We tried to camp.

One of the big debates before we left was do we bring camping gear? The two schools of thought being: It took up a lot of space in the car but it also represented a great experience for them that we wanted them to have that also was cheaper than a hotel.

In the end, we packed the car to see how it looked…then unpacked it and set up the tent in the living room to see how the kids liked it (they did) and brought it along. Side note: If you’re asking why didn’t we set up the tent outside…good question. In hindsight, that was probably an oversight on our part.

Nevertheless, we set out with the understanding that we would most likely camp for at least 5 nights in Yellowstone and the Badlands.

Jon grew up camping but it’s safe to say is the least experienced camper from his extended family having not camped in at least 15 years. Reny and Kaleb had never camped before. Gina’s most significant experience “camping” was when she was backpacking through Europe in her early 20’s. (Think: more sleeping in parks and bridges and less tents in the woods)

We were ready.

We made it two nights.

We were sprinting to arrive at Yellowstone before sunset so that we didn’t have to set up our campsite in the dark. This kept being made more difficult by the amount of animals that we saw along the way. During our drive in we legitimately saw, elk, fox, bison, and a wolf. We made it at dusk.

We left the kids in the car with a movie while we set up camp. Despite the required wrestling with the rain flap we did pretty well. The four of us were excited to sleep in our tent. Got ready, read some books, and …boom! We were camping.

It was a long night.

The combination of a cold night, restless sleepers, and bugling elks meant that we were bleary eyed in the morning. Especially Gina.

We vowed the next night would be better. After a long and wonderful day in Yellowstone we can say that it was a better night. Though it was an admittedly low bar. We were warmer and the elks had stopped their late night calling. Though they were replaced by a howling wolf.

That next morning we were greeted by a bison in our campsite. He was quite content eating his morning breakfast as he wandered between campers and tents. We watched him for a while and watched our kids and both knew that we had reached our max of camping. The kids were starting their day fried which makes for a tough day. Even in the magic of Yellowstone.

So we quit while we were ahead. We packed up our site and went to a hotel.

I think we may try camping again during this trip but right now it looks like two nights in a row is the max.

Wish us luck.

Us 5, with love

Jonathan Gordon