Just before the color changes in the mountains and bowhunting begins is the perfect time for camping. I decided to pack up the trailer and take the kids and dogs on a camping adventure. I thought it would be a great idea to meet up with some friends. Little did I know I was embarking upon an excursion that would teach me some valuable lessons.

The first thing I picked up on fairly quickly: Cell phones often won’t find a signal in the wilderness. The closer we got to our destination, the more out of cell range we were. I came across a road that had the name of the wilderness area we were looking for, so I took the turn. I soon learned another basic lesson: Always have a map of any unfamiliar areas you’re traversing. We were on a very bumpy and rocky road which fortunately lasted for only a mile and a half, when it turned into a smooth, packed-dirt road. After an hour of driving we came to the road’s end. There was no sign of our friends, and we had no way to call them. We were lost.

My girls and I did not want to go home, so we picked out a spot and pulled the trailer in to settle in for the weekend. It was a beautiful, level spot near a trickling creek. There were a few aspens and tall pines as well as bushes and lots of sage in bloom. Between the creek, the pines, and the sage it was perfect. But it began to rain. We got in the trailer to eat and play games until the downpour passed, as we didn’t have any rain gear. Another lesson learned: Always be prepared for any type of weather, especially in Colorado.

Once the storm passed, we lit a campfire and made S’mores, but I had forgotten the chocolate. (Another lesson: Pack food and supplies appropriately.) We discovered that Nutella makes a great substitute for chocolate when making S’mores. It was, surprisingly, less messy than melting chocolate bars.

The next day was a nice one, with some sun and a little cloud cover to keep the heat from moving in on us. We hiked on a nearby trail that was not marked for hikers; it was a short path that went through the tall pine trees. We found a few dead trees and had fun knocking them down, making sure they only fell onto clear patches.

By then end of the day we were exhausted and ready to sleep with the fresh mountain breeze around us. After a sound night’s sleep, we awoke and prepared to go home. This time, we were prepared to travel across the bumpy road. As we bounced our way closer to home, I reflected upon the most important lesson of all: The value of unplugging and taking the time to enjoy the natural world with the ones you love most. I will remember that during our next camping trip (along with a map and rain gear), and I’ll bring my husband along to share our discoveries with him as well.


20130918_141716Colorado native Becky Swan is a former teacher with a degree in communications from the University of Denver. She now writes for local magazines while raising her two girls. Aside from writing, Becky enjoys the outdoors, particularly skiing, horseback riding, camping, running, and hiking. She is completing her second season of coaching the local high school cross country team. Visit Becky’s blog, Experience Life.