weekend camping + nature scavenger hunt

This weekend I took the kids to the mountains.  4 kids + me.

It was a little spontaneous, not a lot of packing or planning.  I took the essentials (enough for 2 days), got in our mini-van & drove 2 hours to our favorite campground.  It was our final good-bye for the season, perhaps for many years, as we’ll be moving to Texas soon & who know’s where military life will take us.

When we arrived, another family showed up about the same time.  The other mom came over to our campsite & we started to chat, as women do.

“You all alone for the weekend with your kids?”  she asked.


A little surprised, she said, “wow, good for you,” as if what I was doing was some hard task.

Caring for children is never an easy task, especially if your goals go beyond basic survival.  But I could not think of a better place to be with my kids.  I think in many ways it is easier to take care of them in the mountains, away from distractions, where life is simple & care free.

Our campsite was near a “mountain” (more like a really cool hill with lots of little foot trails & rocks to climb), & the kids spent a good deal of time climbing & roaming it’s paths.

I wanted to have some more educational moments, so we went on a nature scavenger hunt.  The kids loved discovering & collecting, comparing & contrasting with each other.

Here’s our list:

We also went to Sunrise, a point north of Mt. Rainier.  I had never been there before.

As always, I’m stunned by the beauty of that mountain.

Other things we did:  got rained on the second night (wasn’t quite prepared for that one–didn’t fully cover our tent with the waterproof cover, but we were okay), went for a hike, explored a river bed & river, rode scooters (made possible by paved roads in the campground), built a few fires (no pretenses here–I’m a horrible firestarter), popped popcorn over a fire, went star gazing, & read stories in a tent with a flashlight.

Yes, we get dirty.  Sleeping in a tent isn’t the most comfortable way to slumber & eating camp food (ie. food out of a can or box), isn’t ideal.  Despite this, I love it.  I love the experience of it.

And I’m going to miss it.


Have you ever gone camping?
What’s your favorite part of going camping, or being out in nature?


  1. Pingback: 13 mostly free (but really nice) days out with your kids | Kidspot

  2. Heather
    on September 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm said:

    Wow, what stunning views! I perfect backdrop for a camping trip!

    • Janae Wise
      on September 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm said:

      I know, we LOVE, love our mountains here in Washington. They’re amazing.

  3. Dana
    on September 13, 2012 at 7:11 am said:

    Your photos are stunning, as always, Janae! The mountain vistas are awesome- in the real “with awe” way that the word used to mean! Such a powerful reminder of God’s presence in our lives when I see such natural beauty. So glad that you were at a well populated camp site; I was worried when I read that you were camping last week! Looks like it turned out just fine. I am definitely going to copy your scavenger list- what a great idea. You are creating such wonderful memories for your children (and yourself)- thanks for reminding me that I need to somehow pull myself out of my work vacuum more often to spend “real” time with the kids.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 13, 2012 at 7:20 am said:

      Thank you Dana. Seriously, it’s so easy to get great shots when I have so much to work with! I agree with you, being in nature is a humbling, awe-inspiring reminder that we are nothing. Being in nature is one way I feel closer to God, for sure. About the campsite, yes, no worries. It’s a very popular site, definitely not one of those in the backwoods with just one or two other campers–that would have been a bit scary. And yes, I highly recommend peeling yourself away from work a bit more to carve out play time. I know I don’t PLAY enough with my kids. It’s one of my goals to daily laugh, tickle, play some sort of game (even if it’s just throwing the ball around), &/or go on a fun outing w/ my kids. I want them to have lots of good memories. Hope you have a great day, Dana!

  4. Joya
    on September 12, 2012 at 8:47 am said:

    How fun!! I can’t think of a better place to be than amidst nature. We live in the country and we love to go camping as well. Most of our camping trips, because of our crazy hobby, take place in the 18th century;0) We do Revolutionary War re-enacting and the kids just love it. We set up camp and everything is from the time period so the kids only have each other and period correct toys to play with. The camp is a swarm of children running around, campfires with big kettles of food, and the sound of music most all the time. It’s a different sort of camping but it’s still pretty primitive and everytime we can’t wait till the next!

  5. Char @ www.charskitchen.ca
    on September 12, 2012 at 12:37 am said:

    I cannot get over how beautiful your children are! I’m glad you got to enjoy another weekend of camping with them 🙂 Hope you’re hanging in there- the time will go by fast! <3

    • Janae Wise
      on September 12, 2012 at 2:08 am said:

      Char, you sweetie! ox

  6. Jenny
    on September 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm said:

    I totally agree with you that it’s easier to take care of the kids away from life’s daily distractions. I love traveling with my kids, but I have never thought of taking them camping by myself. I think I’m too afraid of the dark. 🙂 I’m going to let the kids do this scavenger hunt in our woods.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 12, 2012 at 12:46 am said:

      I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat, too! Fortunately the campground we went to had many other campers, so I didn’t feel so alone.

  7. melissa blake
    on September 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm said:

    Looks like an awesome trip!

    • Janae Wise
      on September 12, 2012 at 12:57 am said:

      Yes, the best part was enjoying near-perfect weather–not quite fall, no longer summer. Amazing.

  8. TJ
    on September 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm said:

    Oh gosh, I absolutely adore camping! And these photographs are breathtaking! What an incredible location! And a little scavenger hunt sounds like the perfect thing to keep you occupied 🙂
    xo TJ

    • Janae Wise
      on September 12, 2012 at 12:59 am said:

      I know, it is an incredible place. I’m going to need to go to these pictures once I move to TX, where no such beautiful scenery can be found.

  9. Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family
    on September 11, 2012 at 9:36 am said:

    That is some beautiful scenery indeed, I can see why you will miss it so.
    Your children are just gorgeous in those last shots.

    As for camping I have never been one to like sleeping outdoors. I prefer a cabin. I do like to be out amongst nature (taking hikes, canoe rides, etc) even cooking outside.

    I think the scavenger hunt is genuis great way to keep them engaged and learning.

    Hopefully Texas will have something comparable for you all.

  10. Sabrina
    on September 11, 2012 at 9:23 am said:

    Beautiful! We were planning on going camping at the end of the month. It’s been far too long and it is wonderful to be out enjoying nature. I agree that letting your kids roam, far from modern distractions is about as perfect as it gets. Unfortunately, it may be a little longer until we can get out and camp. Our little 13 month old broke his ankle this weekend and we think the cast might a little too dirty if we took him out there to crawl around in the dirt.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 11, 2012 at 9:24 am said:

      Oh no! Sorry to hear about your little one Sabrina. Hope he heals quickly!

  11. Candice
    on September 11, 2012 at 8:50 am said:

    You’ve inspired me. I’m going to take my kids camping, even though my husband will be away. I’m just dying to go. They are, too…So fun.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 11, 2012 at 9:23 am said:

      Yes, no husband required (allow I have to admit, they are missed!) 🙂

  12. Ashley F.
    on September 11, 2012 at 8:35 am said:

    The fam and I love to camp – it’s so great being disconnected from the digital world and connecting with each other and nature!

    Our favorite part, aside from eating :), is hiking. My little loves hiking and the harder the trail the better for her. We also love just sitting around the first playing cards, too. I think just being together is the best part.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 11, 2012 at 8:37 am said:

      I’m with you Ashley–I LOVE to hike. My kids are finally getting to the point where they can participate on hikes (except for our youngest, whom we still have to carry mostly). My husband’s family does a lot of card playing while camping, so we’ve picked up that tradition (although I’m still awful at playing cards). And I agree–just being together is the best part!

  13. Sara
    on September 11, 2012 at 8:32 am said:

    I live in The Colony, which is about 20 minutes from Dallas. You’ll have to let me know if you plan on passing through! I love San Antonio and Austin and wish we lived out that way. Dallas is okay, but there’s a lot of materialism around us and that definitely bugs me. The weather should be great in December! Our winter doesn’t start until January and it’s usually very mild. We basically have two seasons here: summer and summer extreme. 😉

  14. Alissa N
    on September 11, 2012 at 7:48 am said:

    When I was younger I used to go to sleep away camp, and the weekends they took us for camping trips. I loved it, and actually miss it a lot. Being out in nature makes me feel more serene and grounded. What a fantastic way to celebrate the end of summer!! These photos are beautiful and make me want to give camping a shot again as an adult!

    • Janae Wise
      on September 11, 2012 at 8:16 am said:

      Being in nature also makes me feel serene & grounded. Hope you get a chance to get outdoors, soon Alissa.

  15. Sara
    on September 11, 2012 at 7:34 am said:

    LOVE this nature scavenger hunt idea! I can’t wait for these Texas temps to cool off so we can get outside and do more than swim. My favorite part of being in nature is disconnecting from the busy, fast-paced world and reconnecting with the plants and animals that we share this planet with. 🙂 I don’t do it often enough, that’s for sure.

    • Janae Wise
      on September 11, 2012 at 8:20 am said:

      I guess I didn’t realize you live in TX (or maybe I did)–where do you live? We’re moving to San An around Christmas. Hopefully the weather will be perfect then–certainly will be better than cold & dreary winter up here in WA. I agree with you–nature gives us the opportunity to connect w/ plants & animals, helps us remember how small we are 🙂