Chicago Park District comes through again! Our Kidical Mass friends had talked about a camping outing this Winter, and some searching led me to the park district “Family Camping” programs. Unfortunately, it’s geared for ages 6 and up, so we had to leave the little guy home with dad, but we invited our suburban cousins to join us and it was a BLAST. I needed a shower and nap before I could post about this, it was that much fun
We paid $50 to register our ‘team’ of up to six people. The park district provides a parking pass, use of a (really nice) tent, activities like fishing, archery, crafts, a small fire pit, hotdogs and marshmallows, a story teller, and security for the event. We got a little help from our neighbor setting up the tent It was counter-intuitive, but awesome. It was hot and humid the night we stayed, so I appreciated having something high-end and airy.
The oldest kid (our cousin) was being a typical eight year old- whining a bit about being hot, saying he didn’t want to participate in any activities- but he changed his tune pretty quickly when the other kids got into building a fairy garden and a dreamcatcher with found objects.
We hit the pier for some fishing, and I was shocked to see the kids actually catch fish! No way! Granted, I’ve baited hooks with creatures larger than the gobis the girls were catching (and it was the girls who had all the luck) but it was a real thrill!
The last activity during the rotations was archery. The bows were just a little two big for two of the kids, but they all managed to lodge at least one arrow in… something… and they liked it. Not as much as me, though. I hadn’t shot a bow since I was a kid and got a wicked rash on my wrist from the string. Believe me, I warned them (a million times.)
After we worked up an appetite, we headed back to the tents. The kids wanted to be in the tent- I guess it was a novelty. A lot of people complained that the hot dog process was too slow- pack your patience. The fire was in a small contained pit, and I’d say three groups of people had brought food wrapped in foil- the result was more cold foil food than fire, and it meant a lot of people were waiting a long time to cook frozen hotdogs. Park district policy was only 7 sticks in use, and only those with a stick near the fire- so we got wise and started putting three hot dogs on each stick. Everyone ended up getting fed. (And maybe some snuck off to 12th street beach, a short walk away, to buy tacos.)
The finale was cleaning sticky marshmallow off our hands while watching the fireworks over Navy Pier. Then it was time to get settled. This is where the kids 6 and up rule made sense- I could hear a few little ones crying that they couldn’t sleep for awhile. Our kids were asleep after only 40 minutes straight of giggling uncontrollably about nothing.
It’s been over a decade since I slept on the ground in a tent, but my hips and my back finally made peace with the lumps and bumps that were formerly an airfield and I got a solid seven hours of sleep.
Our Yuba handled the trip like a beast, as usual- we arrived with bedding for three, dinner and breakfast, a change of clothes and other necessities easily. The cousins were amazed and enjoyed a quick ride on the bike. They fought over who would ride in the car the next day and who could head back on the bike (cousins got to ride, asked questions the whole way.)
So, fun- right? You can find out more about the family camping program at www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/nature.