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Married to the Ultimate Road Warrior: Surviving Family Road Trips

Swimming in Lake Chelan
Hezekiah and Apollo in Lake Chelan

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When Chuck and I got married, a million years ago (in 1995) we seemed compatible in every way. We both loved camping! And hiking! And being outdoorsy. But the thing is, other than spending two months in Brazil together digging fish ponds (a long story) we have never been outdoorsy together.

The indication of a disparity in our camping/hiking/outdoorsy style was on our honeymoon. We spent a week in a condo on Alyeska and decided to hike together. I put on my hiking boots, grabbed my water bottle, and was ready. Chuck insisted on packing a full backpack- food, water, spare socks, snacks, emergency blanket, I don’t even know what else he stuffed in that thing but it was stuffed full.

“Babe, we’re only going to be gone a couple of hours,” I said.

You can never be too prepared he answered.

And thus began our 20-plus-year struggle of camping vs. camping.

Look, I love camping. I really do. But the thing is, I want to go camping to get away from it all and enjoy nature. I mean, dear friends, we live in a forest in a valley surrounded by woods. My daughter and I watched a black bear lumber across our back property just two days ago. We can (and have) camped in our backyard. So my vision of camping and getting away from it all is to SIMPLIFY.

I don’t want to cook blueberry pancakes and bacon or grill steaks at a campground where it is ten times more difficult. I will make do with granola, nuts, and fruit. I don’t want to pack a week’s worth of clothing and enough first aid supplies to stock a small hospital.

Judah, Celeste, Chuck, and Hezekiah at the camp site.
Judah, Celeste, Chuck, and Hezekiah at our campsite.
Sitting around a campfire after dark

I want to go on walks, sit around the campfire, hike, swim, and drink coffee in the morning with squirrels chittering at me and birds singing.

Recently we took a road trip over the mountains and camped in Chelan County, WA. Tucker, Apollo, and Hezekiah were going river rafting with the Boy Scouts. Chuck and I were joined by Judah & Celeste. We spent the afternoon while the boys rafted in Leavenworth. Sweet, right? Chuck took a trip into The Cheesemongers Shop and came out with a block of cheese to make fondue…since we have a mini crockpot in our trailer. And that’s great. I mean who doesn’t love a good fondue?

Enjoying Leavenworth Washington 2023
Enjoying Leavenworth, Washington, ice cream, and eventually, the most expensive fondue we’ve ever had.

I did ask Chuck if it was special fondue cheese or something (say, high-end Velveeta) and he assured me it said on the label it was good for fondue. And so on we went. Wanding the streets of Leavenworth, getting ice cream, and enjoying the view.

 A marmot or groundhog in Washington State
We did get to see this cool little marmot who was kind enough to pose for me.

To make a long story short, the cheese was not, in fact, high-end Velveeta. It was a cheese that is good as an ingredient in fondue. But sadly, is not Magical Meltable Fondue Cheese. Well, by this point in time, Chuck had fondue on the brain. Back at the campsite he found a recipe and headed to a nearby store…he returned with more cheese (because fondue always uses multiple cheeses), white wine, and every single other ingredient in the recipe. Let me just say, cooking from scratch can and often is frugal. But as anyone who has ever moved knows, when you have to buy every. single. ingredient. for a recipe, it adds up fast.

Giant dandilion in Eniat, Washington

I took a short afternoon nap (hey, we were supposed to relax) and woke up to find Judah (yes, Judah, not Chuck) meticulously cutting up cheese and measuring the ingredients for a home camp made fondue. And if Chuck was reading this he would say, “But was the fondue good?” And yes, my friends, it was good.

Just maybe not $100 good…

Underwater photos of kids swimming in lake chelan

Fast forward to the next day. Chuck, Apollo, Hezekiah, and I decided to do some sightseeing. We drove to Lake Chelan (none of us had been there before) and took a quick dip in the cold water.

Apollo and hezekiah enjoy a cold dip in lake chelan

[All underwater photos were taken on my Olympus TG-4 camera. I bought this back in 2016 and have been using it ever since]

My handsome Road Warrior saw something, somewhere about Chelan Falls, and decided We Would See Them! Making a trip to Chelan Falls Park seemed like a great starting point. So we went. And there were no visible falls. Not to be defeated, Chuck decided to go to another spot where he was pretty sure the falls would be. And who knows, maybe they were, but they weren’t visible. Chuck was detained though, so he got out of the truck and looked around on foot. Still. No. Falls.

By this time his fellow travelers (ie: family) were hot, sweaty, hungry, and tired. But by golly, there were falls to be seen! Or so he thought. After many miles of driving and growling tummies, and sinking spirits, no falls were ever spotted. But we did Have an Adventure.

And then.

Columbia Breaks Fire Center

Literally five minutes away from our campsite (and food) Chuck decided to pull into this old fire break. And so we hopped out (into 95-degree heat) and walked around the self-guided tour. We saw rocks and plants, and a close-up of the firebreak we had seen from the road multiple times).

Columbia Fire break during our Wenatchee River Rafting trip..
Self-guided tour of Columbia Fire Break in Eniat, Wa
As you can see….some of us were hot and tired, and hungry…

The man is nothing if not determined.

Rinse and repeat this scenario (just substitute a state park or some other site). Over and over.

Like the time we camped in Oregon for a week and while one of our “adventures” Chuck insisted on driving back to Washington (adding a good half an hour to our adventure) so the kids could go pee in Washington (where, by the way, live).

So…how do we survive? Pack plenty of snacks and water. Keep a sense of humor. And above all, remember those wedding vows…

And if you want tips on making large family camping trips fun for everyone….be sure and read Large Family Camping Hacks


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