Lively Little Campers: We’ve Earned Our Jayco Hiking Badge. Have You?
Lively Little Campers: We’ve Earned Our Jayco Hiking Badge. Have You? avatar

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Image1 Our family loves to hike.  It’s that simple.  Whether it is a weekend getaway or a big summer adventure in our White Hawk, we always look for campgrounds that are close to great, kid-friendly hikes. Wesley is more than happy to relax in one of the backpacks (provided we bring enough raisins and crackers) and our twins, Max and Theo, are fast becoming hiking pros at the ripe old age of five.

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The older boys’ strength and confidence have grown quickly as they have moved out of our packs and onto challenging trails.  They have learned to follow blazes, overcome rocky obstacles, and enjoy breathtaking mountaintop views.   Our boys are growing up hiking—and we believe the lessons they are learning will last a lifetime.

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We have enjoyed dozens of great hikes over the last four years, but these four stand out as our favorites.  We hope they inspire you to pack up your RV this summer and head to the mountains for some serious family fun.

1. The Great Head Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine

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The Great Head Trail has just the right amount of adventure for your next family hike.  It begins with a walk across Sand Beach, continues along a rocky trail around the Great Head Peninsula with dramatic ocean views, then pulls you into a magical forest of white birch trees before dropping you back off on the beach.  If you feel like a swim at the end of the hike take a quick dip in the sparkling Atlantic —and I do mean quick!  Summer water temps rarely exceed 55 degrees.

2. The Lake Minnewaska Trail Loop, Catskill Mountains, New York

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Two summers ago we spent 12 days camping in New York State.  We visited the Finger Lakes, Niagara Falls, and the Catskill Mountains.  One of the highlights of this trip was the hike around Lake Minnewaska in the Catskills.  It is the perfect family friendly hike.  The trail itself is easy to moderate but the views of the lake are stunning.  When you reach the end of the loop there is a small sandy beach where you can kick off your shoes and go for a refreshing, well-deserved swim.

3. The Precipice Trail, Mount Tom, Woodstock, Vermont

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Last summer we camped in Vermont for nine days, and we found so many family-friendly hikes.  Max and Theo gave up their seats in the hiking packs and Wesley claimed his.  We ambled up Mount Tom on a moderately paced carriage road and enjoyed views of downtown Woodstock and the mountains beyond.  We descended on the steep, narrow, and aptly named Precipice Trail.  It was the biggest trail challenge we had experienced as a hiking family—and we relished every rocky step.

4. Mount Tammany, Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey

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This past Memorial Day we hiked Mount Tammany in the Skylands Region of Northwest New Jersey.  The sky over the river was dramatic and so was the hike.  The trail was rocky and often steep and it required all of our effort and attention.  I would not call this a family-friendly hike…at least not if you have very young kids.  But I would call it a full-fledged family adventure.  The boys performed admirably—and I am certain that the promise of camp store ice cream had a whole lot to do with it.

The benefits of family hiking don’t end when the hike ends.  When we get back to the campground we eat dinner, read the boys their favorite stories in the bunkhouse, and then put those kids to bed. They are so exhausted that they fall asleep the second their heads hit the pillow.  This guarantees the parents a whole lot of quality campfire time. Family travel perfection.

Now that we’ve earned our Jayco badge for hiking, what’s next? We’ve got our eyes on the kayaking badge and the fishing badge, and we have a long summer of camping ahead of us. New Hampshire, here we come!

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi blog about camping and traveling with their three young children at livelylittlecampers.com.

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Lively Little Campers – How To Camp Happy: Lessons Learned From Four Years of RVing
Lively Little Campers – How To Camp Happy: Lessons Learned From Four Years of RVing avatar

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Isn’t it great when you can look back and laugh at an epic camping fail?

We have all had those trips that did not go exactly as planned, and ours was four years ago on a chilly weekend at Camp Taylor in the Skylands Region of New Jersey. Our family was still new to RVing, and we had only been on three trips with our pop up camper.

Let’s just say our lack of experience was embarrassingly obvious that weekend. From running out of propane in the middle of a 35-degree night, to an epic toddlers’ meltdown during a wolf preserve tour, we had our fair share of ‘moments.’

This past week we returned, and the experience was everything a great camping trip should be, full of playing, hiking, fishing, and lots of great eating.

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So what changed? Mostly us. After spending over 100 nights in our RV, we have learned a few things. Here are the three most important lessons we can share from the past four years…

1.     The campsite is everything, so do your homework.

Image3 copyIt took us a while to realize that no matter how nice the campground is, your personal site must suit your needs as a family. A waterfront site sounds amazing right? Well, it turns into a stressful experience if you have twin two year olds trying to take a swim in the creek every moment of the day.

Our first site at Camp Taylor four years ago was surrounded by a beautiful, rocky landscape. Guess what? Toddlers love two things: climbing on rocks and throwing rocks, so we spent much of the weekend kissing boo boos and telling them no, no, no. Not ideal.

Now we take the time to talk to campground owners about our needs as a family. We are very specific about what we want—close proximity to the playground, little to no through traffic, and a bit of distance from neighbors who may be bothered by our children’s noisy antics. It may take a long phone call and a bit of persistence, but the perfect campsite for your family will change your vacation experience.

This year at Camp Taylor, we had a wooded back-in site with a wonderful open field in front for the kids to run, kick a ball, or play tag.  The kids had fun and the adults relaxed. That is the very definition of a perfect site.

2.     Be prepared, but be flexible.

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We do a whole lot of planning before we leave on any vacation. That first trip to Camp Taylor was scheduled from start to finish. So even though our boys were tired from that first cold, sleepless night we tried to stay on schedule and move through the itinerary. Big mistake.

This year we had a general list of possible activities, but were always willing to adjust depending on the family mood. On Saturday the sun came out even though rain had been forecast, so we jumped in the car and headed toward the Delaware Water Gap to hike Mt. Tammany. The next morning we were planning on fishing but saw an advertisement for an Animal Frolic at a nearby farm. This ended up being one of the highlights of our trip, and we still fit in fishing later that day.

It certainly helps to do your research, but don’t get to flustered if you hit a speed bump.  Just adjust the plan and keep having fun.

3.     Find your own authentic experience.

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When we first starting RVing, we tried really hard to create that authentic camping experience. We were packing coolers, cooking over the campfire, and gathering kindling from the nearby woods. Many of these ‘camp chores’ can be really difficult and time consuming with little kids underfoot.

It took us a little while to realize we didn’t have to rough it if we didn’t want to. We learned to embrace all the amenities that our travel trailer offered. The air conditioning, heat, refrigerator, and microwave get tons of use on all of our trips. The crockpot supplies many of our camp dinners.

We travel in our RV to find that perfect mix of adventure and relaxation as a family. Whatever helps us raise the fun level and lower the stress level becomes a part of our own personal authentic experience.

What lessons have you learned from years of RVing? Do you do things differently now than you used to? We would love to hear your stories!

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4 Under $40: Father’s Day Gifts for the Camping Dad
4 Under $40: Father’s Day Gifts for the Camping Dad avatar

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Does your husband or father love to camp as much as I do? Then skip the paisley tie this Father’s Day and get him what he really wants–gear and gadgets for the great outdoors! These four great gifts for under $40 will help him step up his camping game and make his next trip even more memorable.

 

Fireside Friend

When I first saw the Fireside Friend at Home Depot it was love at first sight. Estwing makes beautiful tools that are forged in one piece for strength and durability. They are tools that last for generations. This one is made to split larger pieces of firewood into smaller, more burnable pieces. I have added this blue beauty to my permanent camping kit and your dad should too. After all, there’s always room for another friend around the campfire.

 

Image2 Krupps Coffee Grinder

If your dad loves to camp then he probably loves coffee. Help him step up his game with this stainless steel Krups coffee grinder. The single best way to improve the taste of Dad’s morning brew is to ditch the pre-ground coffee and let him grind the beans himself. This little beauty is perfect for camping because it is compact and the cord can be wrapped around the base. Since the grinder is under 30 bucks, you can throw in a bag of gourmet beans for everyone’s favorite barista.

 

Petzl Tikka Plus

If your dad doesn’t have a comfortable and stylish headlamp to bring to the campground then he might as well stay home. A headlamp is necessary for reading around the campfire at night and for those hands-free diaper changes in the dark at three in the morning. When equipped with a Petzl headlamp, he will no longer feel like he needs SEAL Team 6 to help him remove the enemy from his RV. In a pinch, it can also be used as an emergency night light for the kids.

 

darn tough

Is your dad’s sock drawer an embarrassment to the entire family? Then buy him a sweet new pair of Darn Tough hiking socks and tell him to throw away a pair of his el-cheapos. The Merino Wool is breathable, never smells, and will keep your dad’s feet cool all summer long.  Darn Tough guarantees their socks for life, so you can feel good about dropping twenty bucks for a pair. They are also super comfy! The next time dad hikes Katahdin, he will feel like he is walking on air, and will thank you with every step!

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi blog about camping and traveling with their three young children at livelylittlecampers.com

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