|Our little corner of the campsite|
I learned many things about organizing a large group camping trip.
First - When you plan an event involving 50+ people, expect a little chaos. Now maybe chaos is a bit strong, but we had families arrive Friday night, others arrived Saturday morning, and others Saturday afternoon. Most families stayed Saturday night but at least two families in our group left early after not sleeping well the night before. One family decided to only come out Saturday for the day and sleep at home both nights. One family went back to Calgary Saturday for a birthday party and came back in the evening. Everybody had paid for the weekend so there was no confusion when it came to paying park staff but there were moments when you'd realize a tent was gone and you had no idea why or when. I was also kept on my toes watching for new families and since I didn't know everybody in the group, it was a mild challenge with arrival times spread out over two days.
|Breakfast in our corner of camp|
Second - Trips like this are best suited to extroverted children who adapt easily to meeting new friends. My son doesn't fall in this category so while many of the kids were crying Sunday morning because they didn't want to go home, my son was begging to leave. He rarely played with the other kids and was happiest when we went left the group to go for a bike ride. My son aside, the other children had a blast!! As I said, tears were shed by numerous kids not wanting to leave and new friends were made. We had a private playground right in our campsite's open field and to most of the kids (including those as old as 13), it spelled paradise. The kids rode their bikes around together, they blew bubbles together, and they took turns playing in the different tents.
Third - Don't expect everybody to follow the same schedule. The early risers went for a hike together on Saturday morning while others headed out later. Two families packed up for the day to go on a nearby hike in Canmore. We brought our bikes so we could go for a bike ride around the park and one family took their Chariot out for a hike. Other families took off on foot to explore nearby trails. When it came to meal time, families broke up into groups and spread out around the campsite. I had originally thought we'd do one big potluck meal Saturday night but it's just too hard to coordinate things amongst 18 families.
|Biking through Bow Valley Provincial Park|
Four - You need a sense of humour. We still don't know who's car alarm went off after midnight on Saturday. And if you have a child who screams most of the night, shattering the silence across the entire campground, you're going to need to be able to laugh at yourself and shake it off the next day. (for once, this wasn't my child - yay!) The wind was so strong that tents ripped, tent poles broke, and tents lifted off the ground. Yet, everybody still claimed to have had a fabulous time and no major harm was done by the wind.
|Hanging out at the playground|
|Balance bike races|
Five - You need courage! Will you sleep well? No. It's a guarantee. If it isn't your kids up all night, it will be the family next to you. Will there be fights between kids? Of course. Will all the children be happy at the same time? Definitely not. There were few moments when there wasn't at least one upset or tired child. Yet, the resounding response from the weekend was that I plan the same trip next year.
|Kids of all ages enjoying the playground|
Would I do it again? Not sure. I think it would be easier if the group shared a common connection, as in a family reunion or church camp. It would definitely be easier if the kids were all in the same age range. 3 year olds and 9 year olds play very differently on a playground for example. And I'd be more comfortable in a group of 5-10 families myself. Despite the fact that I'm pretty outgoing, I found it hard to bond with 17 other families and barely got a chance to talk to some of my closest friends there. A couple families I wouldn't recognize if I ran into at the mall later this week. Our last camping trip was more comfortable for me with 5 families. We often ate together, hung out together around camp, and shared a more cohesive unity. That's near impossible with a monster sized group.
|Quiet happy moments|
I'll share more later this week on our experience in Bow Valley Provincial Park because it's a fabulous place to camp, wind aside, that needs a proper review. We had the Elk Flats Group Camp to ourselves, and once we got the water turned on, figured out how to get into the locked kitchen shelter, and resolved some basic issues such as park policies on gray water, it was a wonderful place to camp.
|Hiking around Middle Lake in Bow Valley Provincial Park|