Friday, June 30, 2017

Into the Woods

After probably years of talking about it, we actually did it. We took our first camping trip as a family.

It will not surprise anyone to know that Jon is an expert camper. He went on lots of camping trips as a kid, and obviously his Army training has equipped him well to fend for himself in the woods. That said, he had never been responsible for our entire crew in a tent, so he was anxious to give it a go. For whatever reason, he has persisted in his assumption that I don't like camping. Not true. I just haven't done it as much. (He must have forgotten all about the stories of an epic camping trip in Prince Edward Island, Canada with my college roommate.) I was and am totally on board with camping, although I am very glad that we did a "practice run" by sleeping in a tent in our backyard.

We decided to camp for two nights over Memorial Day weekend at the urging of some friends who also were ready to try camping with two small children. We arrived at Fort Pillow State Park, about an hour and a half northeast of Memphis, on Friday afternoon. We set up camp--and by "we," I mean Jon, as I mostly baby wrangled during this time--and had dinner. Jon was certainly in his element with all his cooking over fire, fancy knot-tying, canoe packing, and general camping expertise. I think our friends were impressed...and grateful for his knowledge.

Our home away from home
After the requisite s'mores for dessert, everyone settled in for the night. The next day began fairly early, but it was not because of our human alarm clocks. In fact, Elsa slept nearly an hour after everyone was up and stirring. I didn't realize it then, but I think that extra sleeping time is when the assault happened. Elsa is our mosquito magnet. She is so sweet that mosquitoes love her. I'm guessing that we must have let some in the tent when we got up, and since she was the only target, she had the battle scars to prove it. The poor child had bites on top of bites. Her hands and ankles--the parts not covered by her pajamas--looked so painful.

Luckily, the distraction of fun activities kept the itching at bay. After breakfast, we headed out for a "hike." I use the term loosely because there's just as much whining as there is walking with little ones. At any rate, we walked through the woods for a bit. Elsa was jazzed to try out her new "bee-noculars," and we got to see some cool caterpillars, too.

Nothing could possibly go wrong in this scenario
Next it was time for the dads and big kids to take the canoe out on the lake. There were attempts at fishing, but it is admittedly tough for three- and four-year-olds to have the patience necessary to catch a fish.

Once the moms and little ones returned from the playground to pick up the boaters, it was time to head back to camp for a dinner of delicious shish kabobs. The kids continued playing at and around the campsite. Who knew that gravel and cooking utensils could provide so much entertainment?

After dinner, Jon took Elsa back to the lake for the ranger-planned sunset canoe ride. While it ended up being less organized than expected, it was a special time for dad and daughter.

Check out the cool lantern set-up
Jon immediately jumped into storm preparations when he and Elsa got back to the campsite. We knew we were going to get a storm, but I don't think we were aware what we were in for. It couldn't possibly have been as bad as in Memphis--where the storm resulted in the third largest power outage in city history--but it was still scary. Miraculously, the girls slept through the entire thing. We stayed nice and dry in our tent, and it didn't blow away, so we are extremely thankful to have weathered the storm as it were.

It was certainly wet on Sunday morning, but it didn't rain any more, so we had a leisurely breakfast and took our time packing up. Overall, the trip was a success, and I foresee more camping trips in our future...


...in fact, last weekend, we camped out again, this time via bike.

A local bike shop organized the trip as part of a larger adventure promoted by a bicycle bag company out of Seattle. Jon was interested right away, but it took us a while to figure out the logistics and keep our fingers crossed that the weather would hold (we were not interested in a repeat storm story). We finally decided that Elsa would ride on the back of Jon's bike, and Lena and I would drive, meeting the group at the campground. According to Jon, Elsa did great the nearly two-hour ride to Shelby Forest.

And they're off!
We had a fun time camping with a rather eclectic group, most of whom we'd never met before that day. I'm sure some of them thought we were crazy for bringing kids, but Jon thinks that we just proved that you can still do cool things with little ones in tow. As a bonus, some friends who live nearby met us on Sunday, so Elsa and Lena got to play with another kid after all.

While we may not be touring western Europe or basking in Norway's midnight sun these days, we're still having adventures, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

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