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Book a family night out, camping close to home

Rachel Oliwa blows out a flaming marshmallow during the annual World End's Reservation overnight camping event in Hingham.Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe

Parenting can be a daunting proposition. Parenting outdoors is even trickier. So it is no wonder that many parents consider overnight camping with their youngsters the equivalent of a visit to the dentist’s office.

But that does not have to be the case, according to Kira LaFosse-Baker , site manager for the Trustees of Reservations’ properties at Rocky Woods Reservation in Medfield and Chestnut Hill Farm.

And here’s why: the Trustees offer a number of overnight family camping outings close to home — at the Crane Estate in Ipswich, World’s End Reservation (Hingham), and Rocky Woods.

“For families, this is a great way to give the whole camping thing a try without any major risks or commitments,” said LaFosse-Baker, a Weymouth resident.


“Even a week of car-camping, like I grew up doing, is a lot of work and can be stressful if you’re 45 minutes from a hospital or you run out of ice the first day.

“Places like Tully Lake (in Royalston), Dune’s Edge (in Provincetown), and Rocky Woods are great opportunities to get yourself immersed in fresh air and green space for a few days without the extremes of being three hours from a grocery store or needing to hike 10 miles with all of your belongings,” she added.

“To me, camping just means spending the night not in a four-sided building. It doesn’t matter how you get outside, just that you do.”

In short, the Trustees’ local camping programs allow parents and children to dip their collective toes in the water, without having to jump in with both feet.

Campers roast marshmallows during the annual World End's Reservation overnight camping event.Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe

The best aspect of the overnight campouts? They’re easy.

“The Trustees provide the food and a bunch of activities, so planning and packing is so much quicker,” said Scott Owens, a Southborough resident who has participated in programs at the Crane Estate, in addition to Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield with his wife, Celia, and their 8-year-old son, Jack.


“The activities are varied, so there is likely to be an option to suit everyone in the family. There’s just a simplicity to it.”

Chris Barbin said the program was “the perfect introduction” for he and his wife, Michelle, their 10-year-old son, Jackson, and their daughter, Ella, 6.

“You could call us ‘urban campers,’” said Barbin, a Natick resident.

“My son and I have done some camping with the Cub Scouts, but my wife and daughter had never been camping beyond the backyard until we did the School’s Out Campout at Rocky Woods in June.

“We pitched a tent in an open field close to the parking lot and indoor bathroom, but we were still able to have a real outdoor experience complete with dutch-oven campfire cooking, hikes to the top of Cedar Hill and around Echo Pond, and canoeing on Chickering Pond,” he said.

“We even brought our dog with us.”

Campers roast marshmallows during the annual World End's Reservation overnight camping event.Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe

Depending on the specific location, the Trustees may or may not offer equipment, additional activities, and even food, so its important to check beforehand. Camping novices, or parents with young children, should consider programs that provide more assistance.

“The Trustees have gear available, and have wonderful volunteers and staff to help with set up,” said Owens.

“This is a great opportunity to give camping a try without a huge commitment to buying stuff that may only get used once if it doesn’t work out.”


Jonathan Bailly says the “Trustees make family camping a breeze.”

“We simply drove up to the Crane Estate and the Trustees hauled our gear – tent, bags, etc. – to the campground,” said the Salem resident.

“They provide meals, a bonfire with s’mores, guided hikes and outings such as kayaking. It’s basically sleeping in your tent while someone else does the heavy lifting. Even a committed city slicker could enjoy a couple days camping with minimal effort.”

According to Dorothy Antczak , Trustees education manager at the Crane, the programs offer something for everyone, regardless of prior camping experience.

“The Family Camp Outs at Crane are geared toward all campers,” she said.

“If you’re a newcomer, we want to help you experience the bliss of being outside overnight. And if you’re a veteran camper, we want you to experience the property in a new and different way. Our night hikes may follow the same route someone has walked during the day, but the experience is drastically different by the light of the moon.”

Nike Gibson, 11, eats a s’more during the annual World End's Reservation overnight camping event.Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe

That difference is the key, said Owens.

“Kids these days have a lot more distractions than we did growing up – lots of electronic devices and indoor activities,” he said.

“Grownups, too, for that matter. Our parents came home from work and were home from work, not checking texts and emails throughout the evening. Camping at the Trustee sites is an opportunity to unplug from that for all of us.”


The Trustees also offerAdult Camp Out offerings at sites like Castle Hill and Rocky Woods.

“My wife and I have done Brew Moon Hikes at Rocky Woods,” said Barbin.

“It’s exactly as it sounds: A guided hike after dark during a full moon, followed by samples of local beers. It’s a great, and inexpensive, date.”

Lauren Armstrong and Rachel Oliwa run down a mowed path during the camping event.Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe

For details on the local camping programs offered by the Trustees of Reservations, visit If you have an idea for the Globe’s “On the Move” column, contact correspondent Brion O’Connor at