Common Ground: Warming up to the idea of camping

My 9-year-old son and I were clueless campers, ill-prepared to handle the frigid temperatures that beset us on our first camping trip together this month.

Thankfully, well-seasoned campers from Pack 21 loaned us blankets, a portable heater and flashlight, hot food and a cozy spot by the campfire.

Initially, I declined to go. “It’s too far,” I told my son. “I don’t know how to camp and it’s too cold.”

He Googled a map of directions to the campsite. “Still no,” I told him firmly.

He was crushed and his eyes welled up.

Several days later I changed my mind and we packed our tent and sleeping bags and headed for Camp Avondale in Clinton.

I hadn’t gone camping in more than 13 years, so this was like starting all over again.

That Friday evening as we entered the campsite gates, we drove three miles through a winding dirt trail that took us deep into the woods and past a lake. I was feeling pretty uneasy until we entered a clearing where a dozen campers were gathered around a blazing fire.

My son was ecstatic, and I was thanking God for getting us there.

We greeted several of his schoolmates and their parents who helped us pitch the tent, unpack and set up our air mattress.

Finding a restroom was next in order. It was about a block away along a dark, dirt road. On the way, I eyed the breathtaking sky — the moon, stars and the Big Dipper.

At the campsite, I took a spot by the fire where I joined a marshmallow roasting, ate homemade bread pudding and listened to others’ stories about previous treks to Camp Avondale.

One camper and her husband described the year in which they were ill-equipped to camp in 24-degree weather. Another couple described leaving their campsite in the middle of the night after a rainstorm flooded their tent.

“Do you have a tarp and heater ready for the 28-degree morning freeze?” a camper asked me as he fetched logs for the fire.

“No,” I told him.

“My Lord,” he answered and immediately brought me his extra heating supplies. Another couple loaned us a tarp to insulate the tent and gave us extra blankets.

They were right. The wave of cold air awakened me around 3:30 a.m. and I couldn’t help but think about my warm bed at home.

I snuggled closer to my son. He didn’t wake up until several hours later when he heard his fellow Scouts chattering by the fire, where a group of men gathered to fry bacon and eggs, brew coffee and cook biscuits for the entire campsite.

My son later hiked the trails, helped pitch a tent and earned a badge for camping out in below-freezing temperatures.

The campout was a success, and we both discovered that mom and son could handle the outdoors, at least with the support of some very savvy campers who made our experience pleasant and warm.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at