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Camping for the whole family

Local families take it outside



Spending just 20 minutes a day in nature can increase vitality, boost your mood and increase your overall well-being. Camping forces us to step away from technology and social media, and helps us come back to the basics of human relationships. Leaving the hustle and bustle behind and spending some quality time with the kids sounds pretty sweet. But let’s be honest. Not all of us are made to be “one with nature” in the get down and dirty sense. Thankfully, there are many types of camping that are able to suit everyone’s needs, whether it be classic tents, vintage Airstreams or glamping.

Streamline It

The Dixon family considers their style “trailer glamping.” Heather Dixon, mommy blogger of www.5goforth.com, states that trailer glamping is “an increasingly popular vacation style. Travel trailers, especially ones that are customized, can provide a level of luxury that you would never expect while camping.”

The Dixons began as typical “tent campers” when their children were toddlers. “As [our children] got older, we introduced them to sleeping under the stars in hammocks,” Heather said. “We chose to renovate an Airstream trailer in order to extend our camping season, which is limited in Oklahoma by extreme heat in the mid-summer and cold in the winter. We still use the hammocks occasionally, but it is nice to be able to escape the elements and wildlife.”

Heather says one of her favorite parts of camping is that “in today’s new media age it is easier to become distracted and more difficult to genuinely connect. Many of the places we camp have limited connectivity or are completely off grid. As a result, the way we interact as a family changes drastically when we camp.”

Heather’s family prepares meals and dines together, encouraging “far more serious and silly conversations.” Togetherness also syncs the family members’ sleeping and waking time with the natural rhythms of the sun as well as creating new, shared experiences.

The Dixons also love the slower pace that is intrinsic to camping. “Most all the available activities are about interacting with nature: waking to the sounds of turkeys as they pass through our campsite and realizing a turkey gobble sounds more like a gurgle; or camping in the high desert during a drought and discovering that in the absence of a campfire we can see more stars in the night sky than ever before.” 

The Dixons have taken their Airstream to many places, but so far their favorite places have been Yosemite and Arches National Park. When closer to home, they love to frequent Cedar Lake in the Ouachita National Forest and Buffalo Point Campground on the Buffalo River in Arkansas.

Being outdoors, the Dixon family has discovered that their favorite activities include hiking, kayaking, fishing, and playing cards around the campfire. Heather remembers “this past summer the children discovered bouldering at Pinnacles National Park. Now if there are rock formations off the beaten path, our hikes turn into climbs.”

As often as they are on the road, someone in the family inevitably must plug into the working world on occasion, especially during the longer trips, sometimes giving them material suitable for a sticom. Heather reminisces that her husband Dave had to work remotely last summer at Yosemite National Park. “We left Dave in the early hours at a picnic table by the Merced River with his MIFI and laptop so he could have a conference call with an East Coast client,” Heather explained. “During his second call of the morning, he had an unexpected visitor in the form of a bear. The bear was very curious about his gear, which he left on the table when he made a hasty retreat. The bear eventually continued on but not until after it slobbered all over his MIFI.”

The Dixons look forward to taking their giggles and adventures to many more destinations. They dream of visiting Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine. “We want to be the first to see the sunrise in the US from the top of Cadillac Mountain.”

How About a Pop-Up?

A pop-up camper best suits the camping style of the Doyle family.  

If you don’t have access to a trendy vintage Airstream trailer, but still want to explore the outdoors, you might try something smaller. The Doyle family recently made a transition to pop-up camping. A pop-up is a pull-behind “box on wheels.” Chuck Doyle, who, along with his wife Jana, owns Kiddlestix Toy Store in Tulsa, says,  “When we get to the campsite, all we have to do is raise the roof and extend the ends, which pulls the beds out. Inside there is a stove, sink and a dining area, a couch that both ends lay down and convert to beds as well. It will comfortably sleep up to six adults.”

Chuck explained that he and his wife wanted a way to camp year ‘round, regardless of weather. “Summer camping with the AC in the pop-up is going to be a game-changer,” he said, “and a space heater for the cooler months is cozy as well.”

Plugging into a campsite or operating off of the battery and propane offers so many new luxuries that the Doyles didn’t have when they were car camping with a tent. Chuck and Jana are “backpackers at heart” and enjoyed camping when they lived in Montana.

“When we had our daughter, we bought a two-room, 20 or so poled tent,” Chuck said. “Both of our kids absolutely love sleeping on the ground under the stars.”

The Doyles love breaking up the daily routine of life while camping. They enjoy making lists, meal planning and packing up all the supplies. “The kids love to pack their own bags,” Chuck said. “The essential/non-essential ratio is pretty balanced. Also, just getting into nature and out of town is key. The kids need to experience other places that are within a day’s drive and bust out of their Tulsa bubble.”

Oklahoma’s state parks are a draw to the family. “It’s a good feeling to support an invaluable entity that, hopefully, we will not lose in the future,” Chuck said, adding that they “love anywhere with a lake.”

He explains the allure of camping that comes from having a stationary set-up placed in the midst of ever-changing scenery. “Boats motoring by, Blue Herons cruising just above the water, fish rising at dusk; the motion of the lake water is calming and peaceful,” Chuck said. 

But with every peaceful moment there’s always something silly waiting to happen. Chuck recalls that they are usually conscientious about cleaning up the camp, but one night they left out the marshmallows and graham crackers.

“Jana thought for sure that she heard ’boots’ outside of our camper,” Chuck said. “Turns out it was a couple of fat raccoons that made off with our marshmallows and graham crackers. We had to make a trip into town to replenish our supply because we had one more night out there!”

Chuck and Jana love the time they get to spend with their little ones hiking, taking pictures and riding bikes. Chuck says while camping they do “some fishing, taking turns on the kayak and exploring along the way, playing games like Uno and Quirkle, throwing the frisbee, and the kids play on playgrounds in the campgrounds and meet other kids.” 

He does admit that their favorite part is that they “enjoy the journey! Driving through small towns and stopping at Shake Shacks! Setting up camp, making a fire and the primitive-ness of camping and cooking is a super-fun change.”

The Doyle family frequents Greenleaf State Park, Great Plains State Park, Lake Tenkiller State Park, and Keystone State Park. Next for the Doyle family Chuck says is a roadtrip to Montana. Chuck plans to camp with his kids at the place where he and his wife got married 10 years ago in Swan Mountains in Montana.

Or Tent Glamping Might Be Your Style

‚ÄčDeAnna Cooper and Jessica Brent, founders of Homma Camp Co.

Now if you enjoy the outdoors but also enjoy the finer things in life, Tulsa’s Homma Camp Co. has the best solutions for you. DeAnna Cooper and Jessica Brent are the adventurous duo behind Homma Camp Co. “We like to call it Damn Fine Camping! But most people would call it glamping and that’s perfectly fine,” DeAnna said. “We try not to go too over the top with the frills, but we want to make sure that people are comfortable so we provide real beds, heated mattress pads if it’s a bit chilly, French-pressed coffee, of course, and record players to name a few things”

DeAnna and Jessica are moms to Jay, age 7, and are in the process of adopting foster children Anthony, 6, and Dakota, 4. The couple started Homma Camp Co. “after living a year in Spain and then coming back to the US and camping in our VW campervan. We sort of felt that we had nearly perfected the art of adventuring with kids efficiently and comfortably. We wanted to make it easy for other people to get outside, enjoy nature and have adventures. “

The couple knows that “family camping is hard! There’s so much that goes in to preparing for camping, it can be extremely stressful. Organizing all the gear, packing for the kids, planning meals, not to mention the set up and break down - a good campout takes effort and coordination,” DeAnna said. “Once everything is set up, camping is truly relaxing. It’s one of the few times in our busy lives when we’re okay just sitting by a fire and doing nothing! And, with space to explore, the kids never have trouble entertaining themselves.”

DeAnna reminds us there’s just so much to do within our very own Oklahoma. “Cedar Lake in southeast Oklahoma is absolutely beautiful,” she said. “We did a fall break campout there and the weather was just perfect. It was the perfect place to introduce the kids to fishing and to do some light hiking.”

There are places nearby to explore as well. One place they enjoy camping is Osage State Park. “They have built some fabulous platforms with Safari tents and we love to go out there and outfit them with all of our amenities,” DeAnna said. “Sequoyah State Park has a wonderful staff and were one of the first state parks to reach out to us about our services. It’s a great place to go if you want to hike, horseback ride and spend time in their newly renovated lodge. Oh, and Devils Den in Arkansas is definitely one of our favorites too!”

We all know sometimes it’s hard to just pack up and be spontaneous with kids. DeAnna tells us to “try to go out for just one night. We did a campout at the Westside YMCA in Tulsa and families were there camping with their small children for the first time. Based on what they said, they liked that they were also camping close to home. That way if things start to get a little too hectic, then you can always abort the camping mission and head back home.”

As a professional camper, DeAnna also offers this bit of advice to novices. “If you are not really interested in investing a lot of money (camping stuff can be expensive), then it may be best to borrow equipment from friends or family or you can also use our fully outfitted pop-up camp service!”

No matter how you camp, whether it is roughing it or staying in style, just remember to grab the family and get outdoors. Experience nature, explore while taking a hike or just drive through a small town to find a local burger joint. The outdoors and sleeping under the stars not only recharges your batteries, but gives your little ones memories they’ll remember forever.