Cloudy with a chance of frustration

The days are about to start getting shorter and I still haven't gotten the family out camping. This time around, the preventing factor was weather. Call me a wuss if you want (it's ok, I deserve it), but I'm just not inclined to take a one- and four-year-old on their first camping trip over a weekend likely to be riddled by thunderstorms.

At the beginning of last week, I was all gung-ho about our upcoming camping excursion. We were going to go to a campground one county to the south where a beach, canoe rentals, trails, and a playground ensured there'd always be something to keep us all occupied. I recruited my sister, her husband, and one of my brothers to join us (and to help wrangle the kids, though I left that part out of the invite). I spend the week gathering supplies, planning meals, making lists, borrowing cots (more on that shortly) and watching the weather forecast.

As the week wore on, the forecast for the weekend went from "awesome weekend to take the family camping" to "you weren't actually serious, were you?" By Friday morning, the geniuses that seem to make long range weather predictions by spinning a roulette wheel and assigning precipitation chances by whatever number the wheel stops on were calling for thunderstorms, adding the dire warning that "some storms may be severe."

The non-specificity of such a forecast is simultaneously irritating and concerning. I faced the same dilemma I've faced throughout my life when weighing outdoor adventuring against the chance that such outings will leave me drenched, cold, and possibly electrocuted or carried away on the wind like Dorothy and Toto. I'm sure there have been times I chose correctly and avoided being one of those guys you see on those shows they air on The Weather Channel. But I don't remember those times.

The times I do remember - quite clearly - are those times where I trusted the forecasters and scrapped my outdoor adventure plans only to find their predictions completely wrong. Too many times I've stayed home expecting the weather to be miserable only to be greeted by warm sunshine all weekend. Conversely, there have been more than a few times that I've gone ahead with plans only to suffer the wrath of storm clouds.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened the last time we went camping, more than a year ago. While Girl and the grandparents snuggled warm, dry and cozy in the camper, wifey and I endured Poseidon's wrath in a tent. It's worth noting here that I've never owned a tent that didn't leak nor an air mattress that held air all night for more than a couple outings (hence the borrowed cots mentioned earlier). Thus, we found ourselves hunkered under a limp air bed, using it as an umbrella against the rain that fell with only slightly less intensity in the tent than it did outside. As the puddles grew in the low spots, we debated whether sleeping under the car was a suitable alternative and if such a vehicle was more attractive to lightning than aluminum tent poles.

Suffice to say, I wasn't inclined to have the kids' first real camping experience turn into one where most of the night was spent burrowed in a concrete park-style bathroom waiting for the storm to blow over. And as pissed as I knew I'd be when the forecast turned out to be wrong and the sun shined unabated all weekend, I decided it wasn't worth the risk. Frustrated, I texted my siblings and called it off.

Surprisingly, the forecast proved to be relatively accurate. Both Friday and Saturday nights saw pretty serious storms, one of which even produced three confirmed tornadoes. My frustration at missing out on yet another potential camping weekend abated slightly with the feeling of vindication at having made the right call on the weather forecast. Even better, Sunday - which happened to be Father's Day - turned out to be pretty gorgeous, giving us the opportunity to get the old boat out on a nearby lake for the year's maiden voyage. Girl even got to help me drive.

So I still haven't officially introduced the kids to tent camping but there's still time. Soon enough I'll catch a favorable forecast on an open weekend and we'll set out to make family memories by the campfire. In the meantime, I'll keep the boat fueled up.

Do you have tips or stories to share of your family's (mis)adventures in the outdoors? Share them with us in the comments.

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