Wednesday, September 23, 2015


What is camping with two dogs and a toddler like? A walking three-ring circus.

I feel like people either love camping or hate camping. Living in Colorado you're surrounded by most people who love it, and usually I would consider myself one of them. Up until I went camping with two dogs and a toddler... Just kidding -- we had an amazing time. It was so great to be out in nature having bonfires, eating s'mores (sooo many s'mores), hiking, kicking back with cold beers, seeing incredible views, and of course viewing it all through a 20-month-old's eyes. Everything was blowing Sydney's mind, and it was really adorable to see.

Jordan picked out an easy spot for our first camping excursion as a family of five in a car campground called The Crags, which is located in the Colorado State Forest in Walden, CO (a little bit northwest of Estes Park), which sounded absolutely perfect. We heard about the beautiful views from the individual sites which allowed privacy, and we heard the hiking nearby was awesome. Sold.

So the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, we packed up our mountain vehicle and left super early in the morning (and I mean packed -- how do we add another kid to this mix? Will we need a bus??). It was about a 3.5-hour drive to the campground with zero reception (I'm convinced Jordan just googled "car campground with no cell service") but with amazing views (okay, I'll take it).

We finally arrived and started unpacking, and Sydney and the dogs immediately came unglued and acted white girl (dog) wasted and started running around like they had never seen trees, rocks or dirt before. At one point Sydney started grabbing handfuls of dirt and throwing them into the air sreaming, "YEAHHHH!!" like she had just discovered gold. Sydney was fascinated with Jordan setting up the campsite, and it was really cute the way she followed him around with a curious look on her face the entire time and wanted to help.

The weather was pretty cold (and I forgot my jacket...but don't worry---if one of the dogs suddenly came down with an ear infection, I had their meds). Jordan's lack of clothes in these pictures is not a good representation of the weather at all -- it was around 50-degrees during the day but cloudy with little sun and that cool, crisp mountain air. The first day was great, and it was a pretty seamless day. Sydney hung out in a hammock for the first time, roasted her first marshmallow (well, watched Jordan roast her first marshmallow) and ate her first s'more -- and loved it all. She explored the campsite and watched the fire, and she took it all in with wide eyes and her cute little Sydney face. We went on a small hike to Lake Agnes and saw a moose, which was the coolest thing ever (Sydney thought it was a giant dog), and Sydney and I both stepped in dog shit, which was not the coolest thing ever. It got even more uncool when Sydney decided to wipe her feet on my leg.

 Trying to get into the hammock herself and failing. // ENO DoubleNest Hammock -- A M A Z I N G

And that's when I think things started to get a little dicey...

That night got really cold -- down to maybe 30-degrees and windy. Jordan was in heaven; I was downing beers and shots of Fireball. I was sitting so close to the fire I was practically roasting myself, and I had more layers on than Joey did in that one episode of Friends where he put on every single piece of Chandler's clothes. It was so cold and I was becoming pretty intoxicated in attempt to stay warm, so I went to bed -- at 8:30 PM. Poor Jordan. He thought we were going to have some quality time by the fire and get into deep conversations, and I was drunk and freezing and talking about how I'm going to need an eyeball replacement in the next 10 years (but seriously, you guys---I might).

Sydney was a champ and slept in the tent so well you'd think she'd been camping her whole life, and I slept like a champ thanks to the Fireball. Jordan, on the other hand, did not sleep well at all, and he woke up with an incredibly sore back from sleeping half on a sleeping mat and half on the cold ground and with a lot of tiny toddler kicks to the ribs. After a good breakfast we set about hiking the American Lakes trail, which we had heard really great things about.

The trail is about 5.5 miles and should take about 3-5 hours roundtrip -- if you're hiking with normal adults. If you're hiking with our squad, it should take you about half the day. Because it did. Between the dogs and the kid, we made about 50 stops on the way up, most of them because Sydney created a "fun" game where she would yank down her hat or hood so it would fall in her eyes and she couldn't see and would repeatedly say, "Mama, Mama, Mama. Hat. Eyes. Hat in eyes. Mama. Mama. HAT!!! EYES!!!!" I was tempted on more than all the occasions to just take her hood down or hat off, but it was cold and she was just sitting in a backpack in the chilly air----and she also giggled and gave me a kiss every time I fixed her hood or hat, so I do I stop that?

We got to the top and the promised beautiful views exceeded our expectations. We took a zillion pics, refueled on snacks...and it started to rain. Not mist, not drizzle, but actual big, fat, cold raindrops. Perfect. So we started our way down, and Jordan let me lead -- mistake #1. I started following some random path and suddenly we were on the other side of the mountain, NOT where we wanted to be. Thank the Lord for my patient, understanding, and directionally-sound husband because he didn't say a word and just re-directed us to the right side of the mountain and 45 minutes later we were on the right path (oops). The rain started to fizzle out but was replaced by this really wet, cold mist and fog, and Sydney was thisclose to losing her shit for nearly the entire descent. Whining, crying, random shrieks -- and kicking. For those of you who aren't aware, those child hiking backpacks are awesome -- but heavy. So heavy. And bulky. Add a 25-pound child to the mix, and it's basically like you're a work mule. Add said 25-pound child kicking your back to the mix, and it's like you're a work mule getting whipped. Poor, poor Jordan. My husband is super strong, especially his back, but after nearly six hours of wearing the backpack and Syd, his back was KILLING him.


We finally got back and Sydney got some food and Jordan got a beer, and we made it back to the campsite. I "napped" with Sydney in the hammock (except she wasn't napping evidently, lol), and Jordan relaxed with beers. We made ribs for dinner, and Jordan let the dogs chew on the leftover bones -- mistake #2. Our dogs never eat people food and are on a fairly strict diet of some expensive natural dog food or something, so giving the dogs greasy rib meat to eat and then sending them off to sleep in our car was like giving an uber-fit guy a McDonald's Big Mac and putting him on an airplane. Not going to end well. Sure enough, one of the dogs shat in the car (neither will confess). And for good measure, another dog (or the same one?) peed on the other side. Disclaimer: our dogs are incredibly house-trained and never relieve themselves in our house. They either must have been mad at us or not feeling well, and since our dogs never get mad at us, I'm going with option B. Anyway, again, thank God for my husband who convinced me we needed a mountain vehicle that could get beat up and we wouldn't care about because if that happened in my car I'm fairly certain I would have left them at the campsite for good. Just as we were starting to clean it up, it started raining again. Sydney was running around, slipped in mud and fell, and started screaming her head off like she had fallen in acid. We had one hysterical child covered in mud, two dogs gleefully running around reeking disgustingly of rib meat-feces and pee, a car with dog excrement in it, and we were getting soaked with rain. Suffice to say, we decided to clean up and leave.

We drove for a bit and stopped in Loveland for breakfast, and we left the dogs in the car -- mistake #3, although there was nothing else we could have done with them. While we were waiting for the check, Sydney was sitting patiently in the high chair and decided it was as good of a time as any to projectile barf all over the table, all over herself and all over me. Dear Lord. Jordan went to the car to grab clothes for Sydney to change into but never came back. Wondering what the hell was taking him so long, I paid the bill, cleaned up the table, Sydney and myself and went outside to find the dogs outside of the car and Jordan scrubbing the back of the car again...oh no. Evidently one of the dogs (again, neither has confessed) also decided it was as good of a time as any to barf in the car, presumably because he or she realized they were trapped in the same confinement as one of them had defecated and peed in hours earlier. At this point I thought Jordan was going to hoof it and find the nearest bar, but we finished cleaning it up, piled back in the shit and barf-mobile and drove home.

All in all, despite the weekend going slightly sideways, we truly did have a really great time. I love that Jordan and I are introducing Sydney to all that Colorado has to offer and she's turning into a tiny little mountain girl and loving it all. We did love the camping experience with her, and we're definitely going to attempt again, but I feel perhaps my love for camping has alleviated to maybe just a lukewarm like for the time being.

I think the biggest thing Jordan and I have learned in molding Sydney to our lives rather than us to hers is that we have to expect nothing and prepare for everything. We have to truly be okay with shit exploding (literally, evidently), and we have to accept that things will most likely not always go according to plan. The tent didn't go up in flames and no one contracted Ebola, so we chalked the weekend up to a success, but believe you me, we did NOTHING the following weekend. ;-)

Hope you all had wonderful Labor Days, and Happy First Day of Fall!!

The extent of our daredevil's risk of climbing.

Our little explorer

Dogs pre-Shit and Barf Gate 2015.

 She thought the cackling of the fire was the funniest thing.

 Cozy sweet girl

I thought we were napping. 


  1. You're so brave for tacking the cold and the wilderness with a full crew! Sounds like a great trip!

    1. Michelle, I totally should have consulted with you prior to leaving! We could've used your expertise to say the least, haha. At least we had Fireball and beers, right? Hope all is well with you and Connor!! Miss you guys, xoxo.


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