Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Wonderful Weekend for Camping

We have been so busy lately that it was nice to finally slow down for a change. We have a local military recreation facility that has some wonderful campgrounds, paintball fields, playgrounds, disk golf, bike trails, miniature golf, and water access. The price was right, too, so we loaded up the tent, kayaks, kids, and dogs and headed over with our neighbors for some much needed R&R.

The site doesn’t take reservations for camping, so the kids and I drove over Friday morning to pay for and pick out our spot. We were quite indecisive and took nearly 30 minutes to find the “right spot.” We didn’t want to be too close to the bathhouse, but not too far away either (small bladders, you know), and we didn’t want to be squished between two big RVs (we have a tent, but our neighbors had a camper and we were sharing the site). We did finally find a great spot and were stoked. The kids and I loaded up the car with all but the kayaks in preparation for Justin to get home. He strapped on the boats and we were on the road.

We hadn’t been camping in over three years. Our last camping adventure was a wonderful trip we took down the west coast from the San Juan Islands in Washington to the Redwood Forest in northern California. It was a beautiful trip. We went whale watching, saw the Sea Lion Caves, a bunch of lighthouses, and the towering Redwoods. My parents and one of my sisters went with us on the trip. We all loaded up in our (no longer with us) Suburban, and saw the west coast. Seeing the Redwood Forest was one of my requests before we left that side of the country, and doing so in a tent was a wonderful way to see it.

We got to take the kayaks out for the first time this weekend. We got them about two weeks ago (our belated anniversary gifts to ourselves), and since Justin is now able to lift things and exercise again, we wanted to get them in the water and try them out. I LOVED it! I had never been kayaking before and to be honest have some fear of the water (a near-drowning experience in 8th grade will do that to a person), so I was surprised with how relaxed I was once I got the hang of paddling. It was so quiet out in the water. I could have stayed out there all day. Justin and I let Jake have a try with my kayak, and he was a natural. He loved it as well and has requested a kayak for his 10th birthday in June (we’ll have to see about that).

Due to the dryness of the area, fires were off limits, but who says you can’t cook S’mores over a charcoal grill? I’m not sure how good that actually is for you, either the charcoal flames or the S’mores, but I guess you only live once. Justin and Jensen had traditional S’mores with marshmallows, organic graham crackers and Hershey’s chocolate bars. Jolie and Jake, on the other hand, are vegetarians and won’t eat gelatin that is found in traditional marshmallows. I ordered some vegan marshmallows online, but they didn’t get here in time. I tried making some marshmallows from scratch before Thanksgiving, but didn’t have any luck. I’ll try again, I’m sure, but in the mean time, the kids used marshmallow fluff (they weren’t too happy with that either because it does have some blue food coloring in it and corn syrup), fair trade chocolate, and organic graham crackers. There is a ricemellow fluff that is out on the market that I need to try and find for the next time we need “the fluff.” I just assembled the alternative S’mores the same way I would a regular S’more, and placed the whole thing on the grill grate (near the edge, away from the flames) so that the chocolate could melt. Everyone was happy. I think our neighbors thought we were funny for using alternative ingredients, but the kids enjoyed their treat.

We took a nice walk through the forest along the bike trail. There were wild blueberry bushes everywhere that had already flowered and were starting to produce fruit. Justin was excited to find the trail and might use it as a training area for his adventure races.

The fun had to end this morning, so we packed up and headed home, but continued the relaxation by watching movies all day (after putting away the camping gear, of course). We did well setting up and taking down the tent and accessories. We could have used some additional child participation, but I’m sure that will come with time. The dogs were doing quite well by the end, and I think they will warm up a little more each time we camp.

I’m itching to get back out there for our next camping trip. I’m hoping to see if I can get my parents and whichever of my sisters that are able to attend to meet up sometime next month for a little camping rendezvous.

It’s back to the real world tomorrow. I have a floor that needs to be mopped (it is Monday Mop Day), a yard that needs raked and mowed, a garage that needs to be cleaned out, and (hopefully) a garden that needs to be tilled. Slow and steady wins the race, but first I have to get a good night’s sleep. I’m not much good without my beauty sleep.

Here’s to positive thoughts and a great week ahead.

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