May 25, 2012 by Scott Klepach
Make camping go a long way — without going far away.
By Scott Klepach Jr.
What I’m about to divulge may stir up some controversy.
I’m not a happy camper.
I mean that literally. I’m really not a camper at all.
Sure, sure, I may have had a bad experience, or maybe I didn’t give camping a chance. I can enjoy staying in a cabin – or even being under the cover of a makeshift structure for shelter.
But tent camping? Gasp!
I want to like it. I’ve tried, even though last summer was only my second time.
As I wrote then, for me camping conjures up images of tics, murderers and bears. Oh, and cougars, too. Or as my daughter Elise calls them, “poogars.” Not so cute when they are staring at you hungrily — in your imagination.
Growing up, my family never went camping. Not once.
In fact, the closest we came to camping was staying in an Embassy Suites hotel in Bellevue – you know, with all those plants and the jungle décor.
Oh, but I’ve sacrificed — or compromised — my comfort for the sake of family. What’s the compromise? Tent camping in our backyard. (My wife assures me we will go “real” tent camping again later this year.)
The Backyardigans had it right. Why spend all that time and effort packing and traveling to some distant location when you can bring “the wild” to the green space at your back doorstep? (Now if only I could make this argument work with my wife.)
This experience was grand. It helped, sure, to have a fenced-in yard, a familiar setting and our house several yards away – which I retreated to several times (Hey! It was a cold April night!). It also helped having an airbed and an extension cord running from the house to power the Christmas Story leg lamp that lit the tent inside.
I mused that Mark Twain would be proud, and by the light of the leg lamp I read his travel memoir Roughin’ It—rather than experiencing the real deal.
You think I’m lazy? A wimp? A bore? Call me what you will. But we did have fun. Our family roasted s’mores over our fire pit, slept in a real tent, shared scary stories and snuggled to keep warm.
And you know what? I learned some things about our neighborhood because of this experience. Traffic was not the biggest problem keeping us awake. Instead, it was a combination of other sounds: mating cats, a noisy donkey, a persistent rooster and the incessant chirping of birds (and we live within the city limits!).
So if you want to go “roughin’ it” in your own backyard, get ready for adventure of a tamer kind. But be sure to have these items with you:
- Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets
- Christmas Story leg lamp
- Fire pit
- Branches or sticks for marshmallows. And marshmallows!
- Graham crackers
- Chocolate squares
- Hot dogs and hot dog buns
- Glow sticks—fun!
- Board games
- iPad with Wi-Fi connection
- Toy fishing poles for the little ones (attach a magnet and go “fishing” for aluminum cans)
- River rock (in case you want to do some arts and crafts. Pet rock, anyone?)
- Imagination (good for creating spooky stories and pretending you’re not in the backyard)
May 25, 2012 by Scott Klepach
Don’t settle for the humdrum … use fun and usual ingredients to give your backyard campfire S’mores that little extra kick.
Use a dark chocolate bar for this one. Then put a dollop of raspberry on the chocolate, then smush your ‘shmeller in between.
This one requires special marshmallows, so if you’re in the mood to get really fancy, you can order your own off of websites like >>>>>. Just replace your regular ol’ marshmallow and impress your tastebuds.
Nutella and banana S’more
Get your two regular graham crackers, slice some bananas on one side, then spread the other with Nutella. Add marshmallow if you really want, but we think it sounds delicious without.
Petit Ecolier S’more
Easy peasy. Put a nice warm marshmallow between two of these European chocolate “biscuits.” Yum!
“It’s not camping,” the sign on the office door said. “It’s kamping.”
My family spent last weekend at the Redmond/Central Oregon KOA, located about 3.5 hours south of Yakima off US Highway 97. Although I grew up “car camping,” I’d never stayed at anything quite as civilized as a KOA before. And, honestly, we chose the location only because my college BFF lives there (her husband works there), we hadn’t seen each other in a couple years, and it was a relatively inexpensive way to get out of town for a long weekend. Rates vary depending on how many people are in your group and whether you’re renting a “kabin” or bringing an RV, but our 4-person tent site was about $30 a night.
Naturally, we knew this was not going to be a rural, “roughin’ it” experience. But I was still a little shocked when I realized our “camp site” was a patch of grass roughly half the size of my front lawn (without so much as a picket fence for privacy). However, I have to say, the KOA’s amenities were kinda nice. We had flush toilets and free showers. There was a heated swimming pool and playground. The kiddos enjoyed sleeping in a tent and our fire pit was perfect for making s’mores. On Saturday night, camp staff led all the little ones (decked out with glow necklaces) on a boisterous “glow light parade” around the campground, complete with boosterish chant: “I don’t know, but I’ve been told, the KOA is the place to go.”
It’s not traditional camping, but this “kamping” trip definitely had its perks. One of them was definitely the patch of grass. We ran around in bare feet or flip-flops without the dirt-kicking and constant filth that I’ve come to associate with “kid camping.” KOA camping, I discovered, is actually pretty “klean.”
And that was perfect because we didn’t want to look like Pigpen when we drove into Bend to do some tax-free school clothes shopping. (You can do that when you’re kamping.) We found fun shops and lunch at the Old Mill District, a mixed-use development on the site of an enormous old lumber mill. Stop by the Central Oregon Visitor Center to pick up brochures and maps with loads of information about all the recreational opportunities in the area. Find pint-sized entertainment at the Working Wonders Children’s Museum is also located right at the Old Mill. (Find pint-sized entertainment for adults across the river at the Deschutes Brewery, but that’s a different vacation.) Just for kicks, we rented a surrey (with the fringe on top) from Wheel Fun Rentals; an hour cost $20. The kids thought that was hilarious good fun.
We were disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to tour Lava River Cave in Newbury National Volcanic Monument. The High Desert Museum is also definitely worth a visit. Guess we’ll have something to look forward to next time we go kamping…
Of course, we could save some gas if we tried the fresh pizza delivery and pony rides at the Naches/Mt. Rainier KOA at Squaw Rock Resort. Krazy, I never stayed at the KOA before.
July 17, 2007 by Robin Beckett
May 31, 2007 by Robin Beckett
Does the idea of sharing a tent with your toddler scare you more than noises in the woods? To camp with the comfort of knowing you could bail out anytime, consider these campgrounds in Yakima’s backyard. (Of course, your own backyard is an option, too.)
• Pedal a boat around the pond at the Yakima KOA, which offers cabin rentals as well as tent and RV spaces. With a store, heated pool, laundry facilities and even Internet access, the comforts of home are never far away.
For reservations, call 248-5882. The KOA Kampground is on the Yakima River at 1500 Keys Road.
• Catch a fish and a campfire program at Yakima Sportsman State Park, which offers a fishing pond for anglers under 15 and river fishing for adults. The park has a stroller-accessible wetlands trail. Saturday evening campfire programs run through Labor Day. Tent and RV sites are available.
For information, call 360-902-8844; for reservations, call 888-226-7688. The park is located at 904 S. 33rd Street.
• Sleep in a tepee at the Yakama Nation Resort RV Park in Toppenish. The park offers 14 tepees as well as sites for tents and RVs. There’s also a swimming pool and hot tub. No need to rough it: Catch a movie at the next-door Heritage Theater, or splurge for a slice of huckleberry pie at the adjacent restaurant.
For reservations, call 509-865-2000. The Resort RV Park is located at 280 Buster Road, Toppenish; it’s about 20 miles south of Yakima.
May 30, 2007 by Robin Beckett
By Janet Gallant
As a Grammy with a cabin in the woods, coming up with fun things to do isn’t always easy. But also being involved with Cub Scouts has helped me come up with a few fun and age-appropriate things.
For younger kids…
1. Make a bird feeder: Gather a few pinecones and tie a string on the top of each cone. Cover the cones with peanut butter. Place wild bird seed in a small lunch bag, place the peanut-buttered cone in the bag and shake the bag to cover the cone with seeds. Hang from the tree branches for the birds and squirrels to enjoy. We’ve even had elk and deer eat our cones.
2. Go on a nature hike and gather some natural materials such as leaves, cones, moss, grass, bark, etc. Using paper plates or paper lunch bags, glue these items on a lunch bag to make a hand puppet, or decorate a paper plate with them.
3. Lay on the ground and watch the sky. See how many shapes you can find in the clouds.
4. Close your eyes and tell what you can smell, feel and hear. Can you smell weather? Can you hear weather? Etc.
5. Gather medium-sized rocks and let the kids paint them for pet rocks, door stops, etc. We spray-painted them white, then had the children paint them with water colors as gifts for Daddy for Father’s Day.
For older kids…
6. Make a water scope using a small peanut butter jar and two tin cans (such as soup cans). First, remove the top and bottom ends of the tin cans and cover any sharp edges with 1000 mile tape (duct tape). Tape the cans together end-to-end, then tape the cans to bottom of the jar, creating a long scope. Go to a shallow place in the river, put the jar in the water and see what kind of parasites and water bugs you can find. You can also scoop water out of the lake or river with a bucket and look in the bucket with your water scope.
7. Go on a hike and see how many trees, birds and plants you can identify. Teach the kids what each of these are in your neighborhood. Look for ant hills and watch the ants work.
8. Play shadow tag: Chase each other around stepping on shadows until everyone has been caught.
For more than 40 years, Janet Gallant has never lacked for something to do with her daughter, niece and nephews while camping or staying at the family cabin. Now she is “Grammy” to Couper, age 5, and Chase, 2.
May 30, 2007 by Robin Beckett
By Donna Scofield
• Give each child a disposable camera to photograph a record of the trip that they can put into an album of their own back home. Turn it into a sneaky educational experience as you help younger children word the captions for their snapshots. (Be sure to take a couple of extra cameras for the kid whose trip is spoiled by dropping his camera into the river or leaving it at a rest stop.)
• Take a sturdy little box for each child to collect cones, leaves, shells, rocks and all that “junk.” Back home, they can have fun making a shadow box to display their found treasures.
• Take a craft box for days when rain keeps you inside the tent or trailer. The edges of pine cones can be rolled in glitter for Christmas decorations, acorns can be glued to circles of cardboard for small wreaths, leaves and dried weeds can make interesting collages — the possibilities are vast. (Include glue, scissors, glitter, scraps of fabric, pipe cleaners, paper and markers in the craft box.)
• Stick a few special supplies in the box to make “gnome homes.” The little homes can be made of twigs, leaves, branches, etc., in the roots of trees or at the bases of bushes. If your kids need more of a “starter,” cut a plastic soda bottle or a round oatmeal carton in half, so they have a round-roofed structure to begin with. To this they can glue moss, feathers, twigs, flowers, etc. until they have a little shelter that invites a homeless gnome to move right in!
• Don’t forget a big supply of little cars. There’s nothing more fun than sitting at the shallow side of a lake or stream, digging little rivers and making bridges and tunnels for Matchbox cars.
• Older children may enjoy having a book describing (with illustrations) the local vegetation, so they can identify unfamiliar plants. Kids might want to collect leaves and blossoms for their scrapbook, too. (A bird book also is fun to bring along.)
• Let each kid be responsible for one meal. This will include planning ahead, so you have the proper supplies, and parental help, both to keep the planned menu within reason, and to ensure safety around knives, camp stoves or fires.
•Have fun with “dinner on a stick.” More than hot dogs and marshmallows can be roasted on a campfire. Try meatballs or meat chunks, quartered vegetables and biscuits.
• Freeze bottled water before leaving home to have icy water for the car trip and hikes. Pour out a little water before freezing to allow for expansion. A tiny shot of lemon, orange, or pineapple juice in the water before freezing is refreshing, too — not enough to make it sweet, but just a hint of flavor. This is something the kids will enjoy doing.
• Before leaving home, let kids make their own granola or trail mix. Personal selection of ingredients, plus pride of ownership, makes it taste much better.
• Give each child a small, cheap flashlight. Shining a beam of light into a spooky corner of the tent makes a kid into a brave super-hero instantly! Plus they’re a fun way to drive a sibling crazy.
Yakima freelance writer Donna Scofield raised two sons and two daughters. She has two grandchildren.
May 30, 2007 by TJ Mullinax
Kelli Connell was seven months pregnant in Aug. 2006 when she and husband Mike loaded up their three children — plus a niece and nephew — and set out for a weekend in the woods.
Friends called them crazy.