Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Family Camping Trip at Lake Easton

This past weekend,the Olson Four packed up our camping gear and headed out into the great beyond and the wild outdoors.... well, Lake Easton State Park. Not exactly very beyond (1.5 hr from Seattle) and "wild" might be a bit of an over statement... it is a state park full of other campers just like us. For the most part, we tend to be a pretty tame group.

THAT SAID... we really did have a lovely time on our trip. As a regularly plugged-in person who is also married to a man  who is usually plugged in and who is the mother of two youngsters who prefer to be plugged in whenever possible, it is always a treat to get away and UNPLUG!!!!

We headed out late morning on Friday, knowing it was only 1.5-ish hours to the park. Very intelligently, we had our summer nanny (hi, Miss Emma!) work that morning so she could keep the kids occupied while Eric and I got our pre-trip tasks done. Brilliance, I tell ya! The kids got to burn off some energy and we got to focus on getting all of our .... items (notice how I didn't use one of a few 4-letter words I could have selected) into bags, bins, and the car.

Prior to our trip, I treated us to a soft-sided chuck box.... best thing EVER!! No more digging to the bottom of a big blue plastic bin whenever we needed a specific item. Hatchet? Check! Matches? Check! Paper towels? Yup! Everything was organized and readily available.

Waiting for Eric to grab lunch
We made it to the park in good time and without incident (always good things!), and quickly made camp. Eric and the kids got the tent set up in record time, partially because Lake Easton State Park has level tent pads. It took the guesswork out of finding "the best spot" for the tent. We knew right where it needed to be and that no huge rocks were going to be in the way. Bonus! While the kids used the pump to blow up the air mattresses, Eric and I got everything else set up.... including my hammock.

Readers, I have to explain about the hammock. We have brought it on EVERY camping trip we have ever taken but have NEVER used it due to the trees in our site not being conducive to the hammock. Usually, they were spaced too far apart and/or had too many nearby bushes for the hammock to be used. We contemplated leaving it behind on this trip, but I said, "You know, if we leave it home, this will be the first time it'll be able to be used." How right I would have been!! This camp site (lot 67) offered a perfect hammock experience! Many a relaxing moment was spent in the hammock over the weekend; it was glorious and renewed my desire for a hammock stand at home so we can use it more often!

 After my "leave me alone for a little bit, I want to enjoy my wonderful hammock" time, we set about many of our other camping past times, including playing games galore. Of the course of the weekend, we played dice, checkers, tic-tac-toe, a version net-less badminton called Jazzminton, and more.

Conor and Eric mid-Greed game

Annika opted out of playing Greed once the hammock was vacated by yours truly

After we finished our game of Greed (yes, I won... but who is counting???), the kids and I went on a bit of a hike while Eric discovered how lovely the hammock is. Behind our camp site was a trail that followed a leg of the Yakima River. We found the trail head and made our way from one end to the other. It was a lovely day, easy hike/walk, and pretty view. Win, win, and win!

We finished up the day with more games, roller blading/scootering up and down the campsite rode, readying, and roasting hot dogs over the open fire, and snacking on s'mores. A perfect evening!

Perfection was rattled a bit at 3 AM when we discovered that just on the other side of the Yakima River from our camp were railroad tracks that freight trains ... LOOOOONG, LOUD freight trains travel on at 3 AM and 5:30 AM.  (We'd hoped this would be unique to our first night, but the 2nd night proved that nope, it was a regularly scheduled event. Oh joy...)

Needless to say, our 3 AM train wake-up call left us feeling a bit drowsy on Saturday (and down-right zombie-like by Sunday). We had a low-key (coffee-filled) morning and eventually out ourselves in gear enough to get dressed and pile into the van for our excursion into Cle Elum.

We had lunch at a tasty Mexican restaurant (Conor requested Indian food, which wasn't exactly an option in Clu Elum.... it was either generic "American" food or Mexican food) and were thrilled to see how easily the kids (especially Annika) conversed with the waitress in Spanish. (Thanks, CKS Spanish teachers! You are rock stars!) After lunch, we poked around some of the local shops and the Telephone Museum, which was a huge hit with the kids! They got to use rotary phones and call each other  while seeing the internal mechanism do their thing. They kids thought "old timey" switchboard was particularly fun and took turns being the switchboard operator.

Annika using the rotary phone to call Conor

Silly telephone boy

Conor talking with Annika (who was 3-4 feet away)
Eric inspecting the switchboard

Switchboard operator Annika at your service

We wrapped up our Cle Elum visit with a much-needed stop at the local Starbucks (please reference the previous train story if you don't understand that need) and a speedy "hi and goodbye" visit with another CKS family who has a 2nd home in Cle Elum. The kids were anxious to get to swimming in Lake Easton, so we did a quick "how has your summer been going?" catch up with our friends and then headed back to camp to change into swimsuits.

Knowing the lake was glacier fed, I opted to guard our blanket and towels while  Eric and the kids braved the insanely cold water. They get the Bravery Awards for their willingness to dunk themselves in the frigid water. I happily claim my "stayed warm and enjoyed reading a book" award.

Because the water was SO cold, the kids were more willing than they otherwise would have been to make it a short trip to the lake. They spent a bit of time in the water, laid in the warm sun to thaw a bit, and then we high-tailed it back to camp so we could build a fire and warm up a bit more. Eric took the opportunity to teach the kids how to safely make kindling (the family at the site next to us could have taken a few lessons from us on hatchet safely.... but  then again maybe not all families feel the need to tell their kids not to swing hatches around and come insanely close to lodging them in their little legs.... but I digress....)

With a crackling fire nearby and thawed children, we changed our focus to dinner and then on to the ranger's presentation on bats. We learned all about bat anatomy, species, metabolism. conservation, and behaviors. It was quite interesting and even included a rather cute bat puppet.

MMMMM! Burgers (Thanks, Crowd Cow)
 Sunday morning was another sleepy one thanks to the middle-of-the-night trains... this time, the 3 AM one included lots of whistle blowing as a bonus. (God bless the inventors of coffee!)

Conor and Eric relaxing by the fire

Crackling fire, hot cocoa, and a little table time for Conor

Before packing up and heading home, the kids and I attended another ranger presentation. This one was about salmon. Annika rocked the presentation because of the fact her 4th grade class studied and raised salmon most of the school year. She had the vocab and life cycle information down pat!! Conor was a bit disappointed with the whole thing because for some reason, when he heard "junior ranger presentation", he thought they'd learn how to use a bow and arrow. Salmon aren't NEARLY as cool as what he'd envisioned. Poor boy!! Fortunately, he worked through the disappointment and found a way to have fun.

By late morning (not only because we ran out of coffee and were insanely tired, but those reasons didn't hurt), we packed up and started on our way home. The drive home was uneventful and included a stop for lunch and more coffee in North Bend... win for all involved!! Before long, we were home, doing laundry, airing out our suitcases (no camp fire smoke smells allowed in our closets!), and were reunited with Buca once the dog sitter dropped him off.

All-in-all, a great weekend for the Olsons!!

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