Well, our trip was a mixture of really great and really not so great. Mosquitoes and rain were the two basic themes running through most of our time. Here's more than you ever wanted to know about the Shaw Family Camping Adventure of 2010.
Monday: We finally left home a little after noon and then had 2+ hours of errands to finish before we actually set off. On the way north, our "scenic route" turned out to be badly marked and our several wrong turns made the trip longer than anticipated. We arrived 7-ish and began setting up camp. Our "neighbor" came over to tell us that her toddlers woke up screaming every night about 1 a.m. So, since the only spot to put our tents was right beside theirs and because there was no level ground there anyway, we switched campsites to the one right next door - level ground and further from the screaming. :)
While John went and got our new campsite approved, I made sandwiches and bedtime started for the toddlers next door...and lasted for almost two hours! I really don't think the kids or the parents were unusually bad or anything, they just had three little toddlers learning to go to bed, but *why* would you go camping then? There were other families with small kids there so I'm not opposed to little kids camping (we did, after all, have a toddler with us) but you gotta know your kids and when you're going to annoy an entire campground!
Minor annoyance, really. So, we got squared away, but by the time we were settled, there was no time for a campfire. This made my children nearly as despondent as the bedtime toddlers! We went to bed, though, and slept, or tried to sleep. Along with the usual difficulties I have in sleeping outside, I had forgotten batteries for the air pump for the air mattress! So, I had to sleep on the (okay, slightly cushioned) ground with the rest of the plebs! See what I do for my family? Sainthood? Well, thank you. I wouldn't have suggested it myself, but...
Tuesday: Got up about 6, not sleeping anyway, so why not? Fixed eggs and spam for breakfast (so Minnesota!), served to an enthusiastic clientele. Quite warm and muggy with grey skies. When we got breakfast cleaned up, we went to see the headwaters of the Mississippi where we could walk across the river,
After swimming, we went back to camp then tried a hike. Big mistake. We went into the woods and ten minutes later had so many mosquito bites that we turned and ran back the other way! We emerged with 2 to 15 new bites per person! Thankfully, Sam was at the low end (despite the swarm of mosquitoes I kept shooing away from his head!) but William and I were definitely at the upper end! So, that was a fail. We went back and had an early supper. And a good thing, too, because almost as soon as we were done cleaning up, the rain started!
We went on the "wilderness drive" around the park in our dry van. There was not a lot to see besides trees and more trees, so when we finally got to the marker for an unusual tree - the tallest white pine in Minnesota - John and the kids determined to go and see it! We found the ponchos I had purchased for just such an occasion and the four of them ran up the trail while I waited in the car with a sleeping Sam. Strangely enough, the ponchos made us laugh and the whole thing felt like a silly adventure. According to the hikers, the pine tree really was quite impressive.
When we were done with the drive, we went to the restaurant in the lodge, mostly to avoid being at our campsite in the rain. We could see from the radar that it was supposed to clear off by midnight, so we headed back about 9 and got to bed, wet and exhausted.
The boys' tent had leaked and soaked William's sleeping bag, pillow, and a book, and most everything else was at least slightly damp. That was a long night, despite the comfort of my freshly pumped air mattress (we picked up batteries at the exorbitantly expensive camp store). I slept from 11 to 1, then we were all awake from 1 to 4 with trips to the bathroom, etc. I even tried sleeping in the van, but it was stifling hot in there, plus there was a friendly mosquito whining in my ear. So, no possibility of sleep. I went back to the tent and slept again from 4 to 7.
Wednesday: We woke to sunshine. And a good thing, too, because I will admit my weakness and say that I was very much in favor of leaving immediately, if not sooner. We had a simple, fortifying breakfast of sugary cereals and Pop-Tarts. Then I took John and the 3 oldest kids to the bike rental place and left them to pursue a biking adventure. Sam and I went to the air-conditioned visitor's center and learned about butterflies then went back to camp to stick all of the wet chairs, sleeping bags, etc. in the sunshine. Our van looked like a giant drying rack.
The bikers had a great ride and then we all went swimming. Even *I* went swimming because by then I stunk so much I was making myself gag! We had lived in a miasma of sweat, bug spray, and wood smoke for too long to mention and it had to end. The water felt really good and I'll never see any of those folks again so no one can make fun of how I look in a swimming suit!
After swimming, we all took showers and felt much more human. We set out to enjoy a quiet evening, roasting hot dogs and making S'mores. And, finally, after an hour of sweating, discussing, fanning, fretting, and eliciting the sympathy and help of some neighbors, we got a fire going!
We had our long-awaited hot dogs and we had our S'mores and had just settled to hearing some of the silliest "scary" stories from our children, when those same friendly fire-starting neighbors came over and invited us to have blueberry pies from their mountain pie makers. We had a little party! Sam was in rare form, talking constantly and loudly, but managing to charm everyone. Finally, the park ranger came over and reminded us that quiet hours started at 10 and we realized how late it had gotten.
(By the way, if you want a real conversation killer, have someone ask your pastor husband what he does for a living. Regular Joe (welder, veteran): "So, John, what do you do down there in the Twin Cities? John: "I'm a pastor." *crickets*)
So, we got to bed. Sam was asleep in about 3 seconds, Johanna in 20. I slept, but it was spotty and not very restful sleep, interrupted by potty breaks and raccoons. (Thankfully, I didn't actually have to get out of the tent for either of those. Wm and Micah hiked to the bathroom together and John scared away the raccoons.)
Thursday: Wakened by raindrops hitting the tent. *groan* I got up and started organizing, preparatory to packing up. Forget pancakes, we're getting out of here! We didn't know the forecast, but started to hear thunder. This was great motivation. We packed up in record time and left our campsite by 9 am. and had pancakes at McDonald's. This turned out to be a blessing, though, because it meant we were home by 2 so we had time to dry things out, start laundry and get ready to pack up for Kansas City.
We had a lot of good times and definitely some good bonding time! We met those nice, fire-starting neighbors and got some useful camping tips from them. We enjoyed swimming and biking and S'mores. We have a bunch of souvenir mosquito bites, a few good pictures, and many good memories, some of which will get better in years to come when we remember the Shaw Family Camping Adventure of 2010.
We're rock solid, baby!