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In May, I went to Denver to visit my sister. Yes, it was one of those typical weekends of fun, so much laughter that my face hurt, and all the other things expected of a visit with your sister and best friend. When she dropped me off at the airport that Sunday night, she asked if I wanted to come back out in late June to go camping with her and her girls. Uh, hmmm, I don't know about that.

It's not that I'm not a camper. Over the years, I have camped plenty with my family. It always turns out to be much more fun than anticipated. But, there's also that little matter of sleeping in a tent, living in the great outdoors for an extended period of time, and well, okay, I'll admit it, using those disgusting outhouses. I'm kind of a clean freak. No, my house isn't perfectly picked up, but I like to feel clean. I like my hands washed. I like to not wonder if that's really me that might not smell fresh as a daisy on a warm spring morning. I guess it's fair to say, I wasn't sure that I really liked camping.

I told her I'd think about it. I'd have to check schedules and see if it might fit into the already packed summer. So, I boarded the plane and thought long and hard. Yes, we had a fantastic weekend. Yes, I wanted to spend more time with my sister. And yes, I wanted to have something special that I could do with my fabulous nieces. By the time I landed, I was determined that I'd do what I could to find my way back out to Colorado for a weekend of camping in the mountains.

I asked my husband if it might be alright to leave again so soon to head back to Colorado, and as usual, he said, "go ahead." Woo Hoo! I was going camping! 

My sister was thrilled. And as much as I'd like to think that it was solely to have the company of her partner in crime for that weekend, it was probably also due to the fact that I have a lot of camping gear. Not to mention, some pretty awesome outdoor cooking recipes. No way would there be hot dogs on sticks for an entire weekend. For the next month, we texted almost daily saying things like, "I can't wait!" "What are we going to cook?" "What do we need?" I was excited. 

Packing up the car the night before leaving, I was shocked to see how much space the tents, sleeping bags, cots, sleeping pads, dutch ovens, camp stove and all the other stuff I needed to bring took up in my car. I texted sis a picture and said, "Uh, we might have some space issues…"

We always knew we were going to take my sister's car camping, it is substantially larger than mine.  But once we took a good hard look at all the gear I had hauled out there, it became evident that adding backpacks for all, food, and three girls (my older niece was bringing her bestie), we'd need two cars. No problem, we'd have her older daughter drive in her car and my sis and I would get to haul the gear and enjoy 3 hours of uninterrupted sister time.

Arriving at the ranger station, we realized there was no cell service.  None. This was going to be interesting. I'm not addicted to my phone, but there is something to be said about the luxury of being able to call someone if we were eaten by bears. Oh, and there was also that little matter of teenage girls and their seeming addiction to sharing everything with everyone. But, this was what camping was all about. Just us in the wilderness. We'd be like pioneers (except we had better gear.)

After setting up our tents (no easy task on the hard earth — sorry for the bent tent stakes, honey), we wandered the camp site. It was majestic. A beautiful lake to the east, snow-capped mountains with pine and aspen trees surrounding us, and YEA! a real bathroom with flushing toilets and running water.

We hung out, took a little hike, and eventually after snacking on chips and salsa decided we better start dinner. On the menu that night were traditional hobo dinners. This is something that is very easy to make and almost everyone loves them. I think the girls were a bit skeptical about the raw hamburger we had to use (as was I--who needs ecoli when you are camping--but at least we had real toilets!), but as they sat on the coals in the fire pit, we could smell the delicious aromas of a fine camping dinner. When they were done, we devoured them. And, yes, they were fantastic!

After dinner and mid-fire building, we got a little flack from the girls about forgetting to get stuff to make s’mores. To which (in my usual smartypants way of responding to things), I reminded the them that they were no help in planning meals or shopping, so get over it. We instead ate cookies, sat by the fire and relaxed. It was heaven.

The next day, we enjoyed meals made in the dutch oven and spent the day enjoying each other's company, kayaking, and hiking. That night, we made s'mores around a huge glowing campfire. (The girls had volunteered to go to town to get the supplies—though I am sure it had something to do with cell service!) We talked, laughed and listened to music. At one point, we broke into dance when Shakira came on. We knew we were having fun when the park ranger informed us we were having maybe too much fun. Really, he had no idea how much fun we are capable of having.

Sunday morning, we broke camp and over breakfast talked about our fun weekend. It was at that point, we all decided we'd do this every summer--even when the girls had their own families.  It was perfect, and I now know for sure that real girls do camp. We might be dirty and stinky when it’s all over, but it is worth it.

Mollie Protzman


Mollie is an Omaha native and a mom of two boys ages 13 and 8. She's been married for 20 years and spent most of those first 10 years living in various cities around the country. Before kids, she was in marketing communications and public relations and then stayed home with her boys for 11 years while doing freelance writing on the side. The day after her youngest one went to kindergarten, she just about went berserk with the quiet in the house and nothing constructiv ...

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