I have been talking about camping with the kids for months now. Before we headed on our trip, though I talked about it, camping with the kids…or camping at all, seemed like something “fun” to talk about, but a little nerving to think about. But here we were, heading to Yellowstone National Park with an open mind and ready for anything this adventure would throw at us. The views were breathtaking the entire way there and we couldn’t help but stop and take pictures to help us forever remember that we were once a part of it.
We had covered mostly everything on the “camping list”. We had a tent as big as a house, we had two air mattresses, we had pillows and comforters, we had a cooler full of goodies to drink and eat, we even had fresh cut wood for the fire. What we didn’t have was knowledge about the distance between the Yellowstone entrance and our camp site. We didn’t rush much because we assumed it wasn’t more than 30 minutes. But once past the Yellowstone gates we got a map and realized that we had entered through the East gate and the camp grounds were about 10 minutes out past the West gates, which were 2 hours away.
You can’t speed through Yellowstone, even if you wanted to. The curving paths and speed limits to protect the wild animals that may find themselves crossing the roads make for a very slow trip. On top of the fact that they were doing construction on the roads which halted traffic for 30 minutes at a time (add that to the already lengthy 2 hours). I sat back worrying about the sun setting fast, and we (my husband) would be left with trying to set a tent up in the dark. But at the same time I was in awe of the views. Yellowstone National Park is incredible. So while my husband was stressing out about the gradual darkness, I took pictures of the sun setting in this heavenly destination.
By the time we arrived to KOA Campgrounds the sky was pitch black. The campgrounds felt to me more like a trailer park. The allotted land where we were to set up our tent came with a picnic table and a fire pit. But we were in very close proximity to other campers as well, with only a wooden fence dividing them from us. It felt terribly enclosed, not private at all, and not very much like camping in the wilderness.
I will admit that though I didn’t very much like this part of it, I did like the full shower and clean, bug-less bathrooms, 24 hour laundry room, cafe, and area to wash dishes located near by. But the proximity of the other campers to our lot made it impossible for my husband to put up the tent with the car headlights on because doing so would have meant lighting all the other tents, with resting campers, around us (not to mention that in the morning, when our 4 year old who only has one volume, which is always set to high, would wake up and talk, we felt he was waking up the entire camp site).
So my husband starting setting up the tent, in the dark with only a flashlight or two. Just as he was done, the first drop of rain fell. We hurried to get the rain cover over it, but it was impossible to figure out in the dark, so we just threw it over the tent and went to sleep. The boys, during all this time, were incredibly well-behaved, didn’t make much of a sound and quietly laid on their assigned air mattresses without a fuss.
Everything seemed fine until about 3AM when cold drops of water started hitting my sleeping face. I sat up on the air-mattress I had asked my 11 year old to fill up with air, but which at this point was completely flat because he didn’t close it correctly. The tent was leaking in water from the puddles that had formed over it from the rain that was still falling. In addition, it was freezing! The temperature in the Yellowstone area drops to about 40 degrees at night.
We all got up and ran to our comfortable, warm, spacious, and dry VW Routan, and after setting up the kids on their seats and covering them up in dry blankets, they all fell asleep. There was a moment when I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. But the cold and the exhaustion took over and instead I covered myself from head to toe, laid down on the passenger seat of the minivan and fell asleep.
My boys were such troopers. Never cried, never complained, never fussed. It was the best thing that could’ve happened to us while dealing with this (now funny) situation.
The next day we woke up early, a little stiff and a bit tired. I woke up earlier than the kids, to the sound of wild geese flying over our camp site and warm pee from my 2.5 year old’s leaking diaper soaking up my side as he cuddled me. I slowly got up so as to not wake him and met my husband, who had already gotten up. My husband and I looked at each other and our wet tent and couldn’t help but laugh. What an adventure indeed!
We got up while the kids continued to sleep in the Routan, and dried out the tent, took the wet sheets to the drier at the 24 hour laundromat and set up the tent cover. When it was all completed, we kissed each other for having “survived” the night before and felt like after that, there was nothing we could not endure. We headed over to the eatery, ordered breakfast, and had a wonderful next day.
It rained again that second night, but not before we enjoyed some s’mores, hot dogs, and were cozied up in our tent for a game of cards. Perfect day. Another great adventure!