Published for Motherhood (click HERE for the link)

The idea of stuffing camping gear and food and kids into a van and driving for four and a half hours made me tired. But I plowed through by keeping my eye on the prize: spending three nights camping as a family at the mouth of Bryce Canyon, with lots of hiking and swimming in a heated pool.

My kids, having performed very little of the manual labor necessary to prepare for the trip, were excited. Once we finally got on the road, so was I.

The campground exceeded expectations with its gorgeous scenery, playground, heated pool and nice restrooms. Dinner was perfect because it was cooked over a campfire and slightly charred. As we were cleaning up and tucking in for the night, a few raindrops started to fall. But we didn’t worry because the weather forecast had assured us that the chance of rain was less than 10 percent.

As we all know, a rain forecast of less than 10 percent basically means it won’t rain. Plus, we were the proud owners of a brand-new waterproof tent complete with rain fly.

We learned a few things that trip:

  • A 10 percent chance of rain could in fact mean that it will rain all night and into the morning. Waterproof tents with rain flies keep the water out for approximately three and a half hours. Puddles of water inside a tent are a huge deterrent to a restful night’s sleep. Soft dirt paths and roads and campsites turn into muddy paths and roads and campsites in a downpour.
  • Pancakes and bacon cannot be cooked outdoors on a camp stove while it’s raining. RV owners who cook pancakes and bacon in the shelter of their tiny, yet very dry kitchens are looked upon with much envy and some malice by tent campers whose stomachs are growling as they trudge through sludge to use the facilities.
  • Mom should never sing or even hum “Singing in the Rain” while her husband and older kids are attempting to cram muddy, uncooperative camping gear back into and on top of the van in pouring rain. Despite good intentions, the song will do nothing to help lift spirits.
  • Attempting to wipe mud off of shoes with a soggy towel as kids are piling back into the van is an exercise in absolute futility.

Looking out of the window 10 minutes into the return trip and gazing upon a beautiful lodge advertising rock-bottom rates complete with complimentary hot breakfasts is a bad idea that will only cause indigestion and maybe even trigger a migraine.

The rest of our return trip was incredibly long and uncharacteristically silent until my 13-year-old broke the silence by saying, “That pretty much sucked.”

Well said. I pretty much had to agree.

You could never have convinced me at the time, but I honestly don’t regret going on that trip. Had we stayed home, we would likely have no memory of that weekend. Now we have a whole new batch of wet and mucky stories to rehash, and even laugh about on occasion.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that it took a solid six months of recovery time before I could laugh.

I’m currently planning a summer getaway for our family and sincerely hope it goes a little better — ok a lot better — than our camping trip. But a perfect vacation isn’t necessarily the end goal. It’s more about the experiences, whatever they turn out to be.

Here’s to family vacations. Even the muddy ones.