women talking on a camp site

Trip Planning

Cheaper By The Dozen

When yours, mine and ours converge to create a family of twelve you know that camping is going to be part of the plan. When Gail met Wayne they both brought children into their now 25-year-old marriage. Together over the next two and a half decades they fostered seventy-five children in need of care, eventually adopting four sisters to bring their number of children up to ten – an even dozen in the family.

Life was busy on their small Ohio farm with horses, sheep, alpaca, barns and creeks, and camping with lots of kids! It must have seemed hard to picture the light at the end of the parenting tunnel for Gail. If the truth be told though, she really didn’t want to see it end. But kids grow up despite their mother’s protests and as that dim light at the end of the tunnel began to give off real light, she found herself thinking of ways in which she might fill the gap.

Gail grew up in Ohio but not in a camping family. She had just one sibling, a brother with whom she is still very close to. But Aunt Jean and Uncle Bill generously provided cousin Kaylynn, 9 months younger than Gail, to be a lifelong best friend. Aunt Jean and Uncle Bill were campers and more than happy to take Gail along on all of their adventures. The two cousins loved their campouts and Gail in particular developed a real love for nature.

The camping bug stayed with Gail, and when she and Wayne merged their families, camping became a big part of their lives. Over the years they camped in tents, a pop-up, and travel trailers. The family loved fishing and the outdoors, but none loved it all as much as Gail whose childhood memories with Aunt Jean and Uncle Bill never left her.

While raising her large family on their Ohio hobby farm, Gail honed many skills. For years she has been a fiber artist, a respected teacher and member of many knitting clubs, as well as at one time the host of a podcast on knitting, spinning and dyeing wools. As the kids grew and left home to make their own lives, Gail had more time for her interests.

These hobbies lead her to volunteer as a reenactor of feminine arts at the Beaver Creek State Park Pioneer Village in East Liverpool, Ohio. On the first of every month she dons Colonial garb and sits spinning in the restored log cabin while school children on field trips and families on day outings observe what it took to create a hat or sweater in days gone by. The park became a second home for Gail and Wayne who often fished there in the river that runs through it.

When she was offered the position of camp host at the primitive campground she and Wayne agreed it would be fun. The volunteer position at the campground was a perfect fit for Gail. It is so near to home that she can run home if she needs something and Wayne can come over and sleep at the campsite after work. Gail’s duties include helping people find their spots, making sure the campsites are clean after the campers have gone home, and passing out the shower bags that campers fill with tap water and leave in the sunshine for use in their primitive shower house.

Once Gail took the position she began the search for a vintage Airstream. Wayne, who is a very talented craftsman, thought it would be fun to restore one. When Gail found a 1967 Avion on Craigslist they immediately went to check it out. It was in such good shape and so reasonably priced that they purchased it on the spot, restored the cabinetry and put a spit and shine on it. Inside the trailer is a framed picture of Uncle Bill and Aunt Jean, Gail’s camping patrons!

With the grandchildren stopping by and wanting to “sleep over at camp” the idea of a larger trailer took hold. With Wayne approaching retirement they began to consider purchasing a fifth-wheel. Wayne works in the power plant industry and plans on only being “semi-retired.” He and Gail could be away from home for weeks at a time while still being on call for work emergencies. He thought that the fifth-wheel would offer the most comfort for extended stays and Gail thought it would make a great big roomy trailer for camping with their 8 (so far) grandchildren. They chose a bunkhouse model by Forest River that can sleep nine.

For many years Gail had in the back of her head the idea that she would join the Sisters on the Fly. She had read about the group in Country Living Magazine and “saved” the idea. Now that she was frequently camping again, the regular podcast listener searched the airwaves for “camping shows” and found the RV Family Travel Atlas podcast and eventually my podcast, ‘Girl Camper’. With the Girl Camper podcast came the old idea of being a Sister on the Fly and camping according to the sister rules: “No men, no kids, no pets!” For this mom to dozens the idea of a little trailer and going someplace alone to enjoy the bonds of kinship with women was beginning to seem plausible. She was ready for some rest and girlfriend time.

She began searching for a towable trailer that she could manage on her own and found a used pop-up in good shape. The talented seamstress made it into a little home by recovering the cushions and replacing the curtains. She towed it to Davis, West Virginia where the Girl Campers were having an event at Blackwater Falls State Park. There Gail met the women that she had until now known only through social media. She put names to faces and matched faces to trailers and connected to a part of life she had been keeping on simmer while she raised her family.

Almost all girl camping trips involve a “trailer tour.” They normally coincide with happy hour and involve a stroll through the campground and “trailer visiting.” There are lots of ‘oohs and aahs,’ ideas being shared, projects to copy and trailer coveting! ‘Thou shalt not covet thy sister’s trailer’ is NOT a thing. Horse trading happens with the girl campers, and even though Gail was only on her first Girl Camping trip in her ‘new to her’ pop-up, she spotted a trailer she knew in her gut was just what she needed: a sweet little A-Frame belonging to a Michigan girl camper. As luck would have it that girl camper spied an upgrade when she coveted another Ohio girl camper’s trailer.

When she called Gail a week later and said she had purchased a new trailer and gave Gail the first chance to buy the A-Frame, Gail jumped right in and sold her spruced up pop-up within days. She is now happily camping with the girls in her A-Frame named Sunny that she fitted out with a sunflower theme.

She is hosting her new friends at Beaver Creek State Park for a trip she named, “What a Hoot.” The park’s naturalist is coming to take the 27 girls on a night hike to ‘call the owls.’ Gail, who just became a certified naturalist too, has many hikes and outings in the surrounding areas planned but I am certain there will be plenty of time to just sit around the campfire with her knitting needles and her new friends. Life is coming full circle for Gail and although she is through being a daily, hands-on mother, she now has lots of ‘sisters’ to fill that gap and the time to enjoy them!

woman posing

Girl Camper

Janine Pettit

Janine Pettit is a lifelong lover of camping who took a 25 year sabbatical when she married a “resort” type guy! She discovered that camping was still in the cards for her when she stumbled onto an article about a women’s outdoor adventure group that travels around the country in RVs, meeting new friends, checking off bucket list adventures and doing things she had only dreamed of. Janine has become an Ambassador for the Girl Camping movement and encourages women to go places and do things in her blog and podcast.