Our 2018 camp season began with an amazing five days and four nights dispersed camping off a forest service road near Pingree Park Road in northern Colorado. 12 parents, 13 kids, and five dogs made for a somewhat chaotic but very fun time! Here’s how it went...
The week prior to Memorial Day I took some friends to the Pingree Park Road area in my Jeep so we could scout for a few dispersed camp options. (If you’re unfamiliar with dispersed camping, in Colorado various off-road trails and forest service roads have camping areas along them that are first come-first serve. There are no facilities at these areas, usually just fire pits left by previous campers. These campsites are primitive, free of charge, and usually in remote areas of the forest). Our goal was to find a dispersed campsite that would be big enough for a couple Jeeps, a ground tent, two pop-up campers and two full-size campers.
In search of dispersed campsites...
We did find an ideal spot and we wanted to ensure we got first dibs so I took off work the Thursday before Memorial Day and headed up in hub’s Jeep, with my dog for company, to set up our portion of camp.
Making it a home... the four-person roof-top tent plus annex is easy enough for one person to set up
It took me three unhurried hours to set up our stuff, which included not only the roof-top tent plus annex and Foxwing awning, but also bedding, table, chairs, food, starting a fire and more.
The camp setup Project Manager finds a bit of shade
The day was beautiful and sunny and there was no civilization for as far as the eye could see. There were no sounds but the forest and a nearby stream. This, for me, was bliss.
After camp's set up, all that's left to do is relax...
After I finished camp setup and started a fire I just sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet. But after about 30 minutes I started to miss my family and I realized that experiences like this are best when shared with those you love. Luckily before I got too sappy my radio started to buzz and I knew my hub, son and other dog were almost there and in two shakes they were at camp and I was fixing us all a backpacker meal for dinner.
Pre-dinner activity, Day 1
That evening and the next day the rest of the families trickled in. Before long, the wagons were circled (so to speak)...
Circling the "wagons"... the Jeeps and ground tent on the far side in the trees
The next few days were full of wonderful outdoor adventures, such as:
A hike to amazing views
Chopping downed trees for firewood
Good conversation with friends
A fire-starting competition
A little fishing... didn't catch anything, but the fun's in the trying! (photo credit: Lea S.)
And, of course, delicious FOOD!
On days two and three I remarked to my husband that all I had to do was wash the sporks we used at breakfast… This was such a tremendous relief from the constant to-do list at home and at work; it was a much-needed break from the daily grind and with no cell service or even GPS we were all on a technology fast whether we wanted it or not! The kids dealt with this by having all sorts of fun with each other, playing games they made up, hiking around in small groups, and getting super filthy and happy in the process!
There’s something about being in nature with the clean mountain air and green forest that rejuvenates a person. It’s cleansing and healing and stress-relieving and I’d recommend it to anyone.
But, it wasn't all rainbows. In various places in the woods surrounding our campsite we found human evidence - as in, waste that wasn't buried, tissues and wipes laying on the ground, and so forth. GAH-ross. Seriously? To the campers before us, and anyone who may not know: bury your waste - and deep (two rocks doesn't pass muster). Leave the campsite as you found it, or better. Pick up the trash, and don't leave any behind. Leave no trace. Because it's disgusting and no one wants someone else's $h!t.
Ill-concealed waste: nobody else wants it!
By day five we were ready to go home and take showers! And I was ready for all those perks of the daily grind: coffee that brews before I wake up, a clean house without a dirt floor, a daily schedule and mobile network and my Google Calendar so I could remember what I had to do. I wish I was as hardcore as those Patagoniacs, whom I ogle in their catalogs every season, but in reality that's not me. In reality I was ready to get back to it, and that’s how I knew this camp outing had been a success. I think any time spent in nature is a win, and I still feel so refreshed!
Bonus win: we left with all 13 (didn't lose any!) very dirty but very happy kids in tow, already planning our next adventure...
Have I inspired you to get into the backcountry and create your own adventure? I hope so! Most of all, I hope you can influence kids you know to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, responsibly and with respect for our Earth. Here's to all the outdoor adventures I hope you have this summer!
Want more? Check out two related posts from this backcountry camp trip: Camp Food for Large Groups, and Tips for Camping with Kids in the Backcountry (coming soon!).
by Dawn Gallegos
Dawn Gallegos is the founding editor of the Chicks On The Rocks blog. When she's not working to fund her Jeep habit she's thinking up new ways to inspire others to explore the great outdoors!
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