Traveling Baby Part 4: Camping with Baby Test Run

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I married a man who loves the outdoors. Good thing I am a lady who loves the outdoors, too! So naturally we were chomping at the bit to take Jack camping.  We had talked about doing something big like Yosemite or Big Basin, but weren’t sure how to go about it with a baby. One day when Jack was 6-months-old, I mentioned to Michael one Wednesday night I really wanted to drink beer by a roaring fire. He said okay, make it happen that weekend! So after a quick search I found all the popular places in the Bay Area were booked solid until the winter. I eventually found a small private campground outside Point Reyes that had tent only drive-up spaces up. Booked it for one night to give camping with a baby a try.

Jack Played while we set-up
Jack Played while we set-up

We left bright and early Saturday morning, hoping to spend most of the day at the beach. But we hit tons of traffic as soon as we approached San Francisco.

'Are we there yet!!"
‘Are we there yet!!”

What should have been a 2 hour drive turned into 4 hours. But we got to the campsite around 2 PM, so the day wasn’t totally wasted. We set-up camp, had a late lunch, and headed out to the beach.

“What is this stuff?”

Oh, it was glorious. Jack’s first real time at the beach. He played in the sand, we strolled down the beach as a family, and he touched the ocean for the first time.

It was warm, but not hot. A slight breeze bringing in the sweet smells of the ocean. It was perfect…minus the fact that later I found out I was bitten by a tiny spider and ended up getting a terrible infection.

Sleeping Jack snuggled up on my lap by the fire.
Sleeping Jack snuggled up on my lap by the fire.

Then we headed back to camp and I started to make dinner. Then we found out the office closes at 5 PM and no other place in the area sells firewood! I drove all around the area looking, not even branches on the side of the road to pick up! Luckily there was a very nice couple next to us who brought an insane amount of extra stuff, including firewood. They generously gave us some. After dinner, we sat around our small fire (not the roaring one I imagined) and I nursed Jack to sleep on my nursing pillow. We chatted and sipped our beers until the stars came out.

"Please don't make me sleep in a box! I want to be warm snuggled between my parents!"
“Please don’t make me sleep in a box! I want to be warm snuggled between my parents!”

Then we moved to the tent. I had this idea to have Jack sleep in a box with a side cut open next to us, like a co-sleeper. Yeah, he wasn’t having any of that. He wanted want to be snuggled in mama’s arms. I went to put him down between us and I realized something horrible…we forgot pillows and warm blankets! So I quickly wrapped Jack in an extra sleep sack to keep him warm. And settled him down onto my sleeping pad, giving him most of the space. Michael I made makeshift pillows and blankets out of the clothes, wraps, and towels we brought. It ended up being a very cold night for Michael and I. We got hardly any sleep. Also, I was so concerned with keeping Jack warm, but not smothering him with blankets that I could not sleep. Jack kept having night terrors and screaming every time I relaxed, too. So when the sun came up at like 6:30 AM, we all just got up.

The trail along the beach.

After breakfast, we packed up and drove off to explore the rest of Point Reyes. We checked out the historic ranches and the light house.

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Teaching Jack about sandstone formations at the Light House.

On the way out, we stopped at the park and walked the earthquake trail. It was so much fun, despite being tired (and at this point my spider bite started to swell).

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Jack and I are on the North American Plate, Michael is on the Pacific Plate.

After that we headed back…and hit the Bay Area traffic again almost immediately. It took 4 hours to get home again (plus a stop at In and Out for dinner).

So what did I learn from that trip? A LOT!

  • Make a list and check it three times! I cannot believe we forgot pillows and blankets. And we forgot several other smaller things, too. It worked out overall, but it made it more complicated. Would you believe I only brought 15 diapers? It was just enough, I used the last one when I changed him at In and Out.
  • If your baby can’t walk, bring a Pack ‘n’ Play with a crib sheet to cover it. That way you can set baby down in the safe place while you do stuff like start the fire. And the sheet keeps bugs and leaves from falling in.
  • Bring enough toys. I only brought a few toys and Jack got bored of them quickly.
  • Although spare of the minutes plans do work out, I suggest giving yourself more than a few days if you have a baby. Less likely for things to go wrong and you can book a good site well in advance. Our site was great, but it would have been nice to have been in the actual park.
  • Don’t leave at peak traffic times and avoid busy routes if you can. Babies and traffic do not mix. Especially breastfeed ones, Jack was mad I ran out of pumped milk and was screaming for boobs. If we had planned it more, I would have left late Friday night, got there late with a sleep baby to avoid the rush of weekend travels. I also would have gone around the East Bay, and avoided the city.
  • Plan for all types of weather. I was worried we would be too hot at night, so I didn’t pack a lot of warm clothes. Well, I forgot about the fog in the North Bay. It makes everything moist, cold, and damp. If I had brought more warm clothes for Michael and I, it wouldn’t have mattered that we forgot blankets.
  • Lastly, bring a carrier. It will be save your sanity. We can walk, nurse, feed baby, put them down for a nap, and keep them warm while you go about your trip. Plus it is way easier to transfer a sleep baby to bed from a carrier than a big cumbersome nursing pillow.

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    Cold morning, warm mama and baby.

Check out my next post of how our next camping trip to Yosemite a few months later was a major hit from using what we learned on our test-run.

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