Mountain Chic

Reflections and observations on culture, food, style and travel

MeInFrontOfColoradoTrailSign

{Fleece, Shorts, Sandals, Sunglasses}

A few weeks ago, Tim, Finn and I loaded up the family tent trailer and headed to Kenosha Pass, on the Colorado Trail, for a weekend camping trip!

FinnBigSmileAtDusk

FinnAndIAtFireFrontView

{Pants, Flip-flops}

FinnWithColumbines

KuhlFleeceSkinnyDipBETTER

{Delicious summer brew for camping: Colorado’s own New Belgium Skinny Dip}

Back in the (pre-kid) day, Tim and I didn’t hesitate to throw gear in our backpacks and head out into the wilderness, even without a tent, for days at a time.  However, with a toddler, we’re more about car camping and using the tent trailer that’s been in Tim’s family since the 1970s (thank goodness his parents are sticklers for taking exceptional care of things – the trailer is still in pristine condition).  This makes setup and sleeping easier, which puts the focus on fun!

WithFinnInFrontOfTrailer

We prefer camping in national forest or wilderness areas, where the spots are first-come, first-served, and usually far away from any neighbors.  However, for this trip, we decided to book a space at the Kenosha Pass Campground.  Finn was recently potty trained, and for some reason, I thought staying in a campground for Finn’s second-ever camping trip would make the whole experience easier – because using an outhouse is so much like being at home?  (One cannot explain protective-mom-irrationalities.)

TimAndFinnWithFirewood

FinnInTheTrees

The other thing I love about Kenosha is its location.  It is only about an hour from our house, but it is also an hour away from Breckenridge, my favorite little city in Summit County.  I liked the idea of a weekend vacation that included camping and a stop into a quaint town, mixing outdoor living with charming mountain community ambience.  This formula did equate to a perfect getaway for our family.

TimAndFinnOutsideLunchRestaurant

{Stopping for lunch in Bailey, Colorado, en route}

CoolerShot

{Cooler, pre-ice}
FinnWithBananasForBread

{Making Finn’s favorite banana bread to enjoy on the trip}

FinnCheckingOutElkHead

{Saying hello to an elk head in Bailey}

I learned from my husband to set up everything you’ll need for the night right when you arrive at your campsite.  This includes getting beds situated, lanterns out and ready to light, camp stoves or grill ready to cook.  Obviously, it’s best to test gear when you’re still at home, but we also confirm everything is in order when we arrive while we still have time to fix a problem.

FinnHelpingDadWithTrailer

One of the best gifts we’ve ever received is a camp grill.  Before we left home, I prepped chicken sausages and hot dogs as well as burgers, and popped them all in the cooler.  I pre-cut buns and cheese and threw them in Ziploc bags, and also packed pasta and green salads.  When we wanted to eat dinner, we simply fired up the grill, cooked our meats, topped them off and added our sides.

TimAtGrill

BurgerPlates

MeOpeningRose

{Rosé=camping must-have}

On Saturday, we headed to Breckenridge, where my husband could get cell service to check in with work.  While he was responsible, Finn and I found a playground on Main Street.  We all enjoyed a taco lunch at Oscar’s before returning to camp.

RidingABearInBreck

FinnInLogAtBreckPlayground

Finn experienced a notable first on this trip: roasting his own marshmallow for his s’more!  Our family takes s’more making very seriously.  None of this generic marshmallow/Hershey chocolate business.  We used Whole Foods Very Vanilla Bean Marshmallows (very vanilla messy while extracting from the box, but utterly delicious) and toffee caramel milk chocolate.

SmoreMaking

FinnRoastingMarshmallow

After dinner, we hiked for a short while on the Colorado Trail, which runs right through Kenosha.  The Trail connects Durango to Denver, and runs through eight different mountain ranges.  Hiking the entire trail takes about 5-6 weeks.  My husband has accomplished considerable portions of the trail, and we discussed a goal to complete the trek as a family once Finn is old enough to do so!

TheColoradoTrailEmblem

TimAndFinnOnColoradoTrail

FinnInStickFort

Here’s the thing about camping: Every time I plan to camp, there’s always at least one time (maybe three or seven times) when I want to bail on the whole idea.  It seems like a lot of work; it seems uncomfortable; it’s going to be dirty.  But that’s exactly WHY I need to do it.  I have constructed a life I love, but it’s also far from the basics – only the food and clothes I need, only the space I need, at the mercy of Mother Nature and her whims.  It’s also vital for Finn to spend time away and in the mountains.  With the exception of a headlight and a bike, we don’t bring any distractions for Finn when we camp, simply because the very act is so much fun on its own.  I love watching Finn run and discover, finding sticks and bugs and scrambling up rocks.  When camping, my kid experiences exactly the kind of unstructured play his ancestors enjoyed for years, the sort experts recommend and we bemoan not being able to provide anymore.  Now, more than ever, engaging with the outdoors authentically is vital for kids.  So I remind myself to get over the discomfort and the slight inconveniences, and relish the time outside and away from devices.

Plus, Finn was just fine using the outhouse, and didn’t hesitate to go outside in the woods!

WalkWithFinn

FinnWalkingAmongYellowFlowers

FinnScramblingUpRocks

LovinOnFrogOnBreckPlayground

FinnAndCampfireAtDusk

 

Here are some of my top camping tips:

  • Go for national parks or wilderness areas – find a space you love, and claim your camp.
  • You don’t need access to a tent trailer – bring a big tent instead.  If you’re not backpacking, you don’t need to worry about size or weight.  Get a big enough tent for you and your campmates/family – as if there are at least 2 more people going with you than what the tent says you should stuff in there.
  • Use a Thermarest or Paco Pad instead of an air mattress for comfort.  Air mattresses hold onto cold air and make your sleeping situation even more uncomfortable.  You want something cushiony that retains heat.
  • Bring a camp coffee maker and your own travel mugs to keep coffee hot.  Few treats in life are better than hot coffee on a crisp camping morning.
  • Pack one good frying pan, a spatula, a wooden spoon, a knife (unless you keep one in your kit), a can opener and a wine opener.  You should be able to make anything with these items and smart food purchases.
  • Prepare food ahead of time.  Bring items that need the least amount of work before they go in your mouth.  We like yogurt, granola, yummy breads, pre-marinated proteins, salads ready to spoon out onto plates, chips, tortillas, nut butters & jelly. You haven’t lived until you’ve grilled a tortilla filled with peanut butter and jelly and wrapped tight.
  • Glam up your trail mix.  Buy a basic trail mix and add your favorite candies, like bite size Snickers.  Leave your trail mix in the sun so chocolate melts and you get big chunks of melded mix.
  • Bring your own pillows from home.
  • Bring a headlight.  Forget flashlights.
  • Pack a warm beanie and gloves, even in the middle of summer!

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