Hudson Valley Parent

HVP - July 2014

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Page 38 of 49 ■ Hudson Valley Parent 37 Meghan Dillon-Mellon from Poughkeepsie shared this photo of her son, Noah, 5. "We love camp- ing with our son," she says. "Can't wait to take our baby, too!" Amid their fort-building and cricket-chasing, they'll scarcely notice the lack of screens and devices. site maps and fees. During the summer months, it's best to reserve your site in advance when possible. National, state, and county parks often provide excellent camping facilities at moderate cost. Privately-owned campgrounds are more expensive, but may come with amenities such as laundry facilities and pool. Narrow your search by clicking on desired features — show- ers, fl ush toilets, hiking trails, beach access, playground, convenience store, etc. Make a list and check it twice A printout of must-haves can help you avoid leaving necessities at home. Who wants to drive 20 miles for a box of band-aids? For help get- ting started, go to or for a com- prehensive camping checklist. Then adapt it to your family's needs. Get your gear If you already have the essentials, be sure everything is in good working condition. You don't want to discover the hole in the tent during a down- pour. Equipment can be expensive and there are many options. If you're new to camping (or trying it for the fi rst time with children) you may want to borrow a tent, cooking appa- ratus, and other items from a friend or look for rentals in your area. Make a dry run Before you hit the road, practice using any unfamiliar piece of equip- ment. Set up the tent, install the car top carrier, and light the stove. Not only will you avoid fumbling in bad weather, you'll give the kids a preview of the camping experience. Maybe you'll even want to try a night or two of camping in the backyard before heading to the campground. Plan meals You can chop veggies ahead of time, and use pre-cooked frozen foods as ice blocks in your cooler. If you're using a camp stove, foods that can be cooked with hot water (pasta, instant oatmeal) are quick and easy. And never underestimate the value of grabbing a meal at the local pizzeria or burger joint if you're near a town. Check the weather If you're camping at elevation or on the coast, remember that eve- nings and early mornings may be chilly. And depending on your desti- nation, you may need to prepare for rainy or windy conditions. Review rules When you arrive at the campsite, scope it out before you set up equip- ment. Call a quick family meeting and point out site boundaries, bath- rooms, trash containers, and water. Remind the kids to respect neighbor- ing sites, clean up after themselves, and refrain from feeding wildlife. Make sure everyone is aware of po- tential dangers such as creeks, cliffs, and rash-producing plants. Relax and unwind After you've set up camp, it's time to let the great outdoors work its magic. Hike and fi sh. Organize a scavenger hunt. Prop your feet by the campfi re. Eat s'mores. Tell ghost stories after the sun goes down. Drink an adult beverage. Play a card game with the kids by the lantern's glow. Find constellations you can't see in the city. It's all good. Dealing with "tech de cit" Younger than "tween-age" kids will have no problem occupying themselves with nature's bounty: mud, sticks, rocks, water. Amid their fort-building and cricket-chas- ing, they'll scarcely notice the lack of screens and devices. If you're at a state park, check out the Junior Rangers Program. Kids will love the ranger-led activities and guided walks, where they can learn about the local fl ora and fauna. For older kids (as well as parents!), technology has its benefi ts. Fill your phone with nature-related apps, and there will be no need to lug ten fi eld guides and a journal on your next hike. Another tech bonus: you can easily log your discoveries. Check out gizmodo. com for a review of apps related to animals, plants, rocks, constellations, citizen science, and hiking trails. Ashley Talmadge is a freelance writer whose family loves to camp.

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