Sean and I haven’t been camping in years, so I thought it would be fun to finally get back outside and start a new camping tradition with Colin. We started by buying Colin a new sleeping bag that was just his size. We set it up on the floor in his room so that he could practice sleeping in it. He slept just great, so we decided to give camping a try! With the car loaded full of chairs, blankets, pillows, food, and bug spray, we headed out to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL for an overnight trip.
Upon arrival, we checked into our campsite and started lunch. Within a very few short minutes, Colin had already taken a nasty tumble off the picnic bench, so we decided to spread out a blanket and have a picnic lunch. It’s been a while since we camped, so I seemed to have forgotten how buggy camping can be – and how big those bugs are! We were quickly greeted by daddy-long-leg spiders, mosquitos, and various other unknown bug species. After lunch, Sean pitched the tent and Colin and I laid down for naptime. With all the other campers, animal noises, and bright sunshine, a nap was hard to come by, but, Colin finally took a brief nap while swinging with me in the hammock. Afterwards, we headed out for our first hike and Colin loved it. We saw mud puddles, streams, and logs and big rocks that were perfect for climbing. We then headed back to the campsite to get the campfire started for dinner. After dinner, we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. That was the first time that Colin had tried a s’more and he absolutely loved it! Bedtime is difficult when the sun is still out and you can look right out the tent window at all the activity. Colin was too busy watching the lightning bugs and listening to the birds to go to sleep. Once the sun set and things started to quiet down around our campsite, Colin finally fell asleep. I then ventured out of the tent only to find that the raccoons had already broken into our garbage bag. I have to say that they have a fearless gang of raccoons out at Starved Rock!
The next morning we woke at sunrise, cooked a pancake breakfast, and headed out for another hike. After lunch back at the campsite, we broke down camp and headed toward home. We took the local roads through many small Illinois towns until we found Newark, IL and Knutson’s Country Harvest. Colin wanted to go berry picking and Knutson’s blueberries were just starting to ripen. Colin had a blast! He did a great job picking the blue berries and leaving the not-yet-ripe ones for others to pick later. After picking two baskets of berries, we finally headed for home.
People have asked me how it was to go camping with a toddler and I still don’t have a definite answer. I might recommend going in the fall when the sun sets earlier and rises later as toddlers only seems to sleep when the sun’s not visible. We camped during the week and reserved a site that wasn’t next to other campers, which definitely helped to reduce the noise. He loved the hiking and probably would have enjoyed the pool if we would have stayed in the lodge. If we go again next year, maybe we’ll stay in the lodge and then we’ll have room to bring our bikes and could enjoy a bike ride down the Illinois River. We’ll definitely take Colin camping again, but maybe to a beachy, lake camping area that has a bit more for kids to do. I was very glad to see that Colin, our city boy, isn’t afraid to explore nature. He was checking out all the bugs and wasn’t timid about venturing out in the woods for a hike. He definitely had fun, which, in the end, is the most important part of all!