How to make a custom tent footprint…

For our first camping trip, I found an extra-roomy nine person Coleman tent at Wal-Mart.  It is a 9×14 behemoth you could literally drive a Nissan Versa into.    Happily, with the entire family of three in this bad boy, we had enough room for our bags, a full size air mattress, Joe’s sleeping pad, and plenty of room to move around.  It was a great luxury to have enough space to stretch out after a day on the trails.  Clark would have surely approved of this spacious structure.

Still, I realize that setting up this tent is not really feasible or even practical, every time out.  Especially when it is just a quick getaway for the night, and we don’t want to have as much “stuff” with us.  If our first outing was a test to see how much we could cram into the Explorer, our next one will be a test to see how little we can get by with.  Going to the park for the weekend shouldn’t always necessitate a full-on experiment in Griswold style camping.

With this in mind, I began a search for a two or three man tent that wouldn’t break the bank, and allow for many years of practical use.  Enter the big CL[Read more...]

Camping with Joe – Day 4…

Family Portrait - Petit Jean

Our last, but best picture of the trip, deserves a spot at the top…

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I posted on the merits of Vienna Sausage and Swiss Army knives, so I suppose it is time to wrap up the log of our first family camping trip.  It has been pretty neat to revisit the trip over the past couple of months, and look at all the memories we made at Petit Jean.

Day four of Camping with Joe began with a surprise when my dad awoke to find that his cooler had been raided by a four legged masked bandit, who robbed him of a few precious leftovers.  Lucky for us, he fancied the steak, and not the Shiner.  While Dad was surveying the damage, we started cooking another fine breakfast, although we did not do any dutch oven cooking this time around.  We had a few coals left in the fire pit from the night before, so Michelle made some tasty campfire toast, to go along with our eggs and sausage.

Like all good things though, our time at the little campsite we’d called home had come to an end, so it was time to break camp.  This was done in relatively short order, but still, we kind of lazed around the site, making sure we’d picked up and packed up sufficiently.   Joe was able to grab a few more minutes of Scooby Doo while we were packing.   My dad didn’t have a particular place to be, so he kept his tent up, went to the visitor center, and reserved himself another night under the stars.

While it was still hot, the weather FINALLY gave us a break.  Temps hovered most of the day in the mid-80s, and while it got close to 90, it was a welcome change from the low to mid-90s.  With the “break” in the weather, we debated for a bit whether or not to do the 4.5 mile Seven Hollows Trail.  Whether hiked alone, or as part of the Boy Scout Trail, Seven Hollows is a truly magnificent trail, and one that should not be missed.  It has dense forest, rock formations, a natural bridge, a grotto, and even a desert like feature.  But, after an already late start from breakfast and packing up, we opted for the lighter and more manageable Cedar Creek Trail.   Seven Hollows would have to wait for the next trip, and lucky for us, we made a good choice (not that there can be a bad one at Petit Jean!). [Read more...]

Morning Camp…

by Ron Blake
August 2, 2012

I love the sights and smells of morning camp
Birds sing, gentle breezes stir the early damp
Routines of home and work are far behind
Simpler things occupy yet relax the mind

Awareness in this new and special place
Creates familiar mindfulness of grace
Scents of coffee and woodsmoke mingle in air
Time collapses – deep connections linger there

Worries and concerns are easily erased
Being in this moment can be fully embraced
Such is rare treasure, value beyond measure
I love the sights and smells of morning camp


Inspired one early morning in May at Petit Jean State Park while Camping with Joe…