Several years ago we were invited to camp with some friends of ours, and since then we’ve made this a biannual tradition. There are typically five to six families (and a few extras) that attend, and despite the fact that we all occupy very different social circles during the rest of the year, we are still connected in this funny little camping way each spring and fall. The kids in the group range in ages from infant to (now) middle school, and the group is certainly girl-heavy, although there are often other boys that tag along.
Another benefit of group camping? Group cooking. We got smart several trips ago and started planning a large communal feast on Saturday night. We spend the day hiking and on the water, and then we all head back to camp and start cooking. This year we had lamb curry with basmati rice and naan grilled over the fire plus salads, green and fruit, cocktails and wine and beer. And s’mores of course…it is a camping trip.
Friday night we rolled into camp after nine – long after the rest of the families. M pitched the tent by the light of his headlamp, and we joined the sleepy crowd of adults only around the campfire for awhile. The girls drifted off to sleep instantly in the tent, and we found them later, head to head, holding hands. We turned the lantern off, let the fan turn on low, and discovered our tent ceiling had attracted all these fireflies that were now hanging out between the tent top and the rain fly – our own quiet twinkle light show under the canopy of trees above.
We camp in a different spot each time – and this was our most distant camp yet. Greer Springs, MO on the Eleven Point River – almost to Arkansas. 220 million gallons bubble up out of the spring each day at a constant temperature of fifty-five degrees. It creates this lovely cool mist above the water, and even when the shore temperatures start to climb, the breezes feel amazing. The hike to the spring is pretty manageable, even for scrappy little ones (and those recovering from foot surgery), and it’s an idyllic spot to put in kayaks. The current is brisk, so the paddling is a bit of a workout, but it’s so picturesque in the mist and the shadows. The campground is first come-first served, but we almost had the place to ourselves last weekend – maybe because of the weather forecast? (Although we managed to get lucky and dodge the storms.)
It truly felt like a mini-vacation this time around. Camping takes effort for sure – there’s a lot of packing and unpacking and erecting and breaking down and putting away. It’s funny how much of the weekend you spend doing those tasks – but that’s where I think that group camping really works. There’s this community of people doing the work around you, slowly emptying out of tents early in the morning, starting up the stoves, sharing extra pancakes and coffee, mapping out the plan for the day. I highly recommend Greer Springs campground – skip out early on a Friday, pick a site, and bring (or like we did, borrow) a kayak. It doesn’t get much prettier than this.