Summer Fun: Camping in Sedona, Arizona

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It is HOT down here in Phoenix. This is essentially our version of winter, when we hide inside for three or four months to protect ourselves from the elements. And get a bit of cabin fever, especially with the kids home for the summer, when you can't even shoo them outside. It was time for an escape, so we decided to attempt our very first family camping trip.

We headed up north, to the Sedona, Arizona area, and stayed at a lovely little place called Pine Flat Campground. Think I crammed enough gear into my minivan?

It's amazing what a difference a two and a half hour drive can make. Gorgeous mountains, towering trees, and delightful weather. The moment the car stopped, the girls jumped out of the car and started scrambling on boulders, playing King of the Rock. That's Ainsley on the left, practicing her royal wave. And Niamh on the right, not quite sure what to do with herself once she'd managed to climb to the top of a large rock.

Drew and Ainsley are pretty good at camping, since they've been doing Indian Princesses (the YMCA's father-daughter camping program) for several years. But I haven't been camping since I was a Girl Scout as a kid, and this was Niamh's first experience. Niamh is finally old enough to go on the Indian Princesses trips, and I'll have the occasional weekend to myself!

I picked up a couple of $1 large foam-encased glow sticks at Target on a whim, and the girls loved them. Best $2 spent on this trip, definitely, in terms of enjoyment and entertainment.

As it got dark and cooler, it was time to start the fire. I'm kind of awesome at starting fires, but nobody seems to believe me. I got our campfire going (using the top-down method) so fast that Drew asked if I'd used some sort of accelerant. A little newspaper and a few dry pine needles, but nothing chemical. The magic is all mine. I might be ok at this camping thing.

S'mores were made, of course! Niamh doesn't care for graham crackers, so she makes hers using chocolate to sandwich the melty marshmallow. Yep, it's as messy as it sounds.

One evening, we roasted sweet corn over the fire, and holy cow, it was amazing. the cooking technique added this incredible dimension of flavor, and the corn itself was stunningly good. Who would have guessed that the best corn of the season would come from Super Target?

It was so good, we made it for breakfast one morning, too. Still delicious on the camp stove, though not quite as awesome as over the fire. But a no-campfire burn ban was in effect that day, so camp stove it was.

Mmm, homemade bagels and stunningly perfect peaches for breakfast.

It was amazing what not being cooped up did for the girls. (Nearly) no squabbling. Giggling instead. Playing. Ainsley started writing a song to play with her band from Rokk Skoool. (Yeah, it's an awful name, but it's what he could get the URL for, and the music instruction is actually quite good. Says the harpist and violinist and English major who was rather skeptical when Ainsley started a few months ago.) We hiked. We splashed in the creek. We played.

For the record, my kids aren't always completely filthy. They at least started the camping trip squeaky clean, though you might not be able to tell, since they're covered in about 100 temporary tattoos in varying stages of decay. Those suckers do not come off! Very different from the ones I had as a kid, which, if I was lucky, would last 30 minutes.

Oak creek runs right along the campsite, and we had a lot of fun playing in the water. Niamh was a little skeptical at first, but got used to it and eventually loved it. Niamh is my prissy one, who wants a bath every time she gets her mouth or hands messy eating, and who, when she saw the (quite nice) camp toilets for the first time, turned around and announced, "I can hold it."

My back is still sore, and I pretty much hate folding tents and sleeping bags, but you know, I think I could do this family camping thing again. Next time, with an air mattress that actually works, perhaps? Evidently, I'm a prissy one, too.

This post is sponsored by Kia. Not sure I'd want to go camping without the storage space my Sedona (hah!) minivan has. Maybe next time I'll sleep in it, and let the rest of the family take the tent. Update: The Kia had plenty of space, but died a horrible, permanant, unexpected death 2,000 miles after it was out of warrantee! We bought another minivan--I do love minivans!--but we certainly did NOT choose another Kia.

Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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