The crackle of a bonfire, the flicker of fireflies, the chirp of crickets, the twinkle of the stars above – connecting with nature and making memories at a campsite are what summer is all about. McHenry County Conservation District has your next camping adventure covered – just remember to pack the s’mores!
We all need to return to nature, if only to take a break from our ordinary weekdays and same old routines. An enjoyable, budget-friendly way to have family fun and keep the stress levels down is to venture out on a camping weekend. It doesn’t matter if you are an old pro or new to camping – what matters is that you spend an evening outside enjoying the wonders of nature. Sitting around a campfire under a clear sky, gazing up at the stars, and listening to the sounds of the night can strengthen our bodies, pacify our minds and restore our spirits.
So what inspires people to go camping? People have declared numerous reasons why a night outdoors can be better than a stay at a five-star resort – reasons that range from enjoying the change of pace it provides to the fact that it offers the opportunity to focus on family. Many appreciate the sights and sounds of nature while “living” outdoors as well as the beautiful landscapes you can experience in addition to the amazing people you will meet along the way.
And, an added bonus of camping is you won’t need to head to the hills or spend hours in the car to have fun sleeping under the stars – McHenry County Conservation District (MCCD) has five campgrounds close to home to choose from for your family weekend outdoor adventure, group outing or individual getaway.
The following group campgrounds can be reserved April through October by calling 815-338-6223 visiting via MCCDistrict.org:
- Beck’s Woods in Chemung
Activities: Camping, hiking, fishing, picnicking and wildlife viewing.
- Hickory Grove Riverfront in Cary
Activities: Camping, fishing, hiking, horse trails, picnicking and wildlife viewing.
- The Hollows in Cary
Activities: Camping, fishing, hiking and picnicking.
- Marengo Ridge in Marengo
Activities: Camping, hiking, picnicking and wildlife viewing.
- Rush Creek in Harvard
- Activities: Camping, fishing, hiking, horse trails, picnicking and wildlife viewing.
Great American Backyard Campout
On June 28, MCCD invites families, couples and individuals to fill the campground at Thomas Woods Campgrounds in Marengo as part of the 10th Annual Great American Backyard Campout. Great American Backyard Campout is a part of National Wildlife Federation’s (nwf.org) efforts to help inspire Americans to protect wildlife and spend regular outdoor time connecting with nature. As an added incentive, each unit reserved will receive a $10 coupon off their next camping reservation and a backpack full of camping-related goodies upon arrival. It’s easy to participate – simply call 815-338-6223 and say, “I want to join the Great American Backyard Campout!
Around the Campfire
When camping with kids, it’s a good idea to know a few silly songs that everyone to participate in, simple recipes to cook over the fire and some storytelling games that get everyone involved. Try favorite sing-alongs like “When The Ants Go Marching,” “Oh! Susanna,” “She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain” and “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” Cook up some fun with roasted hot dogs on a stick, s’mores and popcorn, but also try stir-fry brownies, banana boats, orange muffins or baked apples. See sidebar for some recipes.
Ghost stories are perfect around the campfire, but I can never remember the ending! Instead, play build-a-story as you go where each member of the circle takes a turn adding only one sentence – you’ll be amused at the different twists and turns the story takes, the crazy characters that get added, the imagination of the little ones and how every age can get involved.
Another fun campfire circle game is Outrageous Sounds Orchestra. Everyone thinks of a sound, from thumping on their chest, clicking their tongue, rapping a beat or making repeated who-wishhhhh noises. One person is the designated conductor and gets the sound instruments started by pointing to a person who then has to make their noise. The conductor then moves on to the next person, starting and stopping people by pointing up or down, going faster and faster until arms are out signaling everyone to clap, rap, whistle and thump at will until it all usually breaks down in laughter.
You can also play memory games like “I’m going on vacation (or a picnic) and I brought …” where each person adds something to the list, but before you can name your item you have to recite every item from the players before you. The game keeps going until either someone can’t remember or the list gets too long and everyone is declared memory wizard. Variation: Each added item has to correlate with the alphabet; the challenge is to remember all 26 items.
Another easy game is naming songs with specific words or themes in them, like name all the songs with colors or the names of states in them – the end result is people singing mini clips from songs. This game can be played in teams with both older and younger generations mixed in to cover decades of music.
SIDEBAR I: The Ultimate Escape & Family Adventure
Camping is fun. It's cheap. It’s rejuvenating. It's a change of pace. It's a different kind of vacation. Camping is the only time I can collect my thoughts and feel the rhythm of life and how things fit together. It’s a recharge of my inner self. I love being outdoors. I can actually live outside without electricity, away from the hustle and bustle of telephones, computers, carpools and traffic. When the chirping birds wake me up before the sun comes up – now that's an alarm clock.
Our fondest memories have been around a campfire with friends and family. Everyone must work together for things to get done, including packing, setting up camp, breaking camp and putting things away at home. There is nothing like it for providing the opportunity to focus on the family. It’s the ultimate quality time – as well as a time to learn survival skills. Some of our most memorable experiences as a family have been while camping.
There is nothing like bacon and eggs, pancakes, and coffee cooked and eaten outdoors. We have met some of the most interesting people and have seen many beautiful places because of camping. –Wendy Kummerer, Communications Manager, MCCD
SIDEBAR 2: Yummy Campfire Treats
1. Peel one banana and slit open.
2. Stuff with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips.
3. Wrap in foil and place in fire for five to 10 minutes. Enjoy!
1. Make brownie mix according to directions.
2. Pour a spoonful of oil into a skillet.
3. Cook the batter like scrambled eggs. Enjoy!