(This arti­cle may or may not con­tain affil­i­ate links. What does that mean?)

Before chil­dren, camp­ing was an adven­ture. We got dirty. We drank dur­ing the day. We slept on the dirt with only a thin lay­er of stuffed poly­ester pro­tect­ing our bod­ies from the rocks. We cooked on grills pow­ered by fires we painstak­ing­ly built from twigs and news­pa­pers. We pow­ered through the day and talked around the camp­fire late into the night. S’mores.

Us before kids (just in dif­fer­ent bodies)

After my first son, Kaleb was born, I could­n’t muster up the enthu­si­asm to do it while prac­tic­ing Attach­ment Par­ent­ing which involves: nurs­ing on demand (=no sleep) and still enjoy the sun and the waves that had become the sta­ple of our annu­al surf camp­ing trips. It just was­n’t going to hap­pen. And then it did. We rent­ed a lux­u­ry RV, some­thing I said I’d nev­er do, ridi­cul­ing it as glamp­ing (glam­our camp­ing) instead of actu­al ‘set-up your own tent, show­er under cold water in under 3 min­utes and bring a huge cool­er full of food that you hoped would­n’t spoil in the 3–5 days it would be under the blar­ing sun’ kind of camping.


Ahh this is the life.…

It was actu­al­ly pret­ty great. I got to sleep with my baby in an air-con­di­tioned, qui­et bed while the rest of the crew did what­ev­er they want­ed in the out­side world. Kitchen, refrig­er­a­tor, pri­vate bath­room with a hot show­er. Plus all the reg­u­lar camp­ing stuff we loved. So it was set­tled, that’s how it would be and that’s how it’s been the times we’ve gone camp­ing since.

baby love

Thank you mom­my for not mak­ing me sleep in the dirt

Last week, though, we got invit­ed to go camp­ing at the Kamp­gournds of Amer­i­ca KOA Ven­tu­ra Ranch camp­site. The promised accom­mo­da­tions list­ed a Deluxe Cab­in. This would be a curi­ous depar­ture from our new­ly rede­fined rough and tum­ble camp­ing days aboard a mobile palace. Plus, we usu­al­ly glamped camped at the beach and this site was about half an hour inland.

OK, so let’s talk about the loca­tion. First of all, who knew there was a seclud­ed par­adise nes­tled between a cou­ple ghost towns only an hour’s dri­ve from Los Ange­les? Well, maybe not ghost towns but we def­i­nite­ly felt like we were cross­ing into anoth­er world (pic­ture the movie Deliverance),


OK, maybe not that bad but kin­da scary! (Pho­to cour­tesy Warn­er Bros.)

as we all craned our necks to look out the side win­dow when we drove by a deep ravine that housed what appeared to be the rem­nants of a mobile home and bull­doz­er. My kids asked if any­one lived there. I said I did­n’t know. I could­n’t see how they’d come and go if they did.

When we arrived at the site, we picked up our keys and got a glimpse of what await­ed us for the weekend.


A whole ros­ter of fam­i­ly fun!

They direct­ed us to a cab­in that looked like it had very lit­tle to do with camp­ing except for the mag­nif­i­cent sur­round­ings in which it was set.


Our week­end view


.…and the place from which we’d be view­ing it.…

Camp­ing essen­tials awaited.


Campers need s’mores kits with white wine to wash them down.….

The boys could­n’t wait to explore and luck­i­ly we brought their bikes.

PRO TIP: bring the bikes!

PRO TIP: bring the bikes!

The thing about camp­ing is camp­ing peo­ple are real­ly friend­ly. It’s not like the real world. In this world, it’s easy to meet new peo­ple and con­nect in warm and fuzzy ways.


Kaleb mak­ing new friends

Some­thing unique to this camp­ing site, though, was the pre­pon­der­ance of pea­cocks strut­ting around.


Hot to trot

They real­ly were everywhere.


Kaleb decid­ed he would try to make friends with them too.


Here kit­ty kit­ty kitty

They may have been turned off by his assertive nature.


Our first camp­ing injury

We lat­er learned that the pea­cocks have been there for gen­er­a­tions. The land used to be owned by the Chu­mash Indi­ans and the Chief vis­it­ed the Aus­tralian Head of State back when they still lived on the camp­ground land and it was a cus­tom back then — by the Aus­tralians — to gift pea­cocks to all new rela­tions estab­lished between coun­tries. So that’s how they got there and I thought it was pret­ty cool that they’re still there!

Our week­end sched­ule was packed but the first item on the agen­da was cre­at­ing s’mores by the camp­fire and we did­n’t want to miss that so we had to tear our­selves from our explo­rations and get some grub on.

Dad­dy took the lead.


The out­doors brings out the grill in a man!


Is it ready yet?


Now we’re talking!


Gourmet kid dinner

Then it was time to meet the oth­er mem­bers of our group over an old fash­ioned s’mores cookout.


Show­ing ’em how it’s done


Fire’s smokey!



Oh oh!


still yum­my!

After all that sug­ar, it was time to go to bed because we had a full day planned for tomorrow.

Once we were able to wran­gle the jump­ing jelly­beans into bed, they set­tled nice­ly into their loft beds.


So cozy.….



While Mom­my and Dad­dy sat on the porch with a glass of wine.…

The next day every­one was excit­ed to hit the rock walls after break­fast. For $10, vis­i­tors are able to scale the walls and gen­tly return to Earth only to go again.IMG_9566

The boys must have gone up and down 20 times each.

Mom­my made it to the top — once. Almost.


It’s hard­er than it looks!

There’s also a track around which you can ride ped­dle carts.


Kaleb mak­ing more new friends.

Next it was time to take our (my) tired arms and cre­ate a mem­o­rable sou­venir: a tie-dyed KOA t‑shirt.


Cre­at­ing art in nature is the best.…


Nope, it does­n’t wash off.…


Kaleb mak­ing more new friends.…he real­ly is a friend­ly guy!

This was a fan­tas­tic project we got to take home and proud­ly wear our cre­ation around town. After lunch, it was time for a lit­tle excite­ment: zip lining.

There are two plat­forms from which rid­ers can plum­met zip down. The first is 800 feet long and the sec­ond is 650. Rid­ers speed along at 25 mph. It costs $15 for the first line and $25 for both.

After strap­ping on their gear, the boys were ready to go. Rid­ers must be 70lbs. to ride alone but they can go tan­dem if they don’t meet that requirement.


Wav­ing good­bye to their fans

There are 485 KOA camp­sites around the coun­try. Some of them are fran­chis­es that are pri­vate­ly owned. Ven­tu­ra Ranch KOA own­er, Scott Cory, loves his work and spent the week­end help­ing guests in a vari­ety of activ­i­ties. This Sat­ur­day after­noon, he spent hours on the hot plat­form strap­ping peo­ple safe­ly onto the zipline.


Cory has a won­der­ful imag­i­na­tion and wants to turn the whole camp­site into a nature won­der­land for kids and fam­i­lies. He took this once dilap­i­dat­ed, most­ly aban­doned, coun­ty camp­site five years ago and has already made it an escape for city fam­i­lies. He’s got even greater plans to expand his vision. He wants to extend the length of the zip line ride. He’s build­ing more teepees and deluxe cab­ins and tents by next sea­son since they’re always so busy. He’s also in the works of adding two new water slides to the pool area by 2018.


Wait. Are you sure we want to do this?


OK, we’re ready!


I’m gonna pee my pants!


Don’t pee your pants!!!!


Yippeeee! (no peeeeeee!)

Mom­my got to go too!

Next in our turn­stile of activ­i­ty, we got to go min­ing for gems in the KOA kamp­site quarry.….or rather min­ing station.


Ye ol’ water­ing hole

Min­ing is free but you have to buy a bag of good­ies buried in sacred sand to par­tic­i­pate. Those vary between$7-$25.


Ready to get rich!

First you dump the con­tents of the bag into the sifter.


Then you sub­merge the pans into the water to let the water uncov­er your treasures.


Sift­ing, sifting…


OMG! Look Knox!


EUREKA! Just like the old­en days.

After cash­ing in on our trea­sures, we decid­ed to com­mence our new life of leisure by explor­ing the var­i­ous nature paths sur­round­ing our camp­site (er, cab­in). We heard about the love­ly Big Foot Trail and found a clue on how to get there.


Tru­ly terrified.

We knew we’d be going on the Big Foot hike lat­er with the group but we decid­ed to see if we could find him on our own first. The trail led down to the riv­er bank, which of course, led to the dis­cov­ery of rocks, which of course led to the activ­i­ty of throw­ing them.


Prac­tic­ing in case we actu­al­ly find Big Foot

Along the way we passed by some of the oth­er cool accom­mo­da­tions avail­able to guests.


What an adventure

There is a row of super deluxe cab­ins which were first fea­tured on the TV show, Amer­i­can Dream Builders.



I used to be on TV, now I just hang out with peacocks

It was a con­test to see who could design the cutest lit­tle space.


It’s what’s on the inside that counts anyway

Cor­ry bought the cab­ins after the shows aired and now rents the spaces out for wed­dings and to high-end glampers.


Would you want to get mar­ried here? I do! I do!

But back to our hike. We had had a real­ly rough week as a fam­i­ly before we arrived on our retreat. Get­ting away from it all could­n’t have come at a bet­ter time. There real­ly is some­thing about Moth­er Nature that soothes and brings out the best in everyone.


See? We’re not even try­ing to kill each other!

We saw a cute lit­tle play­ground after our hike and the boys found what appeared to be a strand­ed space­ship. So we had to check it out.


Clear­ly a trans­port for­got­ten by NASA

They went on a short space mission.


Cap­tain! I think I see life!

That night, after din­ner, we went with a big­ger group on an actu­al search for the leg­endary beast, Big Foot.



We did actu­al­ly find him but for some rea­son, as luck would have it, my cam­era would­n’t take snap his pic­ture, so you’ll just have to take our word for it.

Final­ly, the kids could­n’t stay awake anoth­er minute and mom­my was yawn­ing after our full day but we could­n’t leave with­out using the fire­wood they had provided.


There is a store onsite in case you for­get some glamp­ing essen­tials but no but­ter for your corn. So if you for­get that, you’re out of luck.


Gra­tu­itous camp­fire selfie.

This was a great trip and such a short dri­ve from our house, it was nice that the kids weren’t try­ing to kill each oth­er or whine through the last hours of the usu­al dri­ve because it only took us about 45 min­utes to get there on a Fri­day night! Bonus points!

We had to say good­bye to all our new friends after break­fast and before Knox was even done swal­low­ing his food, he was already ask­ing when we could come back.


So do you camp? A sur­vey released this year called the 2016 North Amer­i­can Camper Report  says more of us are. More than half of us are mil­len­ni­als, 18% are African-Amer­i­can and 11% are His­pan­ic. What’s your favorite part or mem­o­ry you trea­sure? Let’s go camping!