Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Our Kids' First Camping Trip: Battle Ground State Park

Eric and I both grew up in families that camped, so it seemed natural that we'd raise a camping family, too. We took a several year hiatus from camping thinking that tending babies or corralling small children while camping wouldn't be the most fun we could have. That said, this year seemed like a good time to take the kids on their first-ever camping trip.

The funny thing is we originally planned on taking them camping in September at a state park on Whidbey Island, but a scheduling conflict cropped up, so we decided to go sooner rather than later. The only difficulty to planning a more last-minute trip was finding a campsite that was available and one that wasn't closed due to this season's wildfires. Based on those two requirements, we ended up reserving THE LAST AVAILABLE SPOT at Battle Ground State Park. As luck would have it, the campsite was quite ideal for us. It was beautiful, had a lake that was perfect for swimming, and had lovely hiking trails for us to explore.

When we told the kids about the camping trip, they squealed with sheer excitement. That excitement quickly eroded after about the first 30 minutes in the car ... especially knowing there was another 2.5 hours to go. "But WHY is the place so far away from our house?" and "Is THAT the lake we're going to?" were constant questions during our drive. We dropped Buca off at my mom's house for the night (Thanks, Mom!) en route to the park, which was quite ideal, especially considering my brother's dog would also be there overnight. Dog cousin camp at Nana's house!

Once we got to the park, we quickly unpacked the van and began setting up camp. The kids were fantastic and enthusiastically pitched in to help. At some points, it was tricky to find jobs for them to do, but we kept everyone busy. Conor and Annika became expert camp chair setter-uppers, and sleeping bag carriers. Once the tent was set up, Eric got our temporary home in order while I set up the kitchen area and made lunch.

Before long, we were all overly ready for a dip in the lake. It was over 80 degrees and lugging camping gear quickly made us long for cool water to splash in. The lake was about a 10-ish minute walk from our campsite, which was perfect... not too far, but far enough that we weren't perpetually listening to the crowd noise from the other swimmers. We brought two pool floats, which the kids thought were extra fun to play with. (Next time, we'll definitely blow them up when we're near a pump... those things are a PITA to blow up without one!) We splashed, played, swam, and kicked until the kids started to shiver.... even then, they didn't want to get out of the lake, but Eric and I vetoed their pleas to stay in the water and ushered them back to our campsite. Eric started a lovely fire, which quickly warmed the kids, much to everyone's happiness.

Once everyone was warm, we pulled out the Ziploc of cards and games that we brought. We played gin, Spot It, and more. For dinner, we roasted hot dogs and made hobo pouches filled with potatoes and green beans. I had to get a little creative in marking whose hobo pouch was whose (note to self: pack a Sharpie pen next time!), so wound up folding each pouch in a unique shape to tell them apart. Hello, creativity! After dinner, we made the required s'mores for dessert and told "scary" stories around the campfire. I got smart and packed Ghiradelli chocolate for Eric and me to have on our s'mores ... no dummy am I! :)

This was one of the few times when our kids asked to go to bed. They were wiped out and ready for a little down time. They hunkered down on their sleeping bags (it was way too hot to be in them!) and proceeded to wrestle and annoy each other... ahh, sibling time! Eventually, Eric and I decided to call it a night and tucked ourselves in. Just as we were falling asleep, a group of people somewhere in the park or nearby area started making an insane amount of noise. It sounded like fireworks or the like. Poor Annika was so tired, but couldn't sleep because of the noise, so began to sob out of fatigue. Eventually, the noise subsided and everyone was able to (finally) get some much-needed sleep.

Roasting hot dogs

Campfire cooking tutorial


Hobo pouches

View from our campsite

The next morning, Eric and I awoke to the sounds of Conor talking to himself. He usually chatters for a bit before getting up in the morning, which isn't a problem unless we're all within a few inches of each other. After a few failed attempts at quieting him, we got up, so Annika could continue to sleep in peace. Eric begrudgingly lit a fire (he didn't think morning camp fires were really a thing.... WHAT??), which added to the wonderful morning ambiance. The forest was cool and quiet ... a perfect camping morning. Once everyone was up, we made pancakes, sausage, and scrambled eggs for breakfast. The plan for the day was to eat, pack up most of our gear, and then explore some of the hiking trails.

As Eric and I made breakfast, the kids entertained themselves by playing lemur, which consists of hanging from a low branch, and building nests out of pine cones and leaves. They were covered in dirt and loved every moment of it!

Conor exploring a nearby stump

Hot cocoa and Pirate Booty... the camping breakfast of champions

Eric whipping up breakfast

Annika and her pancake

Fireside breakfast ... what could be better?

Conor playing lemur

Once the chores were done, we set off to explore a bit. I have to say, the maze of trails available in the park was gorgeous. We walked under a tree canopy that had so many different shades of green for us to take in. The morning sun made the tree leaves almost transparent at times... so stunning. We chose to walk along the upper lake trail, which provided us with breath-taking views of the lake. The kids had a marvelous time scaling fallen trees, scrambling up boulders and stumps, and peeking behind hidden crevasses. In some ways, it was the epitome of childhood ... wandering, exploring, climbing, and getting dirty.

Conor and Annika discovered this big
stump and decided it needed to be scaled


Annika, Queen of the Stump

Panoramic view of the hiking trail

Which way should we go?

See how tall I am??

Hiking, hiking, hiking

Annika and Eric on the Upper Lake Trail

Conor on his boulder throne

Annika catching her breath

Conor ... part billy goat

Annika ... even more of a billy goat

Battle Ground Lake

Eric taking in the view

Eric and Annika... lakeside

Conor.... master boulder scaler

Conor lounging on his boulder

Annika proved to be quite the climber on our hike ... wouldn't
be surprised if she takes up rock climbing one day!

"Annika, what are you doing?"
"Oh, just hanging around!"

Eric hanging around

Forget Where's Waldo! Where's Annika?

Eventually, it was time to head back to our campsite, pack up the last of our stuff, and head home. The kids were absolutely wiped out ... as were their parents. Aside from a few occasional traffic slow downs and moments of the kids annoying each other, the drive was uneventful. As we drove, I asked Annika if she thought the campground was pretty. "No," she responded. "What?? You didn't think all of the trees and the lake were pretty??" "Oh yes! They were very pretty, but the ground was just brown dirt ... that wasn't very pretty."

We picked up Buca from my mom's house on our way home, and then continued heading north. As we approached Tukwila, I noticed the Blue Angels in the distance.... lucky us, we got a few peeks at their air show as we drove north. At one point, four of the Blue Angel jets flew right over our car... bonus for us!!

All in all, we had a very fun weekend and, I think, the kids enjoyed their first camping experience. Eric and I are already brainstorming possible locations to take them next year... perhaps a state park on the Key Peninsula or up to the San Juan Islands, perhaps!

No comments: