Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Camping trip!

[Katie's birthday post, now way over-hyped, coming eventually]

The kids finished school on June 7 which is a good two weeks before anyone else around here finishes school.  This gave us 2 weeks of enjoying summer activities with very few other kids around.  We're all about avoiding people, so yay!

To that end, we booked a cabin in the mountains for a few nights.  Specifically, we booked a cabin at a campground about 10 minutes away from where the two big kids are going to be attending a 3-day/2-night sleep-away camp later this summer.  I had chatted with the director when we applied and asked about some details; she had encouraged us to stop by if we were ever "in the neighborhood". Um, we live 5-6 hours away.  We're never in the neighborhood.  So we made our own neighborhood and ended up nearby after all.

We left early Tuesday morning and drove for about 3 weeks through pouring rain, partial flooding, road construction, detours, and small towns.  We got to the campground at 3:45 ready to burst out of the car.  The park has a security gate and keypad, but of course we didn't know the code yet.  The call button didn't work.  I ran through the rain to the registration/gift shop building and it was locked up and dark with a note stuck to the door saying to call a 7-digit number.  Ok, 3 problems: I don't know the local area code at this point; our cell phones had zero reception in the mountains; and the payphone on the wall does not work either.

So we motored back up the road to a convenience store and deli.  They let us use their phone where I then left a message (!!) saying we had a reservation and would be awaiting their return call at...."um, where are we?.... and what's the number here?  And is that ok with you all?" Right, so thanks!

We sat and ate chips and played Qwirkle (a Katie bday gift) and waited.  Around 5 they called and we headed back, even less optimistic than before.  As it turns out, they'd been struck by lightening the night before and lost power in most of the camp and some of the generators, so the camp director had been out with the utility people all afternoon dealing with various recovery issues.  Fair enough; all good.

Our cabin, Loon Lodge (I know, right!?) was lovely.  It had a ladder leading upstairs which had two double-bed mattresses.  Downstairs had a 1/2 bath with vanity; a queen bed mattress on a platform; a bookshelf with a lamp; a large dorm fridge, small microwave and 4-cup coffee maker; more shelving for storage; a rod with a dozen hangers and storage above; a broom, dustpan, and basket of cleaning chemicals; 4-bin garbage sorting system; a folding table that seated 4 and 4 folding chairs; another lamp mounted to the wall; and a ceiling fan/light fixture.  And an electric space heater.  And a flat-screen TV on the wall (which was wiped out by the lightening).

Yep, roughing it.

Outside was a fire pit and a small charcoal grill with some utensils; plus a picnic table and two chairs with side tables on the covered porch.

Seriously, it sounds like a lot, but still "as rough or rougher" than camping with an RV or pop-up that also has a billion comforts.  Just right for a soggy, chilly family trip with a potty-training boy, a boy that uses the restroom nearly every night at some point, and a mom (and daughter) that like things tidy and clean-ish.  I must have swept that cabin four times a day to get all the pine needles out!

DSC_6080.JPG We unloaded the car, made up the beds, hung up our wet stuff, and cranked up the heater.  I think it was 55 degrees that day.  We were so close to Canada, that the few times I did manage to get a connection my phone cheerfully welcomed me abroad and gave me details on how to make calls back to the US (we never crossed the border; didn't bring appropriate IDs and weren't interested this time anyhow).

The kids loved the loft.  August really loved going up and down the ladder as often as possible.  He'd stop and straddle a step near the top, lean back hanging by his fingertips, and try sliding through the rungs.  I spent much of the trip freaking out.

It was still raining.  The locals said they'd never seen so much rain in a season.  The lakes were all flooding; the rivers were raging, everything was soggy.  Yay for a dry cabin!  We opted to microwave some cheese-on-bread and the soup that I'd packed, rather than deal with a grill in the downpour.  We played some games, made our plans for the next day, and took a short walk with our umbrellas during a drizzle.  There was a restroom/shower/game room facility about 50 yards away.  The game room had about 40 different board games, several baskets of books ranging from toddler board-books to murder mysteries, some puzzles, and the big things: ping-pong, air-hockey, and skee ball (all free), plus an X-box (I think?) and a video poker screen.  We didn't touch either of those, but we played with everything else for an hour or so that night before heading back to Loon Lodge.

Wednesday was gorgeous.  We hoped to go on a row boat, but the water was too high and it was windy so they wouldn't rent out boats.  The trails were all pretty soggy, but we picked our way along one.

DSC_6122.JPG We had lunch and a rest; Katie beat me at Scrabble, and then we headed over to the kids' campground in the afternoon.  The director met us and showed us everything: girls cabins, boys cabins, restrooms and showers, mess hall, swimming beach, fishing dock, boat dock/house, playground area, firepit/story area, infirmary---we're all set.  The kids even each got a piece of cake from the mess hall and declared the food delicious.  They can't wait to go back.

Back at camp, we did another walk-about and played on the playground (also about 50 yards from our cabin). I taught Katie the basics of 4-square and vollyball bumps; Jorge worked on basketball; Jorge and August dug in a sand box with giant Tonka trucks--general happiness.  Rob got the grill going and made us a dinner of hotdogs, grilled onions, grilled peppers and carrots, and boiled salt potatoes.  It started raining toward the end and we worried we may have to cancel the marshmallow toast which sent Jorge into a panic (he does not handle it well when a plan falls through).  In the end, we had marshmallows and a nice night and headed to bed.

Thursday (yes, it felt as long as this post!), the directors told us we could stay until late afternoon since no one was using the cabin until Friday; but we loaded up after breakfast, did a walk in the drizzle, and decided we were done.  At 10:30 we headed toward a local diner and loaded up on french fries, chicken, bacon, chips, and pie (bumbleberry pie: the kids were in awe).  From there we headed about 20 minutes north to the actual boyhood homestead of Almanzo Wilder (the boy who would grow up and marry Laura Ingalls).  One of her books, Farmer Boy, tells the story of Almanzo from ages 8-10, roughly.  The house and barns are completely restored to their condition from the 1860's and had some of the stuff from key parts of the book on display.  They were really generous with letting the kids touch stuff and interact, which was fun.  After the guided tour, they let us run the grounds as much as we wanted except that we were not allowed back into the house or barns without a guide.  We went down to Trout River and explored the gardens a little, finally leaving at 4:30 (ahem, after buying 2 books and a dozen post cards; it's us.)
The pumphouse sat uphill and the water flowed through a
channel to the trough in the barnyard.  Rob's inside pumping.
We drove forever and ever.  I think we're still driving until next Tuesday.  In the end, we got home around 8:30.  I retrieved Daphne from the family who had dog-sat for her and we unpacked, laundered, aired out, and dried everything.

In all, it was a really great trip and we'll go back soon.  Hopefully this time a little dryer.

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