Why we choose primitive campsites

Camping in the summertime gets us out of the southwest desert heat (we left our driveway at 9:30 am with a 90* temperature, and two hours later, at an altitude of 9,000′, it was 57* and rainy), it allows our children to experience new things, gives them an opportunity to test their developing skills, abilities and limits, and camping provides great family bonding time.

Our preferred campsite location is one that is primitive, but the purpose of our recent overnight excursion was to “practice” camping in an established campsite in close proximity to other people. We stayed in a private, 200-acre pay-to-fish and camp location offering areas for RVs and tents. 

Just as we secured our spot (first come, first serve), an afternoon mountain thunderstorm hit, complete with pea-size hail. So, we waited it out, and fed everyone lunch in the truck. Thankfully, I’d prepared everyone PB&Js in advance, so lunch was easy to grab quickly from our ice chest in the back of the tuck. 

After lunch, the rain began to clear, and with the kids still strapped in their seats, Will and I braved the diminishing sprinkles to set up our new tent. 

After our last outdoor adventure, we decided we feel more comfortable tent camping with our preschoolers, at least for the next four to five years. That decision prompted us to sell our pop-up and purchase a family-size tent. We went with a nine-person, 10’x14′ Coleman instant tent. It boasts a 60-second set up.  

For our first time, and considering set-up took place while it was still sprinkling, it took approximately three minutes. I’m sure with practice, we’ll master the 60-second set-up!  

From the moment we arrived and I realized the camping situation, to the rain and PB&Js in the truck, I was sure I’d be sharing some sort of humorous camping story. But, after we got settled into our camp, I quickly realized why we chose primitive campsites. 

So, the following are our top five reasons for primitive camping!

1. “Business” is better in the woods

The particular campground in which we stayed had one facility to accommodate, well, who knows how many people. The women’s restroom had three showers, two toilets and three sinks with running water. Elsewhere, scattered about the 200 acres, were banks of port-a-potties. At least they came well equipped with toilet paper (double-ply, too). Nonetheless, I prefer selecting a tree over sharing the same spot with multiple two-legged animals. Plus, the stench of the port-a-potties seems to linger for some time after exiting the facility. Yuck! Which, brings me to the next point…

2. Less pollution 

It had been years since we camped in an established campground, so I was a bit overwhelmed by all the people and all the pollution! 

Noise pollution. Multiple campsites had music blaring continuously and, in the background, we heard the steady whirs from generators. Quiet hours in the park were from 10 pm to 8 am, which meant we could only enjoy the true sounds of nature during these hours. But, we were awakened by obnoxious laughing and music 2am, as opposed to being awaken by the bugle of a bull elk or the gobble of a nearby turkey at a primitive location. 

Visual pollution. The view from our campsite was actually quite serene, but it was hard to focus on nature with so many visual distractions. The campsite below us brought a flatscreen TV, the campsite above us enjoyed their music, to the front was a camping trailer – the ones that woke us up at 2am – and to the rear (about 100 yards) were the port-a-potties. My two kiddos and I even took a large perimeter hike up a steep hill and around the boundary of the grounds to explore, and not once did we feel alone with nature. 

I’ve already mentioned the disgusting port-a-potties, which are definitely pollutants to the eyes and nose – ugh. So, I’ll wrap-up this section by mentioning the guidelines we follow when camping – whether at an established or primitive site. 

“If you pack it in, pack it out.” This means that whatever you bring to camp, make sure it leaves with you. We typically do a final “sweep” of our campsite before departure to ensure nothing is left behind. This includes trash, especially the pesky little pieces of trash such a cola can tabs or bottle tops. And, another important rule of thumb is “always leave the campsite in better condition than which you found it.” While we are “sweeping” our site, we always pick up any trash that others have left behind. Occasionally, we even stop to look around abandoned campsites and pick up trash, and we sometimes find lost treasures! My son has found Hot Wheels, and my husband always seems to find knives and tools!

3. Solitude is wonderful

We get away and escape to nature to be alone as a family. We love our little family unit, and being “alone” in the forest strengthens our family bond. We’re able to unplug and focus on one another without the distractions of work, household chores and all the responsibilities that come with being an adult. We can play, laugh, explore and learn together. 

4. More freedom

When we primitive camp, there’s typically no one around. Additionally, we camp a distance from any major road. This means, we have the freedom to hike around our camp, and we can let our children roam and explore – within reason. On this particular campout, we had to set boundaries closer to our camp. There were strangers in close proximity, unfamiliar animals and frequent traffic within the park. Primitive camping allows our family to more freely enjoy the outdoors. 

5. Self reliance 

Finally, being in the outdoors causes you to strengthen your inner being. It’s a real sense of pride knowing you and your family have the tools, knowledge and abilities to endure Mother Nature. Primitive camping means bringing enough water for your family as opposed to relying on available facilities. It means hunting for kindling and chopping your own firewood as opposed to buying it from the front office. And, of course, it means being smart about your surroundings and being comfortable on your own without the safety net of strangers. 

The adage “dilution is the solution to pollution” is the perfect summary for why we choose primitive campsites! What do you think – campground or primitive campsite?! Why do you prefer one over the other? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


Family Ouch Kit plus Free Printable

I’m a sucker for plastic boxes, especially when they help organize anything in my life. I have boxes for my children’s keepsakes, boxes for craft-this and scrapbook-that, busy boxes for my son (future blog post, so stay tuned), a diaper/potty box I keep handy in the car stocked full of diapers and wipes, and when we were potty training our son, it even contained Clorox wipes and small trash bags.

So, naturally, when I was combing Pinterest one day for ideas on keeping our two preschoolers entertained during our summer road trip, I ran across a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea! An “Ouch Kit.” Woah! I immediately clicked on the pin from myfrugaladventures.com, and I knew this was something my family needed – for our road trip and even for everyday adventures this summer. 

The Ouch Kit mentioned on the blog offered some great ideas, and I soon took to customizing a box to fit our family’s needs. I hope this post can do the same for your family!

I used a plastic wipes box, which the blog suggested, and it’s the perfect size! I dug through my sticker collection and found some letters to create a label for the front of the box. 

Typically, I carry travel size sunscreen, and in the summer, travel bug repellant. I also usually carry adult pain relief medicine, so the list below contains items helpful to keep handy in an Ouch Kit.

▫️ Antiseptic wash

▫️Antibiotic ointment, such a Neosporin

▫️ Non-stick compression pads

▫️ Gauze wrap

▫️ Assorted bandages (I included fun Band-Aid designs for our son and daughter, and plain ones for adults, in case someone wasn’t comfortable sporting a Paw Patrol or Disney Princess Band-Aid.)

▫️Pair non-latex gloves

▫️Package travel tissues 

▫️Itch relief stick, such as After-Bite, or cream, such as Benedryl


▫️Fever reducing “kool” pads

▫️A pair of nail clippers

▫️A pair of tweezers

I carry a small pocket knife, so I didn’t include a pair of scissors in our box. Unless you or someone in your family carries a pocket knife, a pair of scissors would be wise to include in your own box.

One last thing I included in our family’s kit was something to help bring a smile to a little one in pain – some hard candy! 

Coincidentally, the day I completed the kit, my son fell and scraped his knee pretty badly. While I was doctoring his knee, he was crying, and all I wanted to do was to help him calm down so I could finish my task, so I handed him a piece of hard candy – and bam! – it worked like a charm! He was still in a little pain, but it definitely made the pain a little more bearable!

For more information about a family first-aid kit, here’s a checklist from the Red Cross.

PRINT our Ouch Kit Checklist below to have at the ready for your next shopping trip and to help you organize your own list of needs. I also made the header into a BONUS LABEL you can clip and attach to the box using clear packing tape. (You’re welcome!) Easy peasy!

We would love to hear any about special customizations you’ve made to your own kit, and we invite you to also share photos along the way! Once you have your own Ouch Kit compiled, get out there and enjoy the outdoors! 

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Adventure always abounds

Anytime we set out as a family, there’s always an adventure in store. From finding a remote, primitive camping spot, testing some retro gear to exploring an Old West Ghost Town, all while making accommodations for one furry family member along for the ride, this particular trip possessed the spirit of yesteryear.

Initially, we planned to spend two nights in the forest, but when three-fourths of the family contract a cold, adjustments must be made. So, our trip quickly became an overnighter, sans pop-up camper.

Retro Gear

We’ve been waffling back and forth between keeping our pop-up camper and selling it to invest in a new family tent. (That’s another blog post for another day, however.) For this overnighter, we decided step back to a simpler time and used a circa 1970 six-man, canvas tent. It was the perfect size for the four of us and Chase, our yellow lab. The tent perfectly accommodated two single camping pads – one each for the kids – and a double-sized pad for mama and daddy. 

Sunshine & Ranger helping daddy set up the tent.

six-man, canvas tent, ca 1970

Sunshine used a 35-year-old, 0* rated, rectangular down sleeping bag, and Ranger used a newer model, 32* rated Kelty down sleeping bag. Our sleeping situation was definitely old school, though, as we didn’t even use sleeping bags. We covered the sleeping pad with a flat sheet and stayed warm with a wool blanket and a hand-made denim quilt. The low was around 45*, and surprisingly, we all slept sound and stayed warm. 

Checkikg out the “digs.”

Camp Four Pines”

After driving scouting the forest for the perfect, child-friendly spot in which to camp, we settled on a meadow, as opposed to prior locations surrounded by pine trees. The site offered great exploring options, as you could see camp from any direction. We set up camp under four isolated pine trees in the middle of the meadow. 

Chase quickly took to exploring the lay of the land, as dogs will do, and found a puddle big enough to waller in, so it didn’t take long for him to become like Harry, the main character in the children’s book “Harry the Dirty Dog.” Was he a yellow dog with brown spots, or a brown dog with yellow spots?! Thankfully, with his short hair, he didn’t stay dirty for long, and he had an absolutely blast! Of course, there’s also something about camping with a dog that adds to one’s perceived level of safety in the great outdoors!

Storm’s a Brewin’

As we set up camp, we noticed storm clouds forming. We could see rain in the distance, and with dark clouds around us, we knew rain was immanent. About three hours after setting up camp, while the boys collected firewood and prepared our fire, the wind shifted and it started raining. 

Primitive camping, as we do, means using the campfire as our primary cooking source. However, we’ve learned from experience to always be prepared with a backup cooking method. (TIP: always be prepared with an alternate cooking source that can be easily used in a vehicle). For this trip, a rainstorm meant no campfire, and no campfire meant no roasted hot dogs. So, our “plan b” was to boil the hot dogs in our Jet Boil. Thankfully, the weather cleared after about an hour, and we enjoyed roasted hot dogs! 

Zeolites and a Ghost Town

After we struck camp, we headed back to civilization, but not without one last adventure – driving though the old west ghost town of Chloride, NM. The hour-long drive back from camp was interesting and beautiful. The scenery was different from our initial drive into the forest. We passed – what appeared to be – a secluded bed and breakfast (which will need to be explored and shared in a future post!), as well as the St. Cloud zeolite operation.

St. Cloud Zeolite Operation

According to the St. Cloud zeolite Web site, “Zeolites belong to a family of naturally occurring volcanic minerals with unique physical and chemical characteristics.” St. Cloud Zeolite is the largest producer of natural zeolite in the Unites States, and a quick Google for this mineral’s uses quickly result in listings such water purification, agriculture, construction and more.

Ranger exploring an old mining train.

We ended our adventure with a picnic in the village center of the ghost town known as Chloride, NM, a “silver” town which got it start in the late 1870s. According to a brochure I picked up in the museum, “By late 1881, Chloride had eight saloons, three mercantile stores, two butcher shops, a item, boarding houses, an assay office, livery stables, a candy store, drug store, law office, Chinese laundry and a millinery store.” In its heyday, the town boasted a population of 3,000 people. About 10 years after the town was founded, the price of silver dropped when the US adopted gold as the standard, thus, the town was abandoned. 

Items one might have found in the Chloride mercantile are on display in the museum.

Today, Chloride, NM, is an extremely small community, but offers a wonderful stop for consuming a picnic lunch and some history. We learned this small town even has a cafe, which we plan to visit in the future.

Camping/exploring the great outdoors with little ones in tow is something we’ve been doing for more than four years. We are by far experts, but sometimes we have a helpful tip or two to share! We’d love to hear from you on what questions you might have on giving children memorable experiences in the outdoors, and we’ll feature some of your questions in a future post!

Enchanted by Clothing

I recently joined – well, I don’t even know how I’d describe it – a clothing Netflix, of sorts. It’s called Le Tote, and for $59 a month, you receive an unlimited number of “totes,” which include three pieces of clothing, two accessories and priority shipping both ways. 

As a busy stay-at-home mom raising two preschoolers, I really don’t get out much to shop for fashionable items. When I came across a sponsored ad on Facebook (naturally), I checked it out, and it sounded interesting enough for me to give it a spin, for at least a month.

When I created an account, I was asked about my style preferences, sizes and measurements. Then, I was presented with my first items Le Tote selected for me. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed, as we live where there are warmer spring temperatures. Most of the suggestions were better suited for cooler climates. 

One of the great things about Le Tote is that when presented with your items, if there’s something you don’t particularly like, you can swap it for something else. So, that’s what I did with most of the items they chose for me. 

Check out my unboxing video!

(Fair warning, my kiddos were running wild in the background and caused some interference midway through – so this video offers some “real life” stuff!)

I wasn’t excited about my first tote, but gave it a try. I’ll admit, however, I was looking forward to my trendy accessories! 

Not really “digging” this top.

Since I didn’t care for the other pieces – a lightweight navy sweater that was too small and a long-sleeve, v-neck tee with ruching on the sides – I sent back the entire tote three days after it arrived.

Loving this royal blue, 3/4 sleeve, rayon v-neck and the trendy necklace and earrings.

After you have a chance to wear your items, you can use the Le Tote app (which is super handy for managing your subscription and letting Le Tote know about styles you love) to rate your tote. This helps Le Tote better select items for your next tote. I gave my first tote three stars. 

I’m definitely looking forward to my second shipment. Stay tuned along with me!

A Message from the Master Gardener

Mid-morning, the kids were running wild around the house. Must be spring fever, or the fact their daddy had a day off, so we all had time together at home. Whatever the case, as you can imagine with a four-year-old and a 22-month old, their behavior warranted some time outside. So, I put my “inside chores” aside, and we all went outside. That’s when I was reminded of something very important: John 15:1-17, specifically the first eight verses.
I continue to be amazed with God’s subtle messages for my life. Even when I am not faithful in my quiet time, He is the faithful and loving parent always caring for me and speaking to my heart. This morning, I listened. 

I knew my spring flowers needed some attention. Did I water them too much? Not enough? Too much sun? I needed to investigate. By going outside as a family, and because I don’t have the propensity to sit still for very long, I took to pruning. 

As I removed the dead flowers, I was reminded of how God is our divine gardener. He opened my eyes as to how he continually prunes aspects of my life to make way for more areas to bloom. It’s a continual process, and it takes work. But pruning is worth it. I thought my flowers were on their last leg, but after I’d pruned them, they looked brighter and even more lovely than before. Then, I realized, this must be the same for our lives as well, if only we put all our trust and faith in our Master Gardner. 

John 15:1-8 was God’s message for me this morning!

I’m so thankful my heart was open this morning to hear God’s message for me, and it’s one I wanted to share with you! Plus, it’s always a joy to watch our “little helpers” enjoy being outside as much as we do!

Ranger hard at work.

“Sweeping” the sidewalk.

Little Miss “in charge” of the weed bucket.

2016 Camping Season Kicks-off

     Spending a night in the outdoors means leaving the comforts of home and embracing the beauty and solitude of Mother Nature.

     This spring has brought warmer-than-average temperatures in Southern New Mexico, and with these warmer temperatures, spring fever. So, we decided to embark on our first camping trip of the year – a simple overnight jaunt to a primitive campsite in the Gila National Forest.

     There’s nothing better for the mind, body and soul than to spend time in the beauty of nature and, for our family, reflect on God’s greatness. We can unplug (except for my typing this post on my smartphone and recoding some videos), spend some quality time with our family, explore the lay of the land, eat some yummy, camping-only food (such as hot dogs, potato chips and s’mores) and truly embrace an albeit short period of rest. 

     Throughout the summer, we’ll be sharing more of our outdoor adventures, but for now, here are three video segments that share some details about our first-of-the-season camping trip and some rudimentary tips for preparing for your next, overnight, outdoor adventure. 

Segment 1 – Dressing in Layers
In this six-and-a-half minute minute video, I discuss the clothing we chose to pack for ourselves and our little ones. Since we decided on an overnight excursion, the clothing options are minimal (versus what we might include for a 2+ night adventure), but each item we packed has a purpose – layering and ensuring everyone stays clean, warm and dry. 

As mentioned in the video, here’s a simplified list of what to consider packing for an overnight trip to the forest in early Spring:

  • Base Layer: long underwear, ideally, you’ll pack a base layer with moisture-wicking material to keep you warm and dry, such as wool or modern synthetics. You can easily find this type of clothing by shopping Patagonia, Northface or UnderArmor. This base layer can also serve as a great sleep-time ensemble. 
  • Outer layer: durable pants, such as denim or canvas jeans. Avoid fleece because it picks up every sticker, burr or seed that you may encounter. A huge benefit to canvas and wool is that these materials are naturally flame retardant, which is important when spending time around a campfire. An over shirt, such as a synthetic sun shirt or, at the very least, flannel or denim shirt to protect your arms from scratches and sun exposure. The higher the elevation, the thinner the air and atmosphere, which increases your risk for damaging UV exposure. 
  • Additional outer layer for transitioning temperatures: a vest or even a sweatshirt, wool sweater or heavier jacket.
  • Accessories: you’ll definitely want a warm hat, pair of gloves and sturdy footwear, such as hiking boots. 

When camping with children you’ll want to pack the above*2 (with the exception of an additional jacket), because you can always count on someone spilling a drink, splashing in a puddle, getting muddy or who knows what! So, it’s better to be safe and warm than sorry and deadly frigid. 

Segment 2 – Our primitive campsite

In this 2.5 minute video, you get a 360* tour of our first-of-the-season primitive campsite 

Segment 3 – Campsite EDC

In just 4 minutes, Will and or son “Ranger” share the type of gear you should consider for your “every day carry” (EDC) while at camp. 

We’ll be taking regular outdoor adventures this summer, so we’d love to hear from you as to any questions you may have about spending time outdoors and about which helpful tips you’d most love to know! Email us at familyenchantment@gmail.com or find us on Instagram and Facebook.

See you outdoors!

~ Will & Jaylene

Family Enchantment

Ranger, working hard gathering firewood. He was determined to haul it back to camp. 

Halloween Gift Tags

In my world, creativity seems to always strike in the midst of chaos! 

I don’t have a lot of time with a busy three-year-old boy and a 16-month old little girl on the move. In realizing the week of Halloween would be a busy one, I felt the urgency to prepare their Halloween gifts while our son was in preschool.  

Naturally, rather than doing laundry, the dishes and packing my family for a trip to see my folks for the weekend, I decided I would scrap everything and make some gift tags for our children’s Halloween “Great Pumpkin” gift. 

This project was quick and easy! (And, it needed to be, with time being limited and the little girl not taking her morning nap, which messy she was my “little helper!”) Of course, with some more time, I could have been a little more creative, using artsy scissors or even scrapbook paper; but I was pleased with myself and the fact I had all my materials organized and at the ready!

Enjoy this video, and I would love to see some of your beautiful gift tags!

Family Enchantment, Take Two

I’ve been wanting to have a blog for some time (years!), now. Honestly, I don’t know how some women make it happen. Or better, WHEN they make it happen. Especially, if they are stay-at-home-moms raising little ones. 

We have a 3.5 year old and a 16-month old. My time on the computer is extremely limited. It’s easier to jump on my phone and connect to social media for few minutes here or there than it is to sit at my computer and craft – what I would deem to be – a good story worthy of your time. Additionally, it’s just not the same typing with my thumbs (which I’m doing with this post) as it is really feeling the keyboard and typing with all 10 fingers. So, needless to say, this post is really a “restart,” of sorts. A Facebook page of a different name is the best I’ve been able to maintain for some time, and I’m thankful to each of my followers! 

I’ve been a writer my whole life. My educational background is journalism. Blogging seems like a natural fit. When talking with my husband about the idea a few years ago, he was supportive, but said, “YouTube is where it’s at!” 

Did I mention I’m a writer?! I’m not one to be on camera. If I am, I’m prepared with a script or talking points. Usually, I’m preparing these items for other people to be on camera! The thought of making a video is scary. I think it the talking into the Web cam that gets me. 

In the “old days,” we used story boards to ensure a well-produced video. Now, it seems anyone and everyone is making a video, and of anything you can imagine!

Thinking about a blog, crafting videos, posting to social media, and all that goes along with successful blogging can easily overwhelm me, thus, I do nothing. I let my perfectionism get in the way of just moving forward and going for it. Whatever “it” is. In a nutshell, that is my life! 

Well, with this first blog post, I’m moving past that. This post may not be perfect. I’m not perfect! I don’t have “it” all together. I enjoy my life, my family. I have great ideas, and I typically make them happen (sometimes, even, eventually)! 

I labored over a blog name for a looooong time. I wanted it to be just perfect. I wanted to define my audience, have a vision, craft objectives and strategies. My husband asked me, “Do you think the successful bloggers do this?” Of course I exclaimed, “YES!” His retort?! “No! It evolves. Many of the well-known bloggers didn’t know where it would take them. You just have to start somewhere!” 

Honestly, I was convinced the Pioneer Woman started out to gain a cookbook deal and notoriety, and now, she has cookware at Wal-Mart! Do I think she envisioned all that?! Back then, I might have said “yes,” but now, I’m beginning to think my hubby had it right. Social media, blogging, videos – they all offer potential that continually evolves.

That particular conversation I mentioned was more than two years ago. And, nearly two years to the date I posted one of my first videos (scripted, no less) to YouTube: Welcome to Family Enchantment.
The purpose of the video was to share with viewers the name of our YouTube channel, its purpose and what to expect. I’ve taken a lot of video footage since then, but just haven’t posted anything. It’s been TWO YEARS, people! (Can you tell I’m really kicking myself?!) 

It’s a combination of nerves, lack of video editing knowledge, TIME and fear of failure that have prevented me from moving forward. Oh, and did I mention time?! 

Since that first video, we’ve had numerous opportunities to film, write about and share many things about our journey! Our son has not only grown through the toddler phase (which means – in short – nap transitions, new and different development stages and needs (um, you noticed the blue line in the picture, ya, that was my son who cracked my laptop screen), potty training, adapting to a new school, and more), but – and this is a biggie – he gained a SISTER! Giving birth to another human is a HUGE responsibility, even more so with breastfeeding. All of this took time, and there just wasn’t more of it to give to the blogosphere. 

Additionally, since that first video, we put our home on the market, moved, spent a summer with kids not in a “mother’s day out” program (all you moms know what THAT means), we enjoyed a week-long vacation to the mountains, several camping trips, tended to misc. important family matters, I gained an increase in leadership responsibilities and obligations with my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) ministry; of course, there was also back to school, our son’s first soccer season, naturally, the regular tasks of keeping a clean home, meal prep/planning, laundry, pets, etc., and last, but certainly not least, spending important time with my children and amazing husband! Again, I wonder, “when is there time for a blog?!”

All of this is not to make excuses, but rather share my intentions and hope for what will evolve in the future. I’m downloading some helpful apps to my iPhone that I hope will make it more convenient for me to share our adventures more regularly. 

And, with each post, I’m learning how to transfer my thoughts from my brain to my thumbs (as opposed to letting my thoughts flow through all 10 fingers), and I’m hoping each video will also improve overtime. 

Consider this your invitation to stick with us, cheer us on, and celebrate along the way as this exciting endeavor evolves. Here’s to hoping for where we might be in another two years!