Camping with kiddos

20 July 2018

Mother’s Day weekend 2018 was spent camping in the wilds of North Carolina – and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

You’re probably familiar with the concept of behavioral “nudges” – I’ve talked about them before. From The Tech-Wise Family: “Nudges are small changes in the environments around us that make it easier for us to make the choices we want to make… Nudges don’t generally make us do anything, but they make certain choices easier and more likely. They don’t focus so much on changing anything about our own preferences and ability to choose well; they simply put the best choice right in front of us and make the wrong choice harder.”

REI Kingdom tent

We camp because it is one BIG nudge moving us to toward some of the things we care most deeply about: spending time with friends, disconnecting from technology, engaging in good conversation, moving our bodies, and soaking our kids (and ourselves!) in nature. No weekend of pampering could have been better! Plus, John brought sparkling cider and plastic champagne coupes to toast the mamas, so we really couldn’t have asked for more :)

Guava Lotus

camping breakfast

camping breakfast

Our sixth annual camping trip with the Rays was full of all of these things and more. Here are a few photos, if you’d like to take a peek!

Milly and June

This year, we chose South Mountain State Park as our destination. It was voted the 2017 State Park of the Year in North Carolina, and I can see why! The campsites (there are only a handful) are heavily-wooded and perched next to a gorgeous mountain river which provided the loveliest background murmur. We did find the sites a little smaller than we are used to, but the pristine bathroom facilities made up for that! :)

South Mountain State Park

We reserved two side-by-side sites, and Milly and June greatly enjoyed running back and forth between them on the little path cut through the trees :)

We often explore beyond the park on these trips for a hike or meal, but Connelly is pretty remote and so this time we stayed put — which was not at all a hardship, because one of the highlights of South Mountain is the hiking trails!

South Mountain State Park

north carolina waterfalls

Our big hike Saturday morning was to High Shoals Falls (the River Trail to the Hemlock Nature Trail to the High Shoals Falls Loop Trail, turning around at the falls, for anyone who’s looking to recreate!). It was SO beautifully done, with platforms and bridges cutting right through the cascading waterfall!

South Mountain State Park waterfalls

north carolina mountains

We also logged some quality time in the river back at our campsite, where the main entertainment was getting the daddies to fetch rocks from the river bottom for Milly and June to throw into the river. (My job was to make sure the girls didn’t fall in headfirst while doing so.)

river wading

I’ve shared some of my best camping tips before, but I know the idea of camping with toddlers and babies (or even just camping at all!) can still seem intimidating. I will readily admit that it requires a certain amount of gear and preparation to be a smooth and enjoyable experience, but I feel equally passionately that it is worth every minute and every dollar. What a gift for our two families to look back on all of these experiences together, knowing we made time for the things that matter most to us!


sixth annual camping trip

Now just imagine two more kiddos in the picture next year… it will be a whole new level of adventure :)

P.S. We’ve already decided that our fifteenth annual trip will be a joint family vacation to Yosemite – any ideas for our tenth adventure a little closer to home? We’ve only got four years to plan, ha!

P.P.S. Nancy’s take on our trip – she took the best of these photos, too!

2013 trip (no babies!)
2015 trip (no babies, Nancy pregnant!)
2016 trip (two babies!)
2017 trip (two babies, Nancy pregnant!)
2018 trip (three babies, both pregnant – ha!)

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July 20, 2018 7:59 am

I’ve been waiting for this post :)
Sounds like a wonderful time. I grew up camping, took my kids camping and as of today 2/3 of them have campers. Such a wonderful family activity!
Can’t wait to hear about next year with 5 kids!

July 21, 2018 1:04 am

Hi Em,
you really inspire me to try camping with our kiddos! We were going to go this summer, but then we found our we‘re moving across the pond! So, preparing the big move kind of took priority. But I have a feeling that camping in the States might be even more fun after reading your camping posts :-) We‘re definitely looking forward to exploring the Savannah area soon!!

July 21, 2018 12:10 pm

You have inspired me friend – so excited to try out camping now x

July 21, 2018 11:58 pm

So excited for you to go to Yosemite :) It’s one of my favorite places on earth! We photograph weddings there!

July 22, 2018 12:23 pm

I just love the reasons why y’all camp! This particular state park looks beautiful, too.

On a somewhat travel-related note, do you have any tips or guides on your blog for visiting New England? We’re hoping to visit next year (with two young toddlers) and mostly just want to hit some highlights or especially beautiful/charming spots for our first visit. My hubby and I are midwesterners/southerners, and, outside of NYC and D.C., have never visited the region. If you haven’t published one already, I’d love to see a guide to some of your New England favorites! :)

Kelly Strawberry
July 23, 2018 9:28 am

Usually after every post on Em for Marvelous, I’m like “Emily reminds me so much of myself…” and then you’ll do a post about camping, LOL!!! I love the pictures and hearing about your trips though. Sounds like so much fun, minus sleeping outside! :)

July 26, 2018 10:02 am

What type of hiking is good for Milly and June? Do you use a backpack for longer hikes? I love that you are introducing them early, and your photos look beautiful!

July 26, 2018 12:46 pm

Such great experiences! I’m so glad you’re doing it.