Dad blowing bubbles as family sits around fire under redwoods.

On my first Father’s Day as a dad I want to talk about something that meant a whole lot to me – our first camping trip as a family. 

But first you should know that I would love to join your family on a camping trip this summer. Seriously. Photographing your shared family adventures would be a dream come true. Just tell me where and when!

A few weeks ago our friends and their toddler were visiting from the midwest. None of us had yet tried camping since we had kids, but we were determined to make it happen.

My most powerful childhood memories are largely dotted with these same types of shared immersive experiences. The ones where we faced challenges together as a family.

Even if our daughter is too young to remember the details, I believe she’s already forming an understanding of what it means to be a team.

Woman at picnic table reads kids book to toddler.

This year’s late winter storm closed the southbound highway into Big Sur, blessedly forcing us to switch to the Point Reyes area. Our daughter spends at least 25% of her time in the car seat crying (and the rest of the time we’re working our butts off to keep her distracted), so that turn of fate took us from around 2 hours listening to her sob to under 30 minutes.

Thank you, fate.

Our first campsite was on the beach, and we arrived in near gale force springtime winds. I was ready to turn around and drive home. But my wife doesn’t give up that easily, and we maneuvered our vehicles to create a tolerable nook. Our s’mores were gritty and we worried about sand in our baby’s eyes.

Woman watches kid playing in the sand in front of camper van.

The morning saw calm(er) winds. Despite the kids spending a lot of time trying to eat the sand that finally wasn’t blowing into their eyes, we were able to explore the beach and enjoy ourselves before heading to our second campground, this one in the redwoods.

A quick 2 mile hike turned into a race to get back to the campsite – their toddler using sign language to tell us, after about 10 minutes walking, that he was “all done.” As if our hike were a meal and he wasn’t hungry.

Family hiking below towering redwood trees.

We camped in the forest that evening. It was much easier.

We explored the ancient trees with our daughter, walking into giant hollows in trunks created by fires before her grandparents were born and sharing with her the magical, unlikely softness that is redwood bark. We sang songs, blew bubbles, and had a big fire to help keep everyone warm.

The next morning we drove home after breakfast.

Toddler standing beneath tall forest trees.
Baby touching needles of a redwood and giggling.

So, was it easy? Absolutely not.

Would I do it again tomorrow? Without question.

Because it was exactly what I was looking for – an immersive experience to share as a family. A reason to be a team. And I’m glad to have these photos to someday show our daughter her first camping trip.

If you are a family who gets outside and wants to document the experience for your kids, take me camping. Seriously.

Take me camping!

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