Tag Archives: Kid Camping

Camping after quarantine

While the world is not COVID free and safety precautions are not finished, we are seeing life begin to change. We ended up not being able to camp for a prolonged period of time because we simple could not get reservations! Everyone was outside, everyone needed that relief, everyone wanted a place where they could be without their mask.

And I don’t blame them.

So we played in our backyard, we camped in our living room, and we waited.

I’m happy to tell you that we are back at it and this semester has been full of camping. I feel like everyone is getting back into the habit but it has been glorious. Their most favorite thing?

Exploring.

The best thing about camping with little people is that there are less “nos” in the world and much more “yeses”. I have no idea if I spelled those correctly. Can I climb on this fallen down log? Yes! Can we go on a hike? Absolutely. Can I have some trail mix? Go nuts…pun intended.

While we did go camping at Sam Houston State Park earlier this year, it was…not our favorite. It is a smaller park and did not have much hiking for us to do. Since this is our kids’ favorite part, it left us a bit high and dry.

We had every intention of going to Lake Somerville State Park in February but you have heard that our area experienced a snowpocalypse and the park incurred some damage so our reservation was cancelled. Honestly, without power or water for almost a week, we felt like we had plenty of camping for that month.

This brings us to March and a new park for us – Village Creek State Park.

One of our goals for 2021 has been to try new parks and venture a bit farther from home now that our little people are getting old enough to handle a longer car ride.

We also accidentally tried another new thing – hike-in camping.

While we have done this type of camping before as adults, we have never brought our children along. Little did we know, we booked a primitive campsite and had to hike in to our site…with all of our stuff…and our three children. It was a blast. And by blast I mean it was a bit of a mess. The first day, I got in over 18000 steps just helping bring all of our stuff in from the car while also setting up camp. The good news is, our kids were champions!

I will definitely do this style camping again, but I would bring an all terrain wagon instead. Another family of campers near us also did not know they would need to hike in and ran over to a local Walmart to get a wagon for day two. They were smart! I have already started researching these wagons for the future.

This was only a one night endeavor but was still a really great park that we would go back to. The campsites were closer together than I would like and we had an entire boy scout troop surrounding us but there was plenty of hiking and places to get some quiet.

There was one point that was truly the highlight of the whole weekend — I went on a hike all by myself.

This may not sound exciting as I usually get time by myself regularly but in the last year time alone has been at a premium. We are spending more time as a family than ever and part of me deeply loves this. We have learned to play board games, read books, camped, gone on walks, worked on riding bikes, and more together. At the same time, my husband and I (as well as thousands of other grown-ups) have struggled to find time for quiet, time for peace, time alone.

I had one particularly hard time while we were camping because some kiddos wanted to hike and one really wanted to sleep. You heard me right! They asked to sleep. Who am I to deny a kid who wants to have nap time?

But guess who didn’t nap?

So then things got a bit contested, we struggled together to find them a way to enjoy themselves without the entertainment of siblings, and I realized that between the lack of sleep and all the stress that I’ve had lately, I was running out of steam. The others got back just in the nick of time and the husband could tell that I was struggling. He not so gently let me know that I could go on a walk by myself if I needed to. I knew I needed to. He knew I needed to. My kid probably knew I needed to. And yet, I still hesitated.

Mom guilt is so real. Even in this place that is supposed to be about unplugging and feeling grounded and connecting with Creator, I found myself feeling guilty for not being present at every moment if I took this hike. Thank goodness for husbands nudging you onto the trail. I got a certain distance away from the campsite and realized I could not hear anything. I heard an occasional bird and the sound of my own footsteps but those were the only sounds available. It felt like calm settling over me like a warm blanket.

It felt like reminding myself that I was human.

I remember sitting in therapy at one point during an extremely stressful time in life and continuing to spiral into the what could have beens and the what ifs and she gave me advice. She told me to sit in a chair or on the floor or near something with a texture. She told me to rub my hands over that texture and remind myself that I am right here, right now. That I can bring myself back into the present moment this way. That I can keep from stressing about the past, reliving difficult moments, or panicking about the future.

So, I took a minute to breathe. To listen. To feel the air. To feel the sensation of my feet in the sand. And I reminded myself to be in this present moment.

I needed to let go of the stress that I’ve been holding onto this past year while also not staring in panic at the possible future. The pandemic has put more stress on me than I was prepared for and I can admit to you that I have not always handled it well.

This was a moment of reminder and a moment to pull me back to the now.

While I don’t have a picture of the moment, there was a place where I came across a fork and had to decide which way to go. In the calm, this poem came to mind and I can only thank my sophomore English teacher for having me memorize it. She was always an incredible woman who knew what we needed.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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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