OPINION – The best, and worst, part of the holiday season is often found in family traditions. From Thanksgiving through New Years, opportunities abound for family bonding experiences that will last several lifetimes.
Even after many years, the one that my kids still talk about is our Thanksgiving camping experience.
Becky and I got the idea for an adventurous Thanksgiving at roughly the same time we purchased our first real tent. By “real tent” I mean a true four-season tent that could comfortably sleep our entire family and the fact that it came with a woodstove. Compared to our previous lightweight camping gear, this tent compared favorably to a Holiday Inn Express.
We chose Pinto Springs as our camping destination because it was far enough removed from civilization to provide a sense of roughing it, yet close enough to run for home if we got too miserable.
We arrived early on Thanksgiving morning and turned the kids loose to explore while we set up camp. Once our tent was pitched and everything squared away, it was time to break out the dutch ovens and start fixing our feast. Instead of a full-sized turkey, we opted to fix a turkey breast with stuffing in one oven, dutch oven potatoes in another, and a pumpkin pie cobbler in yet another oven.
By the time our dinner was ready, the kids were ravenous from their hiking and playing. All food cooked outdoors seems to taste better and this Thanksgiving meal was no exception. After dinner, instead of watching football on TV, we all settled down around the campfire instead.
The temperature dropped in a hurry as the sun went down and we were grateful for the woodstove as we prepared to bed down for the night. With a nice crackling fire in the stove, we gratefully drifted off to sleep.
The adventure part of our Thanksgiving began a short time later.
We had been asleep for roughly three hours when we all shivered awake to find that the woodstove was cold, having completely consumed its load of wood. Inside our tent, the temperature gauge on my watch registered just 16 degrees and everyone was freezing including the family dog. With some effort I got the fire going again and spent the rest of the night feeding logs into the woodstove every half hour or so.
It was not a particularly restful night for anyone. But at daybreak, the kids were running around and clamoring for breakfast, apparently none the worse for the wear.
Now we faced a different challenge. During the night, every bit of water and a good portion of our food had frozen rock solid. We fired up our Camp Chef stove and soon had hot chocolate, warm leftovers, and enough water to do the dishes.
While the kids went back to exploring and playing in the woods, I spent the better part of the day gathering as much firewood as possible. I had quickly burned through most of our supply the previous night trying to keep us warm. I also lined our sleeping bags with some space blankets and a few surplus wool blankets we had brought with us.
Facing the prospect of another cold, sleepless night, we became quick learners. We had plenty of firewood on hand and, with a bit of planning, were able to get by with stoking the stove hourly.
Our second night was much more comfortable than the first and we broke camp the following day and drove out of the hills just a couple of hours ahead of a terrific snow storm.
As we headed home, I found myself wondering how my kids would come to think of the most unorthodox Thanksgiving they’d ever seen. Most of their time had been spent running around dirty, cold, and without indoor plumbing. No one had slept well for three days. Would they be scarred for life?
As the years have passed, this has become the family outing my children recall with the greatest fondness. They’ve watched the home video we shot during our adventure over and over again. Whatever suffering they endured they seemed to forget almost immediately and they still maintain it was the best Thanksgiving they can remember.
Never discount the power of a bit of intentional adversity to bring a family closer together.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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