June 13th, 2010
Friday I took the day off for us to go camping. Due to the birth of Oliver, our last time camping was in 2008. Back then, Terah had asked me what I wanted for father’s day, and I suggested camping. Except when she was pregnant last year (and then Oliver was little), we have sort of had a standing plan to go camping twice a year: around father’s day and my birthday. She says that’s way more camping in a year than anyone needs.
Anyhow, Jacob doesn’t remember the last time we went camping; he was not quite 2 at the time. I explained that we would sleep in tents, and he’d get one just his size. He laughed at that. Then I explained that he would get a bag to sleep in, and he thought that was hilarious. He kept talking about tents — and even more so about sleeping bags — until he actually got to be in one.
It seems like each time we go camping, we wind up somewhere else. We’ve camped at Kanoplis Lake and Marion Park and Lake in the past few years. But this time we went to Cedar Valley Reservoir near Garnett, KS. It was a nice place to be, with some “wilderness camping” areas far from any RV hookups (though right next to a gravel driveway where we could park).
Almost as soon as we got out of the car, Jacob found a partially-burned stick left in a fire ring. So of course his hands were black pretty quick. He kept track of that stick the whole time we were there, and used it for everything he could think of. His favorite use, though, was at the lake to splash water:
The lake really was his favorite feature. He loved to throw rocks and sticks in it with me, to splash himself, and to stick his feet in. Oh, and to splash me.
The pier was also a great thing for him — he at first thought it was a boat, then really wanted to go. I made him hold my hand the whole time, and he liked walking on it. But he was frustrated that he couldn’t reach the water.
Somehow, Jacob acted as if he could sit in the hot sun for hours, just making small splashes with a stick. I, on the other hand, felt the 90-degree heat strongly, and eventually we found a shady spot to play in the lake.
Oliver enjoyed crawling around on a blanket or on the grass. Though Terah put a stop to that after she noticed that he came across a pile of fish heads and was about to reach for one and put it in his mouth.
We cooked over a campfire Friday night and Saturday morning. It took me a lot longer to start a fire than normal. Part of the problem was that there had been a lot of rain in the area, and it was humid, so there was little kindling to be found. Plenty of larger pieces of wood, so once the fire got going, it burned nicely. We cooked brats, brought along some homemade bread, had grilled foil-wrapped potatoes, and had stir-fry vegetables. Oliver got to eat with us too, of course:
Terah is a big believer in smores, so after supper we made some smores — Jacob predictably got sticky from the marshmallows and chocolate.
Jacob started asking when I’d set up the tent almost as soon as he found his stick. All afternoon he kept asking. Finally we got it set up, and of course he was so excited that he played inside it for an hour before he fell asleep.
Terah had bought a $4 lantern at Walmart to give to him to use in his tent. I told him that there would be a “surprise lantern” in his tent for him to use. And he loved his lantern. It could turn on, off, and flash red. At one point he asked me, “Dad, do you have a surprise lantern too?” “No, I will just use my flashlight.” He looked a bit sad about that. For about 5 seconds. Then he turned on his lantern again. Here he is with it, still playing happily about 2 hours after his bedtime:
And in the morning, of course he was still wanting that, but also wanted to play with his digital camera (a kid’s version that also has a simple game or two on it). Without leaving the tent, of course.
Oliver was getting hungry while we worked on breakfast, so I gave him some bread to munch on.
We used our cast iron skillet to fry some bacon for breakfast. Then Terah made some pancakes in the skillet (with the bacon grease). Greasiest and best pancakes ever. After that, we had some fried and scrambled eggs. After that, we had more smores (I wasn’t kidding about Terah being a big believer in them.)
Jacob decided that he wanted to play in the other tent. He enjoyed playing with Terah, Oliver, and the air mattress (that Terah appreciated as much as I thought it took up too much space in the car). There’s a little window on the back that can open to a screen or open completely. Jacob and Oliver enjoyed looking out of it while open. Or rather, Jacob enjoyed that, while Oliver enjoyed licking it.
I had my Droid with me to keep an eye on the weather. The forecast for several days had called for a 20% chance of storms on Saturday. I checked Saturday morning at 7, and it still called for 20% chance of storms after 1PM. We decided we’d pack up our tents after breakfast so we could stay as long as we liked — or leave on short notice if we preferred. Clouds seemed to be building, though, so I checked the forecast again at maybe 9. Now it called for 60% chance of thunderstorms and heavy rain before 1PM. Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; it is Kansas after all.
As I had the first tent about 90% put away, it started to rain. We rushed to get the rest of the stuff in the car, and by the time we did, it was raining heavily. We had planned to spend at least part of the afternoon there, but decided we’d look for another place to stop on the way home.
We stopped first at Garnett’s North Lake, as the rain had let up for awhile. We spotted a fishing pier that Jacob wanted to walk on, but the bridge out to it was underwater, so we passed on that. While Terah fed Oliver in a shelter, Jacob and I played on some swings. Then we walked down to that lake. Jacob carefully came to an abrupt stop and looked both ways at each disused road between us and the lake, saying “OK” when it was clear to go.
The rain picked up again, so we started heading towards home. It got quite heavy, with thunder and everything, which Jacob didn’t care for at all. Both boys went to sleep, though.
We stopped at Marion Reservoir on the way home. Jacob hadn’t been able to play in the lake at Garnett (the place we stopped had a bank that was too steep) and so we played there. He waded into the water at the swimming area, and predictably enjoyed — yes — throwing rocks into the lake.
When we got home, I set out the wet tent and tarps (it’s not good to store that stuff wet) to dry — there hadn’t been rain at home yet.
Camping’s a lot of work, but it was a good family activity. I’m looking forward to our next time, and hope we can choose a weekend a little less hot and damp.