Five Things I Learned While Camping

As you may know, our family just had our first official campout. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised how it all went down. I was expecting sweltering heat and vast amounts of insects. While we had a bit of both, it wasn’t obnoxious.

The kids were super-troopers and willing to risk life beyond air conditioning and electricity. I think all of those episodes of Man vs. Wild may have helped in this department. Needless to say, we were all in.


Campers at work <3

The moment we pulled into our campsite, I felt ready to take on nature. The Girl Scout force was strong with this one. I was armed with glow sticks, homemade bug spray, a Swiss Army knife, battery-operated personal cooling devices, and a slew of other camping hacks.

What I didn’t realize is that nature would take hold of me, and teach me that not everything I needed could be neatly tucked into a backpack.

Here are five things to prove that…


What’s the quote about “best laid plans…?” Well, inevitably we didn’t have everything we needed for our trip. As much planning and list-making as I had done, we forgot a few fairly important things.

One of them being a pot holder to remove food from the fire. Yikes. We also didn’t pack enough bottled water or a rain tarp for the tent. Triple yikes. Once we heard thunder, I started to panic. Then my husband reminded me that…

a) It wasn’t raining, yet, and the clouds could blow over, and

b) We were fairly smart people who could figure things out. (We also held keys to a car that could drive us back home, if needed.)

Not wanting to wimp out, we fired up our adventurous spirit and started tackling each issue at a time. We had metal skewers that could double as tongs. There was a water fountain by the restrooms to fill our bottles. We had plenty of trash bags that could stretch across the top of our tent. Check, check and check!

Later that night, when we realized we needed more kindling for the fire, Clara quickly said, “We could use these dry leaves over here!” Atta girl. We may not have packed enough gear, but we had our resourcefulness. And nothing, including a little rain, could ruin our camping parade.

lets go

The girls loved exploring this dried up creek bed. They were looking for hiking sticks, cool rocks – and probably a few leaves to burn.


Right after we unloaded the car, we took a dip in the campground pool, checked out the scenery, and eventually got back to our campsite for the evening. That’s when we realized our mistake. We started the charcoals too late.

As we sat staring and waiting for those damn bricks to turn gray so we could cook our dinner, I realized I left my patience at home. We all did. The kids were getting grumpy as the sun was setting on our hungry faces. We tried to distract ourselves with music on our phone, only to discover we had no service. Not even one bar.

We found ourselves with a choice: sit with our impatience or enjoy this beautiful evening, which turned out to have little to no rain and a gorgeous moon.

100% thanks to my husband, we chose the second option. We made up our own version of frisbee golf, and even caught a few fireflies, while we patiently waited for our food. And when it was finally ready, it never tasted so good.

The same lesson showed up in the morning. As I waited…and waited…for the eggs to cook and the water to boil for my coffee, I invited a little patience to join me. I picked up a book to read, but I ended up just sitting in the quiet with my family listening to the crackling fire. For the first time in at least 24 hours, I didn’t feel the need to rush around. I was healed for a moment from my lifestyle of constant movement. And it felt really nice.

finally coffee

My sweet B and I tasting our delicious morning coffee. (Which, by the way are those Starbucks instant packets!!)


One of the reasons we chose to camp at Devil’s Den was because of its hiking trails. There are several to choose from, so we went with the one named Devil’s Den. I figured it would be like a restaurant…you can’t go wrong ordering the item named after the joint. Well, it lived up to my expectations. This trail was filled with crazy rock formations, tons of native vegetation and plenty of scurrying creatures.

At one point we were met with a fork in the road. As cliché as it sounds, we took the road less traveled. We decided to be adventurous, and look what we found!

stacked stones3

The tiny winding path led us right to this spot where there were hundreds of stacked stones along the creek. Maybe it wasn’t so “less traveled” after all? Regardless, we stopped to take pictures and add our contribution before we were on our way.stacked stones1

And I left feeling thankful we were bold enough to take this path in the first place. We could have easily blown past it and missed this delightful landscape – which would have been a shame. Adventure for the win.
stacked stones2


Being outdoors, you have to be aware of your surroundings for safety reasons. You could come upon a poisonous snake or even a bear in some parts around here, and you need to know how to handle the situation. That goes without saying. It’s also nice to just look around every now and then and be aware of how beautiful things are.

When I took time to notice, I saw all kinds of friendly creatures just doing their thing. It reminded me that these woods are their home, and I was merely a guest.


We saw bunnies, beavers, bumbles and butterflies!!


The idea of being out in the wilderness without access to texting, gaming or any form of electronic communication sounded scary to my kids. I even freaked out for a bit when we couldn’t even get music. But once we started exploring and playing games that required frisbees and a deck of cards, we started to realize how much we needed this.

family walk

Look at those trail blazers. I love that they’re walking in birth order. I don’t think they even realize it. Although, Clara  is only 1-minute younger than Avery, so she should be following a little closer 😉

family pic

My world…standing on a bridge to happiness.

I hope you have a chance to go camping, or at least spend time in the great outdoors soon. It can be life changing – if you let it all in.

finding yourself

That’s my awesome Evan trekking across the creek.

Love and hugs,



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Friday Wrap: Father’s Day Campout

friday hugs

First and foremost, I want to say how excited I am to be the featured blogger this week at High Five for Friday. The gracious hosts, Katie, Della and Tif, extended the invitation, and I said “yes” faster than I could sneeze. (Be sure to check out each of their blogs!)

I’m so glad it’s finally Friday. I have loved meeting so many amazing bloggers through H54F so far, and I can’t wait to meet more of you today. <3

If you’re new to The Neat Nook, welcome! I’m honored you’re here and invite you to read more about me or click through a few previous posts.

You’ll quickly see that my family is at the heart of my soul.

This weekend we’re taking our first camping trip (outside of our own backyard) to celebrate Father’s Day.

As much as we love the outdoors, it kind of floors me we haven’t done this sooner. We’re headed to a gorgeous place called Devil’s Den here in Northwest Arkansas.

devils den

I can’t wait to hike to this view. See more pictures here!

I’d love for this trip to be easy, fun and comfortable, so I’m pulling out a few camping tricks. Here are five ideas that I hope pull through for us this weekend. Crossing fingers here.

{ONE} The Hamper Hack

hamper hack

Presenting…the laundry hamper, two ways.

I love foldable laundry hampers because I can easily get them down to the size of a pancake and store them next to my washer between loads. They’re also handy for carrying beach towels to a camping trip. Don’t you think?

Once we get unpacked at the campground, I’m going to transition the hamper into a portable trashcan. Yay! No slouchy trash bags sitting next to our picnic table.

{TWO} Natural Bug Deterrents


This is a closeup of a citronella leaf. It has a nice citrusy fragrance.

Okay, y’all. I can’t resist decorating our camping space just a smidge. So I’m bringing a Mason jar of flowers from the garden (which I’ll transport in the cup holder of our car) to fancy up the picnic table. I clipped some shasta daisies, and for the greenery I added sprigs of my citronella plant to help keep mosquitoes away. How’s that for some double-duty daisies?

sage bundles

Another way I plan to keep the bugs at bay (in addition to my natural, homemade bug repellent) are these sage bundles. I wrapped several bunches of sage with yarn – so it’s all easy to burn. Then we’ll just toss them right into our campfire. Apparently mosquitoes and other flying insects don’t like the smell of smoky sage. Good thing we do.

{THREE} Instant Fire Starter 

pencil sharpener for tinder

Look at that pile of tinder. The great outdoors, here I come!

We’re bringing plenty of firewood, but sometimes it can get tricky to get the fire started. I plan to take a hand-held pencil sharpener in case I need to make some tinder with shavings from a twig. Even if I don’t need this, I’m totally using it so I can feel like Bear Grylls for a day.

{FOUR} Glow Stick Night Lights

glow bottle

What’s more fun than flashlights at dusk? Glow sticks!! I bought several colors to light up our campsite. I’ll put them inside empty water bottles to make a runway outside of our tent, and I’ll also drop a few inside of the cooler so we can see which flavor of Capri Sun we’re grabbing once the sun goes down.

{FIVE} Campfire Coffee

starbucks via

This is potentially a camp-saver.

Brandon (my sweet hubs) and I can’t imagine a morning without coffee. We panicked a bit when we realized we won’t be anywhere near a coffee shop AND we don’t have a camp stove percolator OR any contraption like it. Although this set is pretty adorable, and I should totally order it for our next trip. 😉

Once I realized Starbucks has instant coffee, life was good. Has anyone tried it?! We like fairly bold flavor, so I’m hoping we’ll be happy campers with this situation. I guess all you do is pour boiling water over the packet? I’m taking a few bottled mochas just in case all of this goes south. #firstworldproblems


His & hers backup plan.

Now that my hacks are all packed, I’m off to load the family truckster.

Let me know if you have any must-try camping tricks. I love learning new things. I also love meeting new people, so introduce yourself in the comments. It will be like a little guest book for the day.

Have a wonderful weekend, and be sure to hug those sweet daddy bears out there!


PS. Check out all of these fun blog parties if you can!


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