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Camping Without the CAMPING – Family Camp at Camp El Tesoro

Camping is not my idea of an ideal vacation.
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Anyone over the age of 10 knows that camping is not really a vacation – it can be fun but it is also a TON of work for the adults in charge. But as a mother of three children I feel responsible for exposing them to the joy of the outside world, especially a world that’s unplugged from all electronic doodads. So when Camp El Tesoro invited us to experience Family Camp during one of their Second Saturday programs, my family eagerly accepted the invitation.

My husband and I talked about the trip for a few weeks and prepared the boys for the experience of roughing it.  As a family we have been regular participants at another form of family camp (blogged about here) but this overnight was intended to be a bit more rustic. There would be screened cabins (screens with shades, no solid walls) and prepared meals but no heat/ac  – no electricity – shared communal bathrooms, etc. Not as primitive as tent camping but definitely more outdoorsy than real life.

The weekend of Family Camp, Mother Nature decided to throw us a curve ball and lowered the temps to an unseasonably low 40’s and opened the skies for (much needed – but still) rain. We made it to Camp El Tesoro at dusk on Friday night and were graciously escorted to our cabin by the camp director. This was after crossing over the famous (and crazy fun!) swinging bridge. It’s a bit of an inconvenience to have to carry all of your belongings to your accommodations instead of driving them but BONUS – there are virtually no vehicles to dodge while hiking around the camp.  Excellent feature when dealing with little ones.

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Our cabin was dark and cold so we hung our lantern and dug out all of the sleeping bags/blankets for the beds. Then we traipsed to the main lodge where we made smores over cast iron dutch ovens with sterno (the INDOOR way to do smores!) and made personalized clay necklaces. This was also a good time to meet and talk with the other families who were already unpacking all of the board games the camp provides for entertainment. We were warm and cozy and the kids were enjoying every minute. At the end of the evening, we walked back to the cabin and settled in for the night.

I won’t lie; this was not an easy night for this suburbanite. The bathroom was several hundred feet across a field so we made a few cold trips to the facilities in the dark of night while the weather dipped to the almost freezing mark. The temperature is probably not a big deal for avid campers with thermal sleeping gear but we struggled to keep ourselves warm. I knew that when we all got up we’d likely be miserable from a sleepless night but surprisingly, the kids bounded out of bed excited to explore the camp in the daylight. My husband and I were exhausted but after a hot meal of biscuits and gravy along with several cups of coffee at the main lodge, we were also ready to tackle the rest of the experience.

Saturday’s rain hadn’t begun yet so my husband took the boys on an early morning hike which they LOVED.

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They climbed through the hills and found trails and hidden areas that very far removed from the center of camp. When they returned, we went back to the main lodge for an art session. The volunteers gave us supplies and instructions on how to create a simple piece that documented our trip to Camp El Tesoro. After this, we hiked to the north end of the camp for Indoor Archery. It was a good thing that the archery was indoors because it was at this point that the skies opened up and the deluge started. All three of my boys LOVED the archery experience and when it was over, they didn’t mind hiking back to the lodge for lunch in the pouring rain.

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Lunch was warm soup (tomato or chicken noodle), grilled cheese sandwiches and a salad bar with cookies for dessert.  After lunch, we headed back to our cabin to rest and change out of our wet clothes.  At one point we had considered staying two nights at Camp El Tesoro but given the weather conditions, we decided to have an easy afternoon in the cabin and then leave shortly before dinner time. I mentioned this to the camp director and when we were loading our supplies in the car (with the boys playing in the rain again on the swinging bridge!); she met us with a small bag of snacks for the kids to eat on the way home.

For those (like myself) who would like their family to go camping without having to go CAMPING, family camp at Camp El Tesoro is a great option. The accommodations aren’t primitive and the food and activities are planned for you. With these concerns out of the way, your family can really enjoy the outdoors and the camaraderie of others. Personally, I can’t wait for an opportunity to return to Camp El Tesoro when the weather is warmer.  Check it out!

Camp El Tesoro

Located just 45 minutes southwest of Fort Worth near Granbury, Texas.

7710 Fall Creek Hwy, Granbury, TX, 76049

Camp El Tesoro invited my family to participate in their family weekend in exchange for my honest review of the event. Opinions provided here are my own.


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