The Reluctant Outdoorsman

My father loved the outdoors.  He hunted, fished, hiked part of the Appalachian Trail.  He raised a small herd of cattle – for fun.  He gave my mother really practical gifts – like a horse.  He loved anything outside and I loved doing any of those things with him.  Unfortunately, my father died unexpectedly when I was almost eight years old.  My mother was then busy trying to keep our little family going.  Except for the occasional Girl Scout camping trip, outdoor hobbies fell by the wayside.

My husband loves the outdoors as well.  He hunts, fishes, hikes, backpacks.  I love tagging along with him.  When we lived in Texas, our hiking opportunities were limited to our vacations.  All of those trips were day hikes.  I’ve never backpacked.  That’s not to say I haven’t gone on long hikes.  I once blew out a knee going 12 miles on our first day of hiking in Banff.  Apparently my knee (which had suffered previous injuries when I danced on the high school drill team) thought 10 miles was plenty.  So all that to say, although I really like the idea of being outdoorsy, I’m very much a novice that really likes to sleep in her own comfy bed at night.

Then we move to Alaska.  We buy a pop-up camper.  My husband buys a raft.  A really, really big, blue, inflatable raft.  We don’t have a trailer for the raft, so we have to disassemble it to transport it.  The raft is deflated and rolled up and put in the back of Todd’s SUV.  The frame is put on top of his SUV.  The camper is pulled behind the SUV.  We look like the Beverly Hillbillies going down the road.

I find myself slightly irritated.  I have to get three kids plus myself packed for camping and rafting.  In Alaska, you don’t just throw on your swimsuit and life jacket to raft.  You have to have many layers of warm clothes and rain gear and boots.  Then I have to shop for the camping trip, figuring out what we’re going to feed our family on the trip.  In other words, it’s a lot of work for me.

But here’s the thing, our kids ADORE camping and rafting.  They squeal with delight when we tell them we’re going.  We’re building family memories that they can look back on long after Todd and I are gone.  And if I’m honest, once we’re out there, I love it too.


First Alaskan Camping Experience

Our new pop-up camper

Oh yes we did! We are now the owners of a pop-up camper. The kids love it and we took it out for it’s first trip last weekend. It is now fully broken in as it rained on us most of the weekend. I received a few crazy looks before our trip, “You’re going camping already? We never go camping before Mother’s Day. Camping? In April? In a pop-up?” I told Todd before we left that I was now slightly worried.

We headed south to Seward. We wanted to go before all the tourists arrived. We camped at a place called Miller’s Landing. If we were crazy, we weren’t the only ones. There were several other families out as well. We even saw two campgrounds with tent campers!

It was 45 degrees F and drizzling most of the weekend. Our pop-up does have heat, so between the heat and our super cozy sleeping bags, we were never cold at night. The rain was a little more frustrating. Now to be clear, the rain was pretty much a constant drizzle, not a Texas thunderstorm, gully washer type of rain. Nevertheless, the rain could have presented a problem if we had stayed at the campground all weekend, but we had some in town activities planned.

On Saturday, we took the kids on a grey whale watching tour. It sounds very touristy and it is, but all of this is new to us, so we’re pretty much doing the touristy things. And we weren’t the only ones. In fact, most of the people on the boat were Alaskans doing the same thing – doing the tourist thing before the tourists arrived. We didn’t see any grey whales, but we did see several humpback whales, sea lions, a sea otter, mountain goats and lots of birds. We also learned that ginger candy can help with sea sickness. We were all fine when the boat was in Resurrection Bay, but Audrey and I started feeling pretty quesy when the boat got out in the Gulf of Alaska. Luckily, we weren’t out in the Gulf for long and no one actually got sick. Yeah!!

When we got back to the campground that evening, the kids and I did some beach combing while Todd built a fire (in a drizzling rain – I love my former cub scout, engineer husband!) The kids and I didn’t find much beyond some mussel shells as it was high tide. I did get some cute pictures of them though. Later, we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. By the way, the s’mores here don’t melt all over your hand. It’s too cold!!

Sunday morning we packed up and headed over to the Sea Life Center in Seward. This is an aquarium that also rehabilitates injured marine mammals and birds. They also do a lot of research on Arctic marine animals. The kids loved Woody, the 19 year old male sea lion. He’s huge!! Over a ton. I mean he’s massive! Of course, being kids, when you asked them what they liked best, it was the play boat that they could pretend to drive.

All in all, not a bad first camping experience. We have several trips planned for the summer. Here’s hoping it gets a little warmer.