Eli, Molly and Brahm pose in front of the old grist mill while on a camping trip at Spring Mill State Park.

By Adam & Kristin Kleinert

We love camping. We grew up enjoying camping trips with our families, and we’ve camped with our own crew since our eldest was just a few months old. We don’t go as often as we’d prefer, but it’s been a cherished family pastime and, now that we think about it, a catalyst for family bonding.

At the risk of sounding overly nostalgic, camping has been a venue for really getting to know our children. A number of factors play into this occurrence, beginning simply with the act of leaving our home and setting up “new” quarters together. The scarcity of electronics (sometimes, heaven forbid, even phone service) coupled with the absence of the usual chores that hang over our heads at home allow our natural focus to shift. We listen to one another, we chat and discuss, we philosophize. Giggles are plentiful and there’s lots of time to be silly.

In addition, there’s the slight sense of adventure. While we’re not scaling cliffs and battling fierce animals, we do spend a great deal of our time hiking, exploring and discovering. Over the years, we’ve seen so many beautiful trails and vistas, gorgeous creeks and streams, fascinating caves and historical sites. The kids have built fairy houses, climbed rocks, watched birds and chipmunks, and petted snakes and toads. We’ve judged contests over who jumps the highest and runs the fastest. We’ve huddled together during downpours and found our way back to camp after taking long detours on the wrong trail. While our experiences aren’t exactly Homer’s Odyssey, they’re our own adventures, and we love that we enjoyed them together.

Campgrounds in and of themselves are like little neighborhoods existing in a separate time. Pace of life is slower, everyone is friendly and it’s perfectly ordinary to see your neighbor carrying a toothbrush and shower supplies as they pass you on their way to the bathhouse. It’s in these magical spaces that all four of our kids learned to build a fire, ride bikes without training wheels and make fast friends with complete strangers. We seem to behave a bit differently, needing much less stimulation than when we’re at home. For instance, there’s a mini chess/checkers game the kids’ grandmother keeps in her camper; the magnetic travel-kind, nothing special. Our kids and their cousins adore playing this game at the picnic tables in the campgrounds, to a point where they actually fight over who gets to take on the winner of each round. This would never happen at home.

When we get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy home life and live more simply than usual, family becomes the focus, and that’s always a win.


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