Our family just came back from a 4-nights camping trip up in northern California. We were there to live and sleep amongst Coastal Redwoods, one of the tallest trees in the world. I can't remember how many years our girls have asked us to take them to see these Redwoods but due to our yearly travel schedule during the summer, Frido and I never had a chance to share the gift with our girls. Needless to say, the summer of 2020 brought many unexpected surprises. Our summer trip to Germany got canceled and so as many other travels we planned for this year. Not being able to see families and friends have been challenging this spring to summer but Frido and I tried to see the light in the shadow throughout this season full of uncertainty. One of the gifts we were able to welcome in our life was the possibility of camping trips this summer into the fall.
We camped once a year for the last several years. Sometimes on our own. Other times with our friends. This year, we decided to go for it. Camp and adventure as frequently as possible while staying safe and healthy. 10 hours drive from Los Angeles to Humboldt was something we also have never done but due to wildfire and completely booked campsites along the coast of California, Humboldt State Park was one of the only places where we were still able to book campsites in the very last minute.
And they did not disappoint. Hidden Spring Campground in the midst of Humboldt State Park had just enough privacy with trees in the campground while still being able to access a flush toilet and clean shower room. The entire campsite was in the woods and it was so enjoyable to take a forest walk through the campsite. We spent a lot of time at the campsite just marveling how incredible it felt to be in the forest and dedicating time to journal together as a family. We also ventured out to explore hiking trails amongst Redwoods and the nearby coast. Some of these trees towered as tall as 300 feet above us and it literally blew our minds. We hugged the trees over and over, explored fallen trees to witness how much it was still a part of the eco-system of the forest, and simply inhaled to "be".
Our family's "sensitive spectrum" varies. Some of us are very sensitive to the smell, sound, and energy of the environment and people around us so Frido and I have learned to incorporate some basic guidelines to make sure that we can do our best to plan our camping trip so everyone in the family can enjoy the experience.
Here are a few things we have learned over the years of camping that really work for us. And below it, I have listed some resource links of things we did and places we visited during our 5 days in the area.
- The flush toilet is a must // I can handle the smell of porta potty or outhouse toilet without flush to some extent especially if I know it's just a few days but it's REALLY hard for our kids to process this sensorial experience. So we make sure that the campsite we stay has a toilet that flushes and has a regular cleaning schedule. Before we book a campsite, I try to read the campsite's review and other people's experience reg. the bathroom (which people often talk about when they discuss campsite!). I don't mean it needs to be a 5-star hotel bathroom but just enough to keep the sensory experience to a minimum!
- Spend some time researching the area before we start traveling // If I can, I try to get as many books as possible about the regions where we will be traveling. About culture, people, plants, and animals, and anything in between. For our camping trip in Redwoods, we borrowed books about Redwoods from the library, watched a few YouTube videos of other people experiencing the area which included the documentary about tree climbers who climb these giant trees (!!), and printed a map where kids can see and trace our driving route. When we research ahead, kids are already invested in the trip which makes it so much more meaningful for them.
- Don't jam-pack the schedule // This is for every trip we take either it's local or international. We usually have a very small checklist of places to see/tour but let the flow of the time together guide us. This way, we can sense what kids needs and what we need and work our way backward to fill our experience instead of over planning ahead. During our time in Redwoods, we spent some time of our day hiking gentle trails, sat by Eel River for simply "being", filling idle time at Black Sand Beach when we drove to the coast, and plenty of time at our campsite making a campfire. This way, we allowed time for kids' natural course of "play" and we were not stressed out about going here and there, minimizing the transition which could easily become a struggle when we have too many to jump through.
- Keep the first full day simple and gentle // Kids did amazing during our 10-hour drive up to our campsite. They read, listened to the audio story, looked at the scenery but we knew that their "patience cup" was full. So keeping the first full-day after we woke up in the forest needed to be simple, gentle, and kids-oriented. It's counterintuitive for adults in us to keep the first full day to be simple because we are naturally so excited and want to do a lot in the new environment! But we keep being reminded over and over that our first full day at any new location needs to be simple.
- Allow time and space for everyone's voice to be heard // We do our best to hear and incorporate everyone's opinions and ideas into considerations. And that means we might skip some activity we might have looked forward if one of the kids has a big negative feeling about it. I feel that for everyone willing to corporate at the travel destination is a result of us working together at home. So if our little ones negate our idea when we are traveling, it's time to listen to both during the travel and at home afterward. It doesn't mean that we always do what kids say or don't have a boundary but we work to acknowledge everyone's feelings and thoughts and let them know that it counts.
- Find soothing rhythm even though it only lasts for a few days // I know we are only camping at the location for a few days but establishing some daily rhythm is so important even though we can't over plan ahead but be in tune with what our bodies and souls need. A few of our camping rhythm during our Redwoods time was "shower in mid-afternoon after the day of adventure", "hot chocolate at breakfast", "family journaling time at the campsite", "post-dinner family walks around the campsite". These are little things we found comfort in and looked forward that anchored our days in a new space.
Humboldt State Park // Such a beautiful area to drive through, camp, and play. It is little off the major highways of the south-north California corridor but we felt it's so worth the drive!
Hidden Spring Campground // We got VERY lucky with this campsite. We loved the feel of being on the terraced ground where it felt as if we were on a treehouse. Because we had to walk into the campsite (about 10 feet or so) from the parking spot and there were some bushes between the campsite road and our fire pit area, the campsite felt tucked away and very private. We were at campsite #32!
Avenue of Giant // miles of scenic road that runs through the incredible Redwoods forest. Our campsite and hiking trails we took were on this road so it was convenient for us.
Founder's Grove hike // Super easy hike. It had a brochure for a self-guided tour so we learned new things about the Redwoods ecosystem during this hike. Because it was such an accessible trail, it was more crowded but we had fun.
Drury-Chaney hike // 2.4-mile hike through the ancient forest. This was the hike that was most memorable to our family. The lush carpet of ferns with towering trees all around. It was breathtaking. We took our time to soak it all in.
Black Sand Beach at Shelter Cove // We enjoyed taking a break from the forest to explore the coast for a day. It was about an hour of a scenic drive from where we camped at Humboldt State Park. We love being at the beach so it was a natural pull for us. The scale of Black Sand Beach, rock formation, and waves were very different from our usual Southern California beaches and it was meditative to just "be". Waves were definitely "not" ideal for swimming (actually dangerous) so we spent time exploring the beach, playing with beautiful black pebbles, climbing on the rocks, and meditating (for me).