Last week, we went for our yearly big camping trip with friends. Dashiell went with us last year, but this was his first time outside the womb!
We were at Thompson’s Lake State Park, on the Helderberg Escarpment. We used to camp there regularly, years ago, but the facilities (bathhouse, toilets, etc) had become foul, and after a bad experience with overzealous ‘rangers’, we finally stopped going. However, the facilities were completely rebuilt last year, and the beach was calling, so we decided to give it another try!
Day one was dedicated to travel and making camp. Given that it was a state park, I had concerns about fitting the camper into our site, but by the luck of the draw, we got the single largest campsite in the park, nearly 70 feet wide by 50 feet deep. We pulled in at 2 PM, and were set up by 3. The rest of our group arrived a couple of hours later.They were unfortunately separated from our campsite by a few hundred yards, but we came prepared with camp-wagon, off-road baby-lugging gear, and other toys, so we were prepared for some long distance food preparation and campfiring! There was a great camp-food feast (spicy mac-and-cheese and fajitas). There was beer (because ‘you ain’t campin’ if you ain’t got a beer in your hand!’). There was rain (also because ‘you ain’t campin’ if it ain’t rainin’). There was also an early bedtime! Dashiell, sad to say, was not impressed by any of these things, but he did enjoy being handed around and complimented by a stack of new people.
Day two was the great hike! Some other friends came out to visit at the park, and we all decided to take a walk. Dashiell got hosed down with bug spray and sunscreen, Daddy got saddled, and the troop headed out, a weird, two-headed baby-man creature in the vanguard. The initial plan was just to visit the park’s nature center, which turned out to be surprisingly nice. There were models of the park, pelts and skeletons of many of its denizens, a see-through bee-hive with a living colony in it, and a bunch of live critters. After the visit, it was decided the we’d go ‘just a little further’, to an old, restored schoolhouse/museum, and then it was decided to ‘take that other trail’ back again. Our little walk turned out to be nearly a two mile hike in ninety degree weather with relative humidity of 80%. While wearing 15 pounds of baby. Dad was wishing he brought his canteen, and Dash took a three hour nap, he was so excited by the whole thing.
Day three was a complete washout. Literally (really literally, not Miriam-Webster ‘figuratively’ literally). It rained like we were in Southeast Asia during the monsoons. People had to dig drainage ditches through their campsites, to keep their gear from washing away. We didn’t do a lot, but some good books got read, and some board-games were played. Dash discovered how to make some new sounds, and proceeded to make them vociferously for the balance of the day. We decided to extend our stay another day in hopes we could enjoy another rustic day in the sun!
Day four was nice and cool, and the sun sneaked out as hoped. We initiated our second attempt at introducing Dash to swimming. When we got to the beach, it was sunny and calm, and the water was mostly devoid of swimmers. By the time we got Dash out in the ‘surf’, the sun was hiding, the wind had come up, and a dozen loud, splashy kids magically appeared, hunting the school of fish that decided to take refuge among the legs of our family. Dash did not appreciate *any* of these developments, but he was a real trooper. He never once cried, but all his time in the water was spent scowling and grunting, while clinging to Daddy with a claw-like grip (which, by the way, was particularly uncomfortable for the shirtless daddy in question!). I imagine that was what it would be like teaching a large, well-behaved cat to swim! Like the cat, I suspect Dashiell plotted our demise at least once during the adventure. We spent about an hour sneaking back into the water during bouts of agreeable weather, but eventually abandoned beach.
On day five, we packed up, broke camp, said our goodbyes, and headed for home. And a sick 120 pound bull mastiff. Can we go back to the woods now?