Camping By the Seat of Our Pants

Author: Aine DiNero

Tags: Vacations

 A lot of families, when choosing to travel, often already have booked which hotels they will stay at on specific nights of the trip, days or weeks in advance.

QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP

Not my family. We rarely know where we’re staying for the night until we look up hotels near a city we may stop in, usually less than two hours before our arrival. Now this does provide a lot more flexibility for us in terms of what we can see or do on our trips, as we are not confined to a certain amount of miles near a city on a particular day. But our “flying by the seat of our pants” style of travel has occasionally given us problems in terms of finding lodging for the night.

Or perhaps a few nights, in the case of our trip to Yellowstone National Park.

When visiting one of the most popular National Parks of all time, it is safe to assume that:

      1. Every hotel in the area will have expensive rates.

      2. Every hotel in the area will be booked upwards of six months in advance.

My family figured that out when we searched for hotels in the area about a month before our trip.

Our other option, of course, was camping in Yellowstone. As my parents booked campsites on the days we expected to be in Yellowstone, they realized that we had never been camping before, as camping was never exactly a huge attraction on Long Island. We decided to go on a bit of a “test run” at a local campsite, less than five miles away, to practice camping out for a few days.

Two days, and four trips home to pick up stuff we had forgotten later, we had a checklist of things we needed to bring and skills we needed to have. We also learned how much space camping gear takes up in a minivan. Along with our normal luggage, packing the car for the trip was like playing a combination of Tetris and Jenga.

This trip proved to be one of the most eventful trips we have taken. Even though we stopped at such beautiful and informative sights such as the First Ladies National Historic Site, President Garfield’s home and tomb, and Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio, plus getting deep dish pizza in Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno, one of the real highlights of the trip was yet to be seen. The diverse, mammoth ecosystem situated in the caldera of one of the world’s super volcanoes: Yellowstone.

With our van packed to bursting with supplies and anticipation, we arrived at Mammoth Campground in Yellowstone. This was what our preparation and test runs had led up to. No longer were our home comforts at a reasonable drive away. All that remained was our will to survive, and our will to not eat too many s’mores.

Our qualms were laid to rest once we set up our tent. As I (the oldest sibling) was only twelve, and my father is blind, we were scared that our tent would come crashing down around us, and our trip would be a disaster. But the tent held firm, the fire blazed brightly, the hot dogs were delicious, and that night paved the way for our future camping expeditions, the nights on our trips that I think pull us closest together as a family.

And as my worn out body began to fall asleep, the anticipation buzz for the next few days wearing off, my final conscious thoughts were: “I’m about to fall asleep in an active volcano.…we really are crazy. And I love it.”