake Casitas, if you’re localish) for the SAME WEEK. We didn’t really anticipate taking a trip that soon but we also weren’t about to pass on it. After a quick check of our work calendars we booked the trip!
We packed the car on Wednesday afternoon after a few hours of work and arrived at our campsite by about 4:00pm. We camp a few times a year so we've really nailed down our packing and set-up process at this point. We also store all of our camp gear in a designated section in the garage so that when we head out on a trip, it really is just a matter of carrying the gear to the car and hitting the road.
(my packing helper)
The campsite we scored was right next to a creek and, unfortunately, another campsite. Luck was on our side again though and nobody ever came to claim the other campsite so we had the entire little area by this particular section of the creek entirely to ourselves. The campsite was also shaded and level - huge bonuses.
Because we only camped for two nights, we kept our meals pretty simple - pancakes, eggs, and bacon for breakfast; sandwiches or ramen for lunch; hot dogs and baked beans for dinner; and of course s'mores for dessert. This was Ruby’s first time really eating a whole s’more (as opposed to dissecting it and eating all the parts separately) and she was a big fan. We also brought plenty of fruit and chips to snack on.
On Thursday we rented a pontoon boat at the lake, a first for us! George has been obsessed with learning how to fish lately but was a little put off when he realized how long you have to wait for a fish to actually take the bait. Eleanor summed it up pretty perfectly when she said: "Fishing is nice. But a bit boring though." If that isn't the perfect tagline for fishing, right? To the surprise of none, we didn't catch a single fish. We did, however, have a lovely few hours motoring around the lake, trying to identify the birds, and scoping out all of the jumping fish we couldn't seem to catch. All in all it was a capital day (I’m still reading Little Women, obvs).
Our short trip went by very quickly, as they always do. If camping is something you're considering trying during coronavirus, I heartily endorse it. We were easily able to stay 6 feet from people (usually way more) and when we did have to go into communal areas (boat rental, bathrooms, etc.) we made sure to wear masks and use our hand sanitizer. On the whole, the trip felt safer than a trip to the grocery store feels these days, especially with three kids in tow. And it did everyone in our family a world of good to unplug and unwind for a few days.
If you haven't been camping (or haven't been camping in awhile), here's some of the gear that we've acquired over the years that makes camping with kids so much easier and more enjoyable.
This sleeping bag is massive. It's designed to fit two adults but I usually squeeze into it with a couple of kids while my husband takes a single sleeping bag.
For many years we didn't have a camp stove and simply cooked our meals over the fire. After having kids, however, we learned that the best way to spoil a camping trip is to leave your kids hangry while waiting for food to cook over an unforgiving fire. Having a camp stove allows us to cook our meals so much more quickly and efficiently.
If you're a coffee drinker, get yourself a percolator. The coffee tastes great and there's nothing better than drinking a hot cup of coffee while sitting by the fire during those cool mornings.
Obviously, if you're camping you'll need a tent. I always recommend people get a tent that fits more people than will actually be sleeping in it (e.g., if you have a family of four, go with a tent that fits six, etc.). We bought our tent (this Marmot Limestone six person tent) in 2011 before we had kids. My favorite thing about it is that we can all stand up comfortably in it. It also easily fits our king-sized air mattress with some room to spare. It's still in amazing shape but we are starting to outgrow it slightly.
There's so much more gear that we take. If you would like another post about camping gear, let me know in the comments and I'll work one up.