Since we are in the middle of camping season, I thought I would give you a little comparison of trailers. Happy camping!
Saturday June 23rd is the Great American Backyard Campout, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation. This would be a great way to take a baby step into camping if you haven’t taken your family camping yet. Or if you are avid campers you can take this weekend to jump into the summer camping season.
Since camping is one of our favorite family activities I thought I would share some of my favorite reasons to go camping.
1. Being outside – At home, would you spend most of the day outside? I know I probably would be stuck inside working or doing household chores. Fresh air and sunshine have a great way of lowering your blood pressure. It is great to get the whole family out and enjoying our beautiful planet.
2. Seeing beautiful parts of the country – We have a beautiful country, so diverse in topography. I love waking up and stepping outside in a new place to see the ocean or the mountains. The boys also get to learn about the different environments and natural beauty our country has to offer.
3. Spending time with friends – You really get to know people when you go camping with them — three days without washing your hair will do that. It is fun to sit and talk about random subjects that you probably wouldn’t get to at other times.
4. Watching your kids play – How often do you watch your kids play at home? I know I usually head off to get some things done. When we are camping there are only a few things I have to do, so I get to watch them play and marvel at how much energy they have.
5. Campfires, red wine & smores – What is it about campfires? Nothing goes better with campfires than red wine and smores (well maybe peanut M&Ms too). Jim is obsessed with making great fires, so we always make sure we have enough wood. At each campground he also searches for the perfect fire poker.
6. Cooking outside – You know you are a cook when you can make an entire dinner on a campfire or camp stove. We have fun planning the menu to see what creative ideas might work. I think food tastes better when eaten outside, especially breakfast.
7. Making new friends – Campgrounds tend to be friendly places. People are more likely to walk up to you and start talking about something, like your trailer or what you are making for dinner. Your neighbors can easily become new friends, especially if they have kids, because the kids tend to easily jump into games together.
8. Playing with your kids – Camping can turn adults back into kids. We ride bikes, fly kites, play board games and catch. At home we tend to just go about our days. When camping we don’t have projects to do, so we can just enjoy being a family.
9. Afternoon cocktails – Is there anything better than sitting on a beach watching the kids play while enjoying a margarita and not feeling guilty about it? There aren’t chores to do or projects to complete, so you can just enjoy life and the company you are with.
10. Laughing until your sides hurt (or you pee yourself) – Campgrounds are also really great places to people watch. All sorts of humanity goes camping. Then there are the silly things that you do or say. At least with our group those never seem to go away. Someone is always telling a funny story or making a joke. I think laughter is the best medicine, melting away our stress; that and a few cocktails.
Hopefully this summer, if you haven’t tried camping yet, you can at least take a baby step into camping and try a staycation in your backyard. It is an experience like none other.
You are supposed to spend spring break at the beach, right? Ideally, you probably want to spend it somewhere a little more tropical than our destination, the Washington and Oregon coast, but a beach is still a beach. The water on our coast this time of year is just a tad colder.
After a minor repair in Portland where we bought our new trailer, we embarked on our inaugural trip in Boomer, our 2012 Keystone Outback 250rs travel trailer, to Cape Disappointment State Park on the southern Washington Coast. The Ford Expedition pulled the trailer well, even over some steep hills. The campground was beautiful and had everything to offer, including plenty of space and hook-ups. The beach was a short walk from our site and had black sand and lots of driftwood.
We spent part of a day exploring Astoria, Oregon, and Long Beach, Washington. In Astoria we went to the Columbia River Maritime Museum, where we discovered that Will loves model ships. He stopped and looked at each one as we walked through the exhibit. We are trying to figure out a way for a three year old to enjoy model ships in a non-destructive, but interactive way, since he clearly enjoys them. We had lunch at a great microbrewery, Fort George, and even bought a growler (just love that term) to take back to the trailer. Astoria is a really cute town that has retained its small and historic feel and we will definitely go back.
Long Beach is much more of your typical beach town. One highlight was driving the car on the beach. As we drove up to park for a walk on the beach, the car in front of us kept driving right onto the beach. After reading the sign that allowed cars on the beach during a small window during the year, Jim followed him. We were a bit afraid of getting stuck so we didn’t do anything crazy. Later in the day, the boys got to drive go carts, and we bought salt water taffy and ate clam chowder. Traffic must come to a halt in the summer months in this sleepy, one-road town.
One morning at the campground we heard a helicopter flying low and looked out to see a Coast Guard helicopter flying by. Later that morning during our short hike to the Cape Disappointment lighthouse, we happened upon some Coast Guard guys up on the cliff who explained that they were running training missions all day. We got to see them lower a man out of the helicopter and pick up what we hope was a dummy and then fly away. Not something you see every day.
The second leg of our trip took us into Oregon, with lunch in Cannon Beach and camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. Nehalem Bay was also a nice campground, but the sites were closer together so it probably feels crowded in the summer. The dunes there were gorgeous and made us feel like we were on the East coast. We decided to only spend one night there and continue on to our friend’s house in Newburg and pull an “Uncle Eddie” from Christmas vacation and park the trailer in front of our friend’s house. We almost staged a photo of Jim in his bathrobe with a beer while dumping the holding tank down the sewer but we refrained.
It was the perfect way to end our week long trip just hanging out with good friends. Boomer faired very well and we are getting used to all of his wonderful amenities. Probably the most telling thing from our trip is that we all can’t wait for the next one.
Two weeks ago, we took the boys on their first trip to Disneyland (which Will called “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”) where we met my sister’s family and my parents. Somehow even with the months of planning, we were able to keep the trip a secret from the boys and planned a big morning of reveal. We had been warned by friends not to expect a big reaction to the reveal, but I was sure that they would be excited.
Here’s how the exchange went down:
“Instead of going to school today, what would you like to do?”
Jack: “I want to go to Griffin’s house.”
Me: “What if we go to Disneyland instead?”
Jack: “No, I would rather go to Griffin’s house.”
Me: “Will, would you like to go to Disneyland?”
Me: “Well we are going to Disneyland, so let’s get excited.”
Although we got off to an underwhelming start, the trip was fantastic. We spent three and a half days in the two parks. Tuesday after our flight and a short nap for Will at the hotel, we headed to the park for a few hours before dinner. The first ride we took the kids on was Pirates of the Caribbean. We probably could have started off with a more benign ride, but they loved it (after the big dark drop at the beginning).
The park was decorated for Christmas, with a huge tree and wreaths everywhere. The Haunted Mansion had been taken over by Jack Skellington from Nightmare before Christmas, which we rode at least four times. The castle had snow on the roof and It’s a Small World was decorated with lights all over the building.
Our planning had paid off with short lines (longest was 20 minutes until Friday) and the ability to ride our favorites multiple times even with a two month old in tow. Finley (2 mos) was able to ride a bunch of the rides, including Pirates twice. The crowds at California Adventure on Friday were larger, but we still were able to sneak in rides on our favorites back at Disneyland at the end of the night.
Jack’s favorite rides were Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (my favorite too), Pirates, Star Tours and Haunted Mansion. Will’s favorites were Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Buzz Lightyear and Matterhorn (aka “Snow Monster Mountain”).
It was such a fun four days at the happiest place on Earth, where we all became kids again.
Photo credit, Unkie Paul, who did a great job capturing our time.
In two weeks we are taking the boys to Disneyland for the first time. It is a surprise to the boys, so please don’t spill the beans if you see them between now and then. I haven’t been to Disneyland since 1997, so I am really excited too. They have added California Adventure and Downtown Disney since I have been there.
Here are the top 10 rides I am looking forward to taking the kids on.
1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – This is my favorite ride in the park. On my first visit we closed this ride down riding it about six times in a row.
2. Indiana Jones Adventure – Jack is just tall enough to meet the height requirement for this ride. It is really fun.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean – They are opening the refurbished ride about a week before we get there. The boys have seen the first movie, so it should be fun to take them on it.
4. Haunted Mansion – This is one of the all-time greats. The boys will love the end when the ghost is sitting in your car.
5. Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters – This one just looks super fun.
6. Finding Nemo Submarine – They redid the submarine ride to have the characters from Finding Nemo. One of our friends said this was her kids favorite.
7. Star Tours – Unfortunately Will is too short for this one, because he would love that there is a pod race in it now. Jack is going to love it.
8. Toy Story Mania – This looks like great fun.
9. Matterhorn Bobsleds – I am not sure if we will take Will on this one but I am hoping he will be OK, because the Yetti is fun to look for.
10. Sourin’ Over California – I am wondering how realistic this is.
The Cars area of the park will not be open when we are there, which is a big bummer. The boys would love that, so we will just have to come back.
What are your Disneyland favorites? Do you have any tips for us, must dos or can’t miss?
As I have mentioned in previous posts, we are drawing our summer inspiration from Disney FamilyFun Magazine’s Badges of Fun program where you earn “badges” by completing fun family activities. In August, the great activities were all centered around hitting the road and making road trips easier and more fun with young kids. If there is one thing I know (hopefully I know more than one) it is about road-tripping with kids.
At least once a year, we drive from Seattle to Lodi, California and back – about 14 +/- hours in the car each way. Yes, we do it all in one day because it has been our experience that piling two adults, two kids and a dog into a cheap motel room equals no sleep for anyone, even the dog. It also doubles the amount of packing and unpacking so the pain of spending all day in the car is more than worth it.
The key to keeping your sanity of road trips, no matter the length, is planning ahead and packing the car appropriately. For our camping trips this year I started making a reading box which sits neatly between the boy’s seats in the car. It contains books, coloring books, crayons and other reading material. Luckily I have two readers. Once we arrive at the campground, it moves into Poppy (our trailer) for bedtime or if they wake up early.
Each boy also packs a bag of toys. I have taken two reusable six-pack wine carriers and cut out the dividers, because these are smaller than the regular shoppers. They hold the right amount of toys and not only provide toys for the car, but also for use once we arrive at our destination.
Since you can’t have a road trip without food, I also pack our snack bag that sits on the floor right behind the center console for easy access. This includes not only kid snacks, but adult snacks too (hello Chex Mix,) especially if we are going to be on the road for a while. I have found that the freeze dried fruit slices (available at Costco) make a great healthy
snack that isn’t sticky.
Finally, for the adults, the keys to road trip sanity are DVD players and iPods. I know some people may be opposed to them, but for us we couldn’t do it without them. It’s like refusing pain medication during surgery – why bother? They don’t hand out awards at the end for those that endured the most pain and no one is any worse for wears as a result. Memorial Day weekend we went camping and got caught in traffic that added two extra hours to our drive (a 3.5 hour drive, became a 5.5 hour drive) and most of that extra time
was spent stopped on the freeway. The boys were complete angels, happily watching movies and eating snacks.
Are you participating in the Badges of Fun series? I would love to hear about what activities you are doing.
5. Allison’s campground program – Soon after we arrived at Iron Creek campground Allison Yocum spotted a list of things to do in the area posted on a campground bulletin board. An item of particular interest was a Saturday night ranger program at the amphitheater. There was no time listed. It was decided that we needed to go experience this camping tradition, so while Jim, Dennis and I made dinner Allison went to find out what time. She saw the host, but didn’t ask him, so we went with the assumption it was at 8. In order to make the 8 p.m. show we had to hurry through dinner, wolfing down our burgers, corn and salad in about 10 minutes. The boys set off on their bikes and the adults followed with road cokes in hand.
About half way there we encountered the campground host who gave us a curious look when we asked about the show and said that there hadn’t been a show for many years. We walked over to the amphitheater to find it overgrown and dilapidated. We felt like that last seen in Planet of the Apes when Charlton Heston finds the beach with the half-buried Statue of Liberty. In spite of this, we did find a good place nearby to take our first DeNocum group photo.
Adding insult to injury, quite literally, on the way back to the campsite we thought for sure there would be a short cut between the campground loops. So Allison, Jim, Will and I tried to find it. (Dennis bowed out due to his shoe choice and hankering for Doritos.) We quickly discovered that if there had been a path it was over grown and now required that we scale trees and scrubs. We did make it back before Dennis, but just barely.
4. Prius’ car lock – As we were sitting around the campfire on our first night with the Faleys listening to Cooper ease ever so slowly into his slumber, the guy across repeatedly opened and closed his Prius. Each time it would lock and set-off the horn and head lights. This would have been fine if it had been once or twice, but it was at least 15-20 times, some only seconds apart. When they left the next morning we thought we were free of it, only to have another Prius move into the adjacent site and pull the same stunt the next night. When we were finally fed up with it Tom thought he would retaliate by locking his Suburban and setting off his horn and lights. Only he forgot that it turns on his reverse lights for about 30 seconds. We all turned to see Jen standing in the tent door holding a crying child perfectly illuminated in the reverse lights. It was a pretty funny scene. Oops, so much for payback.
3. The mountain is out – This is a phrase used around Seattle to talk about Mt. Rainier on a beautiful day. After our experience last summer trying to get a photo of Rainier, we were really hoping for a nice day to go to Paradise. We didn’t even get out of the campground before we realized that the mountain was out. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and Rainier’s snow-white glaciers were brilliant against the bright blue sky. We arrived in Paradise (elevation 5400 feet) to find that our cold spring had left snow still around most of the trails near the visitor’s center. Although the boys thought walking in the slush was fun, hiking with wet feet didn’t sound appealing to the adults.
2. Squirmin – On our first night sitting around the campfire, Allison noticed the tree above her head was moving, even though there wasn’t a breath of wind. She thought there was a critter in the tree and almost jumped out of her chair to move away. Of course Jim and Dennis couldn’t leave this alone; first pointing out that it was just the heat from the fire moving the branches. Then they decided to name the critter, a squirmin – a cross between a squirrel and a vermin. That night Allison had a dream that the squirmin was in Nugget (their motorhome) closet. The funniest part of the dream was that she wasn’t surprised to see it in there. Now anytime we see a tree moving for no reason it is obviously due to squirmin activity.
1. DeNocum and Falike camping – Camping with good friends is great fun. Our kids get along well and it is fun to spend the time together. Jen was such a good sport with everything that was thrown at her, Cooper not sleeping well, no showers and having to trek to the potty. I don’t think Tom stopped smiling the whole weekend, even after he stepped on his glasses and had a dead battery. Allison was a great sport with all of the teasing about the squirmin and campground program; it was fun to relax by the river and just chat. I have never known anyone but Dennis to go on a hike with a bag of Doritos and not offer any to his fellow hikers; he is also the only one I know that can eat an entire bag and not gain a pound. We hope this is only the first of many camping summers with friends and trust future trips will yield even more Top 15 memories.
Read on for the second installment in a three part series as we count down our recent camping memories to #1. If you missed the first installment, you can read it here.
10. “Mom! I stepped in poo.” – Within minutes of our arrival at Cougar Rock Campground one of the four boys said those words. Seriously how is that possible? The campsite was surrounded by lots of woods that now needed to be searched, because if it wasn’t found on the ground, it would be found on another child’s shoe. This scenario repeated three more times, including Jack stepping in dog poo moments after getting out of the trailer one morning that we got a 5 a.m. wake up call from Will. That is just not fair before the coffee is ready.
9. Another dead battery at Rainier – As we loaded the kids in the car in the car Tom walked up and said, “Hey, want to try out that battery jump box?” Their battery had run down over night after using a cooler/frig that plugs into the car’s cigarette lighter. After a quick jump we were on our way and Jim and I both remarked that at least it wasn’t us this time.
8. Making the fire from scratch – Right after we arrived at Cougar Rock, Jim and I realized that we had forgotten the lighter fluid to start the charcoal (I bought the wrong kind.) After ten minutes of trying to get the fire started, even with some borrowed lighter fluid from a neighbor, all we had was smoke. Jim and Tom decided to give up and drive a few miles hoping there would be a store. But I remembered the old saying, where there is smoke there is fire. So, with some pinecones, cracker boxes, hard work and lots of smoke I got the fire going. The guys came back with five bags of Matchlite to find a nice fire. To Jim’s credit he told Tom in the car that I would probably have the fire going when they got back.
7. “Sarah!!!” – After the fire was resolved and dinner was actually in process the Faleys got a glimpse into our relationship. I was helping the kids pick up the toys that were spread over the main path and Jim asked me where the foil was. I told him and then went back to picking up toys. All of a sudden I hear “Sarah. Sarah! Sarah!!!” My response was “what!” (as in “Can’t you see I am doing something?”) Of course the rest of the night that was the joke anytime anyone needed anything.
6. Laughing at the campfire – One of our favorite parts of the night when camping is the campfire after the kids are in bed. Most nights we end up laughing so hard that we are almost crying. Whether it is telling old stories from childhood or early married life or having Jim and Dennis riffing about the bait and tackle shop they want to open (that is for a password protected blog of another nature.) There is also just something about red wine at a campfire, it just tastes so good and helps with the laughter.
Check in tomorrow for numbers five through one. Do you have any idea what will be number one?
As this summer is rapidly unfolding – dubbed “The Year of the DeNikes” by one of our friends – we have already logged three camping trips throughout our visually stunning state of Washington. We have traveled to some amazing sites with wonderful friends and returned home with indelible memories. The last two camping trips (in two weeks) have inspired a “Camping Top 15” blog series because frankly a “Top 10” just wasn’t enough to capture it all. So read on for the first of three installments as we count it down to #1.
Two weeks ago we traveled with the Yocums (Dennis & Allison) to Iron Creek campground in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest on the east side of Mt. St. Helens. Last weekend we joined the Faleys (Tom & Jen) in the Mt. Rainier National Forest at Cougar Rock campground in the shadow of the mighty Mt. Rainier. Both trips yielded a profusion of experiences – read on for numbers 15 through 11:
15. Perfect weather – Although this summer has been anything but beautiful, we actually had amazing weather on both weekends. Not a drop of rain and each morning we woke to blue skies. There is nothing like looking out the window when camping to see blue sky above the trees.
14. Have you seen my glasses? – On our first night with the Faleys, Tom misplaced his glasses at the campfire. Unfortunately he found them under the bottom of his shoe. Somehow I was able to get both lenses back into the frames, although they are hopelessly scratched. But they worked well enough for him to see his wine glass around the campfire.
13. Wally’s Drive-In and Basecamp Grill – We have started our own tradition (inspired by the Yokums) of finding a fun, local place to eat lunch on the drive home. On the first weekend, we finally hit the road about 12:30 and were hoping to eat soon after our departure. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything until almost 3 p.m. Luckily, we had snacks for the kids and Wally’s Drive-In in Buckley was worth the wait. Having learned our lesson from the week before, we picked a place early on the drive home from Rainier, the Basecamp Grill in Ashford. Both places were exactly what we were craving — soft serve ice cream and burgers.
12. Playing at the Cispus river “dung pool” – If that description doesn’t scream “family fun” then what does, right? From our campsite at Iron Creek, the Cispus river was about a five minute walk. The river was very cold and moving extremely fast thanks to our late and cold spring, but we found a rock beach area that had a small pool fed by the river and kept full by a fallen tree and a rock dam. We nicknamed it the “dung pool”, because the water was pretty cloudy. The kids had so much fun playing in and around the pool. The parents loved sitting on the rock beach watching and sipping cocktails. Saturday it was quite hot so Jim and Dennis decided to move their chairs into the river.
11. Tripping in the hole – At Iron Creek an enormous tree had fallen through the Yocum’s campsite. It was great for the kids but a challenge to navigate. A portion of the fallen tree that ran through the actual site was removed leaving a large ditch, named “the hole”, that happened to run right under the picnic table. I think we all tripped in the hole every time we walked up to that side of the table. We all even joked about stepping in it the next time and usually did.
Check in tomorrow for numbers 10 through 6. Camping memories are endless and often formed from the unexpected. What are your Top Camping Memories?