When we’re asked what brought us to Colorado, one answer rings truer than the rest:
Of course we had many reasons to uproot and relocate ourselves, but the ability to easily get out into nature and explore the abundant beauty and wonder found here was a dominant factor from which most of those other reasons are derived.
It seems shameful, then, that we’ve lived here for two months and have not left the confines of our urban comfort. “But the baby is still so young… It’s so hot outside… Our schedules make things so difficult….” we mutter excuses at each other whenever the idea crops up.
Aaron’s birthday (the 19th) was a week away. On the 18th, he would get off work at 3 pm and wouldn’t need to go back in until 5 pm on the 19th. And I would be off the entire throughout. That’s over 24 hours of mutually available time.
As we’ve been off-setting our work schedules so one of us can be home with the baby at all times (or most times – I’m frequently bringing her with me to work), it didn’t seem like we would have an overlapping day off in the near future. Conditions were prime, no more excuses. We finally and decidedly agree that it’s time to camp.
A lot of locals recommended going up “The Canyon” for good camping near Fort Collins, so Aaron made a reservation at the Lower Narrows in the Roosevelt National Forest – I wasn’t about to brave the back-country on baby’s first camping trip. It was close, beautiful, and had a well-water spigot, a table, and fire ring.
As planned, Aaron worked Tuesday (the 18th) during the day until 3pm. I was off so I got all the food and gear ready, packed up the car and had us all ready to go when he got home. We were on the road by 4:30pm. After a stop for air in the tires and a craft saison to crack by the fire that evening, we made it to our little spot in the woods by 5:30pm, giving us several hours to settle and explore before the last light sank behind the ridge.
The proximity was gratifying. In Houston we would routinely drive somewhere between 3 and 12 hours to find some interesting geography. And after the harrowing drive that brought us to Fort Collins, an hour in the car was absolutely nothing.
We easily found our spot a few paces from the bank of the Poudre river, pitched the tent, and laid out a soft space for Freia. With some toys nearby and fresh air in her hair she started grinning and didn’t stop until we were home again.
Aaron and I have done a lot of camping in the three years we’ve know each other. It’s mostly been in Texas, a mixture of car camping and hike-in, and usually includes a somewhat extravagant menu (I have a deep love for campfire cooking and meal planning). Since Aaron had to work the next day, we were limited in hours for this micro adventure, but we still pulled out all our normal stops.
All the gear was the same, the meals planned were the same (On this occasion: a birthday steak, whole sweet potatoes cooked in the fire, kale salad, roasted marshmallows, and for brekkie, bacon and eggs cooked over the fire with homemade sourdough toast, iced coffee with cream and maple syrup).
The accommodations for Freia were few and simpler than my worried mom brain would lead me to believe was necessary. Here was my mental list of concerns and how we handled each of them:
- Proximity – This has been mentioned more than once already, but knowing that we weren’t more than 45 minutes away from home if we needed to bail was a huge comfort.
- Clothes – Baby clothes are tiny and easily stuffed into a bag. It’s hot here now – in the 90’s – so we had cool outfits for her during the day and snugly woolly footy pajamas for at night when the temperature dropped into the 50’s.
- Food – Freia at four months is still exclusively breastfeeding, which can’t be any more convenient. Because we’re working on getting her to take a bottle we also brought a bottle of pumped milk, which she actually latched on to for the first time in months! Maybe it was the magic mountain dust in the air, but she’s done really well every day since too.
- Sleeping – We brought with us an “in bed” co-sleeper which we bought, but never really used at home to use as a bassinet. Just like at home we didn’t use it. We’re co-sleeping in our bed usually so Freia snuggled up between us, where she always does in her woolly pajamas, a flannel blanket and our quilt.
- Diapers – We of course took more than we think we’d need, but ended up using much less – only two.
We’re practicing elimination communication. This is a system by which we pick up on Freia’s clues that she needs to “go”, promptly remove her diaper, hold her in a special position (at home over the sink), and make a cue noise (“hissss”) and pretty consistently she does her business. At home we’re successful about 90% of the time. I worried that the change of scenery might through her off, but she did great, and potty’d the way nature intended.
We forgot our wet bag. You will probably forget something too. We stashed the wet diapers – we’re using cloth – in a plastic grocery bag. We set up a diapering area at the end of the picnic table. It was just her travel changing pad, and the diaper bag with supplies next to it. Done.
How it went
The weather was great – warm but not uncomfortable during the day and cool enough for snuggling by the fire at night. Freia did incredibly well! She was super happy the whole time, had a bottle breakthrough, fell asleep in our arms by the camp fire, and slept almost the whole night, waking only once to nurse which she allowed me to do in a side-lying position so I didn’t have to sit up out of the blankets – something she hardly lets me do at home. She woke up happy, didn’t fuss at all the whole time and slept or chilled in her car seat as we proceeded to drive around the area the next day looking for a hike, but winding up at a Buddhist mountain center instead.
Also she got to break in her camp dress.
Maybe it was a fluke, but I really think being out in nature, but also having familiar items nearby like her blanket and my boobs made for a super content baby. We’re trying to get out at least once or twice a month. When we can get a day off to overlap – we’ll even strive for two nights!
I was a little worried about it going terribly, but not incredibly so. If you’re worried about a crying baby at a campground, consider talking to neighbors before nightfall, maybe offering earplugs, or do like we did and camp next to a roaring river which drowns out all ambient noise. This works too.
We’ll get bolder with our choice of locations and gear as we venture out more, but I’m so excited this went well and CANNOT WAIT to take her out again.