The last time I went camping I was probably 8 years old. My mom, dad, aunt and uncle packed up the ol’ station wagon and we set forth, destination Texas and yes, we drove from Naples all the way to Dallas, camping the whole way there. We did camp in actual tents and we stayed in cabins a lot, too. We had a lot of outdoor cooking, got to know each other a whole lot better and enjoyed some of the incredible sights that this country has to offer. I look back on those memories now and they really do make me feel warm and fuzzy inside (I know, cheezy but so true). I think that’s what good parenting is all about: creating memories that make your kids feel warm and fuzzy inside once they reach adulthood.

So this last weekend and the first weekend of the New Year, Rene decided that it was as good a time as any to start creating those kinds of memories for Ali and Helena. I do have to admit that some of these family outings CAN leave older kids scoffing. But I believe that most kids secretly enjoy and love these family outings. And if they don’t, too bad! It’s good for them and the parents, too. I think more families should camp out in tents, in the middle of dark and spooky forests while trekking through this land in search of adventure! What great food for the imagination….and talk about recharging after a mondo long worklife!

Ali and Helena are still at an age where they still like us and their world revolves around us. We are still cool and they look up to us and they still prefer to be around us more than anyone else (ok, well maybe they like grandma better). That’s a great feeling and we capitalized on that feeling BIG time this past weekend!

We did buy the tent, and the sleeping bags, the lantern and the bug spray. The cooler was loaded, the car was loaded too and we brought Halley, the hound dog with us. Our destination: Myakka River State Park. Needless to say it was a wonderful adventure. I’ve been to a lot of parks around here but this park is definitely worth the visit. We only spent one night at the park (what??) (and we picked the coldest night, of course) but Rene managed to put up the tent in under an hour and we had an awesome air mattress (I know, that’s cheating) and super-warm sleeping bags. What fun and memories we made! We did roast marshmallows, too! And once the girls went to sleep, Rene and I sat by the campfire, staring at the stars with a beer in our hands. Talk about a perfect evening….

Take a look at the gallery below. You’ll get to see some of the animals we met during our visit. There were lots of alligators in all the waterways. We saw a family of wild hogs (they were a deep dark black and the mom had like 12 piglets), plenty of deer, vultures, hawks and insects galore! And look at those amazing oak trees with the Spanish moss hanging from them. They are fabulous! There are parts of the park that are a little when it started to get darker but incredibly beautiful, too in the late afternoon and early morning light.

The girls loved it, hound dog loved it and we loved it. I also got to take a lot of pictures of landscapes, which I’ve always loved to do and haven’t done in a long time. And yep! I got some flare in there, too! It really felt great to shoot for myself in such a beautiful and inspiring place!

Sure, when given the chance to spend a weekend at the Ritz or a weekend camping, well, you know what I would pick. Ha! But weekends roughing it with the girls and Rene are worth a lot more than a weekend at the Ritz!

If you’re visiting Southwest Florida and love parks, make sure to check out this park. You won’t be disappointed!

Another perfect weekend!