My camping experience is fairly extensive and diverse. I’ve roughed it under the stars and fished for my dinner. I’ve braved the Northern Cascades of Washington a little too late in the season, and I’ve been lost without water when I knew there was a giant lake nearby, somewhere. But the adventure that stands out like a blistered toe is my first, and last, family trek.
In the summer of 2002, my neighbor was selling his pop-up camper. My wife and I were both raised on family summer camping trips and, so… “what the heck.” The following weekend we were off to the KOA at Munds Park with our 4- and 5-year-old daughters and a son of not quite a year old. Break the tenderfoots in with an easy one, I figured.
We pulled in around 3 p.m. The weather was calm, the site level, and the bathrooms close. We set up the pop-up and the cute little “mosquito porch” attachment for bug-free dining. What could go wrong?
Picture torrential rain at about 7 inches per second and an extremely strong monsoon wind violently attacking our tin and canvas hovel. My girls were too terrified to scream or cry. My wife was not. It’s really hard to come up with an effective evacuation plan when your partner is speaking in tongues and scrawling her last will and testament on the sheets with a charcoal briquette.
After what seemed like hours but was probably 20 minutes, the storm subsided and we all passed out from the exhaustion that comes only from cheating death. Then came the banging on the door. The knock sounded pretty much like what you might expect to hear in a cheap horror movie where everyone is viciously slaughtered. Loud, persistent, yet almost rhythmic. Our whispers of “who’s there?” were not answered. Grasping my marshmallow-roasting fork, I pushed open the door a crack to find our 5-year-old, soaking wet, half-asleep, and quite confused. In her sleep, she somehow rolled out between where the mattress ended and the camper wall began.
We’ve been strictly a “hotel” family since.