Do you take your kids camping?

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Greg Peck
June 24, 2013

I tried to talk my grandkids into a backyard campout this weekend, despite the stormy weather, but it didn’t work out.

I can remember being thrilled the first time my Grandpa Klecker pitched an old canvas tent in his yard in the village of Marshall. Oh boy—sleeping outside like the earliest settlers and Native Americans and even soldiers did in those old black-and-white Westerns and Army movies I watched on TV. Never mind that you wouldn’t get a great night’s sleep or that my allergies would be an issue.

I remember, too, that once my cousin and I camped out in a weedy woods on his parents’ farm. I got a good dose of allergy symptoms for the trouble.

One time after I graduated from college, a friend and I invited my brother and his buddy to camp and canoe fish near Pembine. It stormed that weekend, too, and our leaky tent wound up with a pool of water in one corner. We got a bigger, better tent.

Through the years, I’ve tented off and on. I took my son camping when he was younger. In the past decade or so, I’ve pitched the tent from time to time to camp solo on our Wisconsin River property near Muscoda. That tent, too, was getting old and ragged, and it was pretty big for one person. Because my wife never wanted to join me, I bought a smaller pup tent.

This weekend our grandkids, 11-year-old Lexi and 4½-year-old Remy, came to visit us. No one slept well Friday night with all the big storms rolling through. I thought maybe the storms would give us a break Saturday night, and knowing that Saturday marked the Great American Backyard Campout, in early evening I pitched the big old tent. Boy, it did have a strong musty smell. And as bugs started buzzing around me, I had forgotten that the screen door was so worn it essentially was shot, as was its nylon zipper. Not good.

When I finished, Lexi was in watching TV, and I grabbed Remy’s sleeping bag and invited him inside. He got in, and I asked what he thought.

“Let’s go inside with Lexi,” he said.

We went in, and I encouraged Lexi to come and check out the tent. The musty odor so offended her sensitive sense of smell that she wouldn’t even enter. We went back inside.

No matter, I thought; Lexi and flying insects don’t mix well, either.

I asked Remy if he would sleep with me in the tent even if Lexi didn’t join us. “I don’t know,” he said. I told him to be honest—yes or no, I wouldn’t be upset.

"Do you want to?" He shook his head no.

I went out to disassemble the old tent. Rumbles of thunder that night would have likely chased us indoors anyway. The grandkids fell asleep in their beds like usual—playing their little video games.

On Sunday, I decided it was time to trash the smelly relic. If the grandkids wouldn’t sleep in it and it wouldn’t keep the bugs out anyway, what’s the point of keeping it? I saved the stakes, kept the metal poles and other parts for recycling and put the nylon material in Big Blue (the trash can).

Maybe next time I’ll try pitching the pup tent. I saw flyers in Sunday’s Gazette detailing family-size tents for sale, but no use investing in one if I’m the only person in the family who still thinks camping can be fun.

The city of Janesville scheduled its family campout for June 15, but the city canceled it due to rain in that evening’s forecast. That would have made a mess of campfires—though the rain held off. The city had room for up to 40 families in the fourth-year event at Rockport Park, but only 12 signed up. Leisure Services hopes to reschedule it for another night if enough families are interested and then proceed rain or shine.

Do you take your kids or grandkids camping?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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