Tag Archives: Camping

The Quietest Day

So recently I had a birthday! And while I had an amazing party and so much fun having dinner with my husband, what I wanted more than anything (and my husband totally gave me) was one day all all alone. Camping all alone.

So I did it! I went out to Lake Livingston all by myself and camped. My friends thought I was legitimately crazy for going alone, but it was the best weekend I have had in ages.

For starters, I packed up all my stuff.

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Not only did I bring a water bottle, backpack, ground pad, etc but I also brought my laptop (fully charged – just enough for 1 movie), a ton of CD’s for the drive (early 2000’s alternative rock anyone??), a coloring book, and a TON of books to read. Who knows what I would be in the mood to read?

Now the one super un-campy thing that I did this weekend was…I didn’t cook at all. In fact, I didn’t even light a fire. My least favorite chore at home, that I consequently do every day multiple times a day, is dishes. I was feeling like if I had to do one more dish or prepare one more meal, I might EXPLODE. So, I didn’t. I bought a bag of egg rolls for dinner that first night – side note, cold and slightly limp egg rolls are not the best meal, but I digress. I had cereal, pop tarts, popcorn, granola bars, pouches (the baby vegetable and fruit ones), peanut butter filled pretzels, dairy-free chocolate chips, and some other snacks. No cooking for me. I WIN AT LIFE.

I did bring a tiny backpacking stove, matches, and a pot just in case I was in some sort of emergent situation where hot water was necessary. Or if an apocalypse happened and I would need to hunt for my own food as I walked the several days journey back toward home, hoping to find my family….I may read too many dystopian novels. Anyway.

Here is my beautiful campsite!

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Picture A from when I got there, picture B from after I went to the bathroom and had a snack. It’s crazy how fast the sun setting was changing the light thanks to all of those trees.

I got out my tent and set to work. I was a bit nervous that after all the times I have pitched a tent alone, but had someone nearby in case I had problems with wind or something, that doing this solo would somehow be a disaster. I’m not sure where this smidgen of nerves came from, but it was there. I was all prepared to write here and tell you how it was super hard, but hahaha let’s all laugh together at my expense because this is a funny anecdote. Good news, it was easy. No laughing required.

The only difficult came from Dante’s ninth circle of hell – mosquitoes. (Although realistically they would probably be from the fourth circle since they are so greedy.) The mosquitoes were so thick it was hard to see what I was doing. I was covered in bug spray thankfully, but quickly realized that I had not sprayed my entire back and they were biting me all over that section through my t-shirt. That just should not be a thing. Biting through my clothes feels over the line.

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Ta da! Look at that beautiful tent. I even managed to get inside with only one mosquito that promptly met its maker.

That night the only thing I did all night, and I mean all night, was read. I read the most thought provoking literature that only the highest minds would ever dare to attempt. Just kidding, I read Divergent. I really like that book and the second book, but I will not read the third book again. Spoilers: You just do not kill off your best character at the end! You just don’t! Injustice! #justicefortris should be trending on the same level as #justiceforbarb and #bobdeservedbetter. After I read the third book, my husband came home to find me lying on the floor with the book nearby. When he asked me what was wrong I was just like, “I hate everything right now!” I felt betrayed.

So I frequently reread the first book because it was so good, but will not go on because I do not want to relive the story line that led to that awful moment. I can’t even read the second book because it’s not complete enough for my brain to feel like it got closure!

So I read. First by light, then by lantern, and eventually by headlamp. Then, I promptly went to bed by 11. Did I mention I don’t usually get enough sleep? Yay, me.

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Okay I did read The Hobbit for a tiny bit, but Divergent was just calling my name.  Don’t worry though because I am reading The Hobbit now alongside the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series so all was not lost.

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Good news! Directly outside my tent, I had the most amazing view of the moon! Bad news, neither my phone camera nor my fancy new camera captured it well. I’m still super new to the fancy camera so I just could not get the adjustments quite right to capture it. You’ll have to settle for a phone pic. In fact, this entire blog is the phone pictures because I have not yet figured out how to get pictures from my fancy new camera onto my computer. I’m sure it’s not difficult, I’m just lacking motivation at the present. So…more pictures soon!

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Did you know that cameras do not like to take pictures through tent mesh? I did, but I took this one anyway. Good morning, world! I woke up around 8am (count those beautiful hours of sleep) on my own. As in my body decided it did not need more sleep and woke me up. No alarms, no children, no screaming, no car horns, no trash truck. Just me and the sounds of pleasant birds.

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Here is my book stack that I was staring at when I woke up. I was tempted to change books, but decided I wanted to finish the one I started. So I laid in my sleeping bag, read Divergent, and ate Pop Tarts and Oat Squares. Friends, I never buy Pop Tarts. I love them too much. I will eat them all and make myself sick. But this was vacation! Strawberry Pop Tarts with icing. Who even buys the ones without icing? If strawberry with icing is not your favorite, don’t even start with me. Those are fighting words. I don’t care how passionately you feel about brown sugar and cinnamon, I know the truth.

I literally read the entire book before thinking about what I should do for the day. It was amazing. I read a whole book in two sittings. Now I frequently read a whole book in a day or two, but it’s always in a thousand sittings. This was so awesome and kind of cathartic to take the book from beginning to end with almost no interruption. I had not done that since the Harry Potter books were coming out and I would read the new book all at once without sleep. Worth it.

After the book, I still was not ready to face the day. I had done a little walking around the day before just to get my steps in and I knew I wanted to explore today, but not yet. So what does a girl do?

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If you’re me, you watch Harry Potter. But, then again, if you’re me you are always thinking about Harry Potter. Things like, “What would you say if you got to meet Professor McGonagall?” and “How would you feel if you got sorted into Ravenclaw vs. Gryffindor?” or “How is it that some wizards seem to be able to do magic without their wand?”

So I got out my coloring book and watched Harry Potter. It’s my jam. Now I would like to tell you that I watched the whole thing and it was amazing blah blah blah, but, in fact, it got too hot in my tent for even my little fan to keep me cool. I stepped outside my tent and realized, it was cooler outside than inside my tent.

I went straight to the camp store because, in the frenzy of the night before, I had used all of my bug spray. I may have panicked a bit from all the mosquitoes and sprayed myself more than once. I grabbed some bug spray and a Sprite! It was cold too! Exactly what I needed after sweating in my tent. The day was gorgeous. People were swimming in the lake. There were kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, and rafts serenely drifting across the water as many families picnicked all around the perimeter. I walked around the lake with my nice camera taking photos, but in lots of places just enjoying it – no phone, no picture, no record. Just taking it all in. I am the only one that has a copy of that memory. It felt special. It also felt nice not to be recording every moment, but to just be enjoying it. It turns out that flowers are more beautiful when looking with your eyes and not through a lens. Who knew? Too many of us do not. I “hiked” through several trails and just enjoyed nature to its fullest.

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When I got tired of hiking and walking (my fitbit was so proud of me for getting in all my steps before 2 in the afternoon), I head back to camp and took everything down. You have to “check out” of your camp site by 2pm, but you are allowed to stay in the park until 10pm. It was just in time too because my loop that had been empty except for me had many occupants setting up for the day and it was feeling a bit crowded for my solo weekend.

I parked my car full of stuff at a day use area and put up my hammock. Guys, I love my hammock so much and I cannot believe I haven’t given it a name yet. I mean so many of my favorite things have names at this point, how has my trusty hammock gone without? I will be taking suggestions. So, I put up my hammock in a nice spot and finished watching my movie! The battery made it right to the end and then my computer shut off at the end of the movie, it felt almost poetic that it was timed so well.

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I read The Hobbit right up until it was time to head back. I was sad to leave, but I had stayed until the last possible moment. I was surprising the husband with a babysitter and plans to see Avengers: Infinity War that night after him watching the kiddos all weekend, letting me have such a special time. I got home in time to tuck everyone in, and have a fun date with the husband at Alamo Drafthouse.

It’s crazy how fast life returns to normal after a weekend like this. I spent the whole weekend feeling quiet, serene, and whole. Getting outside, getting closer to Creation, always makes me feel connected and complete. I prayed, I read, I watched a movie, I walked, I hiked, I sat. It was deeply peaceful. Getting back into the day to day felt…exhausting after such a relaxed pace.

But why does it have to feel this way? I don’t think it does. So, I have started getting up before the kids, exercising a bit, reading outside alone, listening to music, and just starting my day peacefully. It really changes the pace and feel of the whole day. I hope you find ways to slow down and be intentional about rest. Until later,

See You Outside!

Palo Duro Canyon

Last weekend we finally went on “Spring Break”, taking the whole family on a road trip to meet my brother-in-law, Daniel, and his wife, Sarah, at Palo Duro Canyon!

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We originally planned for this trip to be grown-ups only, but some changes happened and we ended up taking all the kids. We were a little daunted by the task at first, but made the best of it. What’s better than sharing your love for hiking and camping with your children? Almost nothing.

We also realized that our littles have grown up quite a lot! Guess what? No one screamed the whole way there or back! I was honestly worried because we did not have much room in the car for the normal toy bag and snack bag. Usually we load up with toys and snacks to try and make the drive doable. But this time the car was just too full of all the necessities. So we had just a little bit snack-wise, and the world’s smallest toy bag…like under 10 toys/books. It could have all fit in a shoe box. Upside: we had three toys that they had not gotten to use in about a month so the kids were really excited to have those. (They each had a ziploc type bag that had little felt shapes where you can sew around the edges. I feel like this is a horrible explanation haha!)

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We had some amazing barbecue at Leeper Creek BBQ outside Decatur, TX. It was such a great place because it has this back patio where you can sit, your kids can run around (praise the Lord for fenced in patios), and there’s a waterfall with some beautiful nature around it for everyone to enjoy! This was a much needed break from all the driving.

We got to Palo Duro around 5pm and set about making camp. Good news, it was much hotter than it was supposed to be and it was incredibly windy! Perfect conditions for pitching a tent. We ended up really needing our little people because they stood on the corners of our footprint while we staked it down. Even after that, the tent kept trying to fly away as we put it together – our smaller tent actually did fly away after we got all the poles attached, but had yet to put on the rain fly/stakes. It’s a good thing Daniel and Sarah were there because they helped catch the tent as it was flying away. How many adults does it take to stake down a two person, backpacking tent? Apparently it takes 4… and 3 small children. Ha. Goodness, it was so windy.

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That one in the middle – that’s the one that had an escape plan.

When we got up the next morning, can I tell you how excited I was to realize the kids had slept passed 7am? Even with the sun out! Day one was all about climbing and caves. It turns out Sarah has a deep love for caves, so we could not miss an opportunity to climb up to the one nearby.

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Again, the life saving power of an aunt and uncle. Who wants to hike with mommy and daddy when you could have your aunt and uncle? No judgment, they are some of my favorite people too.

We also hiked some smaller paths, and hike/climbed up and down the area near our campsite. The hike up was a little challenging, but really pleasant. The hike down was… let’s just say the husband received some well earned jabs for choosing the most difficult path down the canyon. Louis and Clark (the names of my Chacos) felt right at home as they navigated a new path through the brush and rocks.

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Look at that attractive couple. Wow. We are killin’ it at this point. This is also before we started the descent so…

One of the best parts of all the climbing was discovering that our youngest is a natural Spiderman! We knew he loved to climb, much like every child we have ever met, but he had such a natural gift for climbing up the rocks. He was rarely scared, he took risks, and he found footholds naturally. He may have earned himself a new nickname.

At night we put the kids down to bed in the tents and played games. We brought a ton of games, but one of our favorites is Bang! Although we all played several rounds of Guess Who? with the oldest because she got to stay up a little later. She felt so grown up!

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Alas, this is the only picture we got of the two ginormous bags of trail mix we made to bring because we are awesome. Or possibly because we accidentally left the cooler unlocked one night and left our food box out (which we thought was secured shut) the next night and special critters enjoyed our trail mix even more than we did. The night we did get to eat our trail mix, all the dark chocolate covered almonds had melted during the day in my backpack creating huge clumps of trail mix that were connected by the, now cooled, chocolate. This was my best life now.

This was also the squirrels’ best life now.

Trail Mix Recipe: Pretzels (we used the sticks, but they were actually too big to get a good handful of things so I would recommend either the grid shape or the braided circle shape), Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Raisins, Dried Cranberries, Dried Strawberries (the husband did not appreciate this addition, but I did), Peanuts, Cashews

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The next morning, we had chorizo, potatoes, and scrambled eggs for breakfast. When there are 7 people to cook for and two tiny burners, you have to get creative. We have wanted this cast iron griddle/grill for years, years and we finally had a reason to buy it! Thank you, Palo Duro!

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I’m not sponsored by Lodge or anything, but I can tell you that they are the only brand we buy. I have tried other brands, but none of them hold up to Lodge. This thing is not a short term purchase, it is a life purchase. All of our Lodge products look as good as the day we bought them.

A little steel wool, season with oil, and you’re done. It will change your life. But for real this time.

 

 

The next day we took on the mother lode of hikes. One of our party decided that we should shoot for the moon and head to the lighthouse. When getting ready for this trip, we were told over and over that a trip to Palo Duro Canyon was almost not worth it if you do not go see the Lighthouse, and, in truth, pictures of it were everywhere. It was about three miles there and three miles back. So, we loaded up a backpack of water and all the snacks any small human could ever desire, put the youngest in the Tula, and set off.

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There is a thermometer at the entrance to the trail telling you that if it is 90 degrees or higher, jogging/running is not allowed on the trail. It was already 85 degrees with no shade to be found, this was our warning. A warning we did not take.

On the way there, was one of the more excruciating hikes of my lifetime. It was incredibly hot, sunny, dusty, and rather uninteresting for most of the hike. The first long portion is rather flat too. The kids were not impressed. Nor did they think this hiking thing, which was so fun the day before, was very fun today. All they wanted to do was stop, be carried, and eat snacks. I felt like everyone walking past us looked at us with a little sympathy, but also were secretly thinking YOU WERE WARNED.

We finally made it to the end of the trail and were expecting the magnificence that is the Lighthouse, but guess what…the trail ends BEFORE YOU GET TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. We were warned! Well not about this, but we should have just taken the heat as a warning that everything could and might go wrong.

The youngest was asleep in Tula at this point, so the husband just turned around and walked back to the car. Sarah and Daniel felt good about the trail and mercifully took the middle one back because the oldest and I wanted to summit this rock. We were determined.

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It was a difficult hike up, but we really enjoyed it. The oldest said that climbing the rock was the best part! We were coated in red dirt, and we haaated the walk back, but we survived! We have so much character because of this hike.

We were all pretty much done for the day after this hike so we just hung out and tried to rest that afternoon. I found out during this weekend that I love hammocks. It was deeply relaxing to hang out each afternoon and read in the world’s most amazing swatch of blue.

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Excuse my legs and the dirt, but I was in a good place here. The breeze was just right and the book was awesome. I read Artemis by Andy Weir and Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham – both excellent. Find me on Goodreads if you want my thoughts on those! (I have since read another book and just started The Golden Compass, the verdict is still out.)

Monday morning we made the long trip home, but not before heading to the look out at the top of the canyon and enjoying the view. We hope we will come back to Palo Duro in the future because there is so much we did not get to do. Until then…

See you Outside!

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