Tents and Trailers

Week 8: #52Ancestors – I Can Identify

By Eilene Lyon

With the weather sort-of thinking along the lines of spring, I’m anticipating some camping trips around the state. It seems I’ve been a camper my entire life. My parents took us camping throughout the eastern states and in Oregon while I was growing up. For some reason, I assumed that my father was responsible for this. Wrong.

My dad was a cub scout, but I think the closest his parents’ families got to camping was dining al fresco, as in this scene with the Gusso Clan (as Grandma labeled it). Perhaps living in rural South Dakota didn’t encourage such pursuits.

In reality, it was my mother’s parents, and perhaps in particular my Grandpa Smith, who loved to camp. They grew up in Idaho and sometimes stayed in a cabin on Priest Lake. But they also camped in tents and trailers.

My Smith grandparents and my aunt on a tent camping trip.
Grandpa Smith with what was probably his first trailer.

My mother got a very early start…

Mom as a baby, probably her first camping trip.

And she convinced my dad (probably as a cost-saving measure) to take us camping…

Me and Dad on an early camping trip.
We graduated to a much larger tent, but my parents never got a trailer.

When my Smith grandparents retired, they bought this Avion trailer to spend their retirement years in as snow birds. They quickly left Little Rock to return to the Pacific Northwest, but spent most of their winters in southern California and Arizona.

The Smith’s house in Little Rock, Arkansas, with their retirement purchase out front. Probably a rare snowfall.

After I left home, I continued the tent-dwelling habit. Before my senior year in college, I camped at Great Smoky Mountains N.P. After graduation, I camped my way across the country from Ohio to Oregon—my favorite stop being Yellowstone N.P.

Camping in Iowa in 1985, on my way to Oregon from Ohio.

Living in Colorado really invites one to spend the night in remote places in a tent or trailer. A good friend gifted me this L.L. Bean tent that I used for decades, right up until very recently. Something about aging and sleeping on the ground…

Camping in Mojave National Preserve, California, in 2008.

The Putterer and I had a pull-behind trailer for many years, then graduated in 2020 to the sleek, comfy Ford Transit conversion van. This really is outdoor life in style!

91 thoughts on “Tents and Trailers

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  1. Love this post Eilene! I can relate to a love of camping, although I didn’t start until I was older as we had a cabin on a lake when I was a kid. I loved taking the kids though and was a Girl Scout leader so that helped all of us with outdoor skill building. No more ground sleeping for me sadly. I would love to have a set up like you do now- I would travel the country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My mother roamed the country in her mini-van a couple of times. I always wanted a van like this, and we’ve done some longer trips in it than with the pull-behind. But that big roam around the country is still in my future!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My family were never campers. We were cottage dwellers. I started camping in my early twenties and have loved it ever since. Larry and I used to joke that we’d move to a tent trailer in our sixties and then a van in our seventies. But we were still tenting well into his sixties. A good air mattress makes all the difference. I’m still tenting, although I have been looking for a camper van. I’m not so brave in a tent on my own unless I am camping with others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tenting can be a bit scary on one’s own, depending on the place. Bears can be an issue here. My scariest night was near Abilene Texas. Feral pigs came rooting around near my tent. On river trips, like the San Juan or Colorado, or when I was working in the Mojave, I don’t even use a tent at all. I did that last year one night in Mojave NP. I did get a better mattress and slept in the open bed of the pickup. The desert night sky is magnificent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bears are my biggest fear. I would think feral pigs would be another!!! There are places where the night sky needs to be the only cover. Grasslands National Park is a night sky preserve. I’ve taken my lawn chair and laid out well into the night looking up at the sky. I imagine the desert would be another wonderful place to do just that!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The friend who gave me the tent had a bear scare once. She either heard a bear or saw it from her tent window. Got into her SUV and that bear attacked it. Got back home with muddy paw prints all over the car! That has not happened to me, but it’s always a possibility around here.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Just about anywhere in Colorado is bear territory. Usually we have dogs with us. For some reason we don’t see them at camp sites, but do see them when we’re out on the hiking trails.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My mother grew up in the woods so there was no way in hell she was ever going to go camping, relenting only once when my father bought this little blue and white trailer and we went down to the Gaspé. I can remember trying to make our way to the famous hole in the rock and not being able to because it was super slippery and my little sister just couldn’t.
    Then, when I moved out, I went camping with the various boyfriends over the years and continued to do so with my husband. We went from tent to popup trailer to trailer. No way you could pay me to sleep in a tent ever again, no matter how many good memories I have!
    I love that Transit Van 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked up the Gaspé and Percé Rock. That’s a pretty cool formation! We actually had a pop-up when we started dating and got married, but soon bought the pull-behind. It certainly had more space, but we didn’t enjoy hauling it very far. The van gives us a wider range. My grandparents always towed their trailers with Buick automobiles. I can’t imagine it being very fun to drive that rig from Portland, Oregon, to Tucson, Arizona. Ack!

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      1. Yeah, sorry. I wanted to put a link! We had a Ford F-150 when we pulled our 27-footer. We used to go to New Jersey every summer and went to the Florida Keys, as well. We had a minivan when we pulled the popup. I cannot imagine using a regular car!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I haven’t either. There have been Pontiacs and Buicks and Cadillacs… and what did he finish with? A Hyundai! He went from being a major spendthrift to being thrifty…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I love camping! We still occasionally use a tent when the track is too rough for the caravan (that’s what we call a trailer in Australia). Our caravan is 19 feet long and has all the comforts, toilet, shower, diesel heater, washing machine, air con. It’s 14 years old and we noticed a leak so it’s in for repairs. Looks like it’s going to be expensive to fix. It has to be done because at the end of May we are off to Queensland, like your North American Snowbirds. We have travelled right around Australia and down through the the middle as well as across to Tasmania.

        We tow it with a Toyota Prado Landcruiser which is 16 years old. We have a new one on order but the wait could be up to twelve months. We too are getting older but can’t be replaced with a newer model.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I think that would be a lot of fun to caravan around Australia! How do you get it to Tasmania? Ferry?

        Well, we can be replaced with a new model, but at least we can sometimes get replacement parts!

        Liked by 2 people

  4. We went tent camping when I was a kid until my dad built a relatively primitive camp in the woods (no electricity or potable water). I have such fond memories of that place, although I don’t think I’d be up for it now.

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  5. My family took only one camping trip while I was growing up. We went with another family, friends of my parents and their two boys who were close to my brother’s and my ages. We should have seen it as an omen when, on the drive to the campsite, the woman tried to throw her cigarette butt out the window (it was the 1960s, after all) and it flew back into the back seat of their car, where her sons were sitting, and set the seat on fire. No one was injured and the fire was extinguished. We finally got to the campground, set up our tents and got to do a little swimming. After an hour of nice weather it began to rain. My family quickly gave up on outdoor cooking drove to town to a restaurant for dinner. We hadn’t positioned our tent properly, so the bottom quickly filled with water. No one slept. We got up at first light, packed up our sodden gear and left. I think the other family stayed around, but my parents were done with camping!

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    1. That’s definitely an experience to sour one on camping, especially if it happens on the first and only trip. I’ve had some less-than-ideal camping circumstances, too. Not bad enough to keep me from continuing to do it, though. Soggy tents and sleeping bags have to be the worst!

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  6. Loved the old pictures! The only camping I’ve done was a tent in the backyard on the farm, maybe once or twice in the summer, but by 5am and the morning dew we were back in our own comfy beds!

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  7. Eilene – it sounds like you really enjoy camping whether a tent or RVing. I only went camping once, with my parents as a kid. My father said “let’s rent a tent and camping gear and go camping – it will be fun.” I believe we had a VW Bug at the time. I know we bought our own air mattresses and sleeping bags …. that I remember. The first night it poured raining and the tent had a leak. My mother said “never again” and the tent was bundled up – suffice it say we did not get our kicks on Route 66 in the great outdoors and we spent the rest of the vacation in hotels.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That was giving camping a fair chance wasn’t it? I wonder how my childhood would have been if there had not been a leaky tent? No pictures were taken of that fateful night by the way.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha ha – yes, my mother put her foot down saying “this is the first and last time for camping” and we had to deal with the soggy rented tent riding along with us the remainder of the trip (in a VW Beetle yet).

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have always wondered about those vans and if people really liked them. That seems the way to go! I am not a camper and likely will never be a camper but the idea is intriguing. It would make my travels more affordable too. Still, I like a bed and a shower and a hair dryer too. Haha. I’m such high maintenance!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved to hear you are a camper. My Mother started camping with her folks as a toddler…and she/we camped our whole lives…I gt my second husband hooked on it and hw has the summer trips all schedules. We have a travel trailer these days and it is a mighty comfy home away from home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if my husband grew up camping (I think maybe only Boy Scouts), but he had a pop-up trailer when we met. I kept up with the tent when camping in my own or with friends. Now, van or hotel!


  10. My parents loved to camp – I have wonderful photos of them from various trips in the early 60s. My maternal grandparents would visit the seaside and stay in a small caravan right on the beach – those photos are precious. My husband and I had a camper (back of long-box truck) for over a decade and made several trips…life got in the way after that, so we sold it. Back when our hips still allowed, we’d take everything we needed on the back of the motorcycle and tent camp – that was fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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