Popping In -- and Up
After we arrived at Mirror Lake, we stopped at the visitors' center to pick up our permit and get free activity books for the boys. Then came the most intimidating part of the trip: backing into the campsite between the electric and water hookups. Some campgrounds offer what are called pull-through sites, but ours wasn't one of them. After a few tries, we nailed it, and we were home for the weekend. When we unhitched the car, our youngest son, Aaron, turned the crank to raise the pop-up, while his brothers helped slide out and stabilize the beds on either end. Then all three rushed inside to unzip the plastic window covers, set up the tables, and play on the beds.
After years of lugging camping dishes to an outdoor faucet, having a sink and counter space felt like a luxury, but the water pressure wasn't great, so we ended up rinsing our dishes at the outdoor faucet anyway. (Some campgrounds have better water pressure than others.) Daniel and I didn't think to bring our coffeemaker and grinder, an oversight we won't repeat. But the propane stove that we could use inside or out was handy, and thanks to the mini fridge, we ate healthier meals and snacks on the cheap.
Although we had clear skies on our trip, being in a shelter with windows that can be closed gave us peace of mind. On cooler nights, the built-in heater (powered by electricity or propane) was a welcome amenity, as were the outlets that allowed us to run a portable fan in hot weather and to charge our phones. Our favorite time in the camper was when we were just hanging out, gathered around the two tables. We read, played board games, and worked on our nature activity books while sipping coffee and cocoa. The kids loved reading by flashlight behind their beds' privacy curtains, and we all loved waking to birdsong and the scent of pines. As our weekend wound down, we were already planning our next adventure.
Toni McLellan, the founder of Makearoo.com, lives with her family in Woodstock, Illinois.
Originally published in the June/July 2012 issue of FamilyFun magazine.