Camping With Dad

How a trip down memory lane turned into a bona fide campout


Good friends mean good times around the campfire


The sun came out just in time for the birthday bash

I grip the steering wheel and follow my husband through the pouring rain. He’s in a 25-foot long Cruise America RV carrying precious cargo: my father, his wife, and Willy, their Cairn Terrier. I’m flying solo in our Volkswagon Westfalia. We’re heading to Pueblo Reservoir to celebrate my dad’s 86th birthday.

I’ve done some pretty dumb things in my life, but it’s looking like this might top the list.

When I was a kid, summers were synonymous with camping. My parents would cram the old green army tent, flannel lined sleeping bags and other essentials into our station wagon. Then they’d tuck the four of us kids in around our gear, and off we’d go. We camped at lots of different spots, but Jefferson Lake was our favorite.

Dad would fish all day. Mom had a Dutch oven and worked on perfecting her high altitude baking skills. And us kids? We ran wild from sun up to sun down. There was plenty to do: wade in the creek, skip rocks, build teepees and fairy houses.

On good days, we’d fry up a pile of brook trout for dinner and finish off the meal with homemade cake. Then the cards would come out, and we’d play Hearts half the night. Good times! Skip ahead about 40 years…

I’m having lunch with my dad and I ask him if he’d like to go camping. “Yes,” he says, almost a little too quickly. So I get buy-in from his wife and my husband, rent an RV, round up some friends and family to join us, and book a few sites. Before we know it, we’re driving to Pueblo Reservoir in an ominous spring storm.

We forge ahead through wind and rain, and snow. As the sun is setting, we finally arrive our campsite and kick off the weekend’s festivities with steaming bowls of chili and Pinot Grigio in our friend’s toasty RV. The rain pitter patters on the roof, but we don’t care. We’re warm and dry. And it’s so cozy. I exhale and consider that this just might work out after all. And, in fact, it does!

After a morning spent dodging rain showers, the skies clear Saturday in time for the birthday bash. We gather around the crackling campfire and feast, not only on our bratwurst and potatoes, but also on the camaraderie that ensues.

Laughter fills the air, rising with the smoke into the atmosphere. Our celebration has become so expansive it can’t be contained within the RV or the campsite or the campground. The camping with Dad adventure has become so much bigger. It’s taken on a life of its own, and we’re happy to be part of it.

Sunday morning greets us way too soon. There was no fishing, no skipping rocks and no ruckus games of Hearts, but it’s time to go home. We load the precious cargo back into the RV, pack up the Westfalia, and hit the road.

Some things never change. Though 40 years or so have passed since our last campout, we can all agree on one thing. A family campout is still good times.



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