For first time that I can recall, Shira and I went camping and it didn't rain! In fact, the weather was ideal: no rain, warm enough that summer clothes were perfect, yet cool enough that you could zip into your sleeping bag and enjoy the cocoon. Seriously, it was the kind of weather that makes camping effortless. On any given trip this would have been great, but this trip it was especially appreciated. For this trip was the first time we took Dovid, Chana and Tzipora (DCT) camping. We did car camping at Cunningham Falls State Park and the whole experience was pretty much glorious.
We arrived Tuesday night after slogging through some brutal traffic, to find our site (#149 in the Houck Area Elderberry Loop) exceeded expectations. It was a short walk from the bathroom, but directly across from a water spigot. Behind the site was a wooded area filled with interesting rock formations for the kids (and, uh, me) to play on. It's a shame we only had one night in the site, as I could easily have seen letting the kids run wild back there.
This is our second car camping trip this summer, and we're getting spoiled. This whole idea of chucking heaps of stuff in the car does have some appeal to it. Though I definitely miss the precision required for a backpacking trip. Each kid had their own bedroll, consisting of a foam pad, a sheet and a random fleece blanket. That, plus a flashlight each, was pretty much their gear for the trip. To the kids credit, they never kvetched about the setup; I was waiting for one to demand a purple blanket like the other had or such nonsense, but it never came.
While our classic Timberline tent is big by most standards, there was no way it was going to hold all 5 of us. So we splurged and picked up a Kelty Discovery 6 Man Tent. I've got to say, I really liked it. The thing not only has a large footprint, but it's tall - at a peak height of 5'11', I can basically stand up in the tent. Shira doesn't like the door configuration, and as I mentioned above, the weather was perfect, so I've no idea how it does in the rain. But for my purposes it was awesome.
Dinner Tuesday night was our standard campfire fare: hot-dogs, beans and marshmallows. The kids enjoyed it, though Tzipora decided she didn't like hot dogs, which is pretty much unacceptable in this household. Still, dinner was a success.
Best of all, everyone slept on Tuesday night. Sure, Dovid managed to kick me in the face a couple of times (no mean trick, considering I was sleeping next to him at head level), but other than that, it was a perfect night.
Wednesday morning we had our standard oatmeal breakfast and then we tore down camp. It never ceases to amaze me how a neatly packed car (or van, in this case), can turn into a knot of chaos when packing up camp. Once we checked out of our campsite, we made our way to the trail head to the falls (hence, Cunningham Falls park). All started out well enough, until about 10 paces in, Tzipora decided she was done with hiking for the day. She wanted to skip it, and go right to swimming. As I negotiated with her to keep moving, Shira had her hands full convincing the Twins that it was not necessary to race to each blaze on the tree (and therefore, declare a winner and have a crying loser). Eventually, we got it all straightened out. Tzipora learned that to get to the swimming we had to first do the hike, and Shira worked out a strategy with the twins: one would walk point for two blazes, then they'd calmly switch, repeating the process the entire hike. Once we got those ground rules figured out, the hike went smoothly. We covered a mile and a half, and there was not one complaint about being tired. Little Tzipora marched up the cliff trail like there was nothing to it. Dovid bravely inspected a cave and reported back that only a single spider lived back there, and Chana hopped from rock to rock without a care in the world at the stream crossing. At one point we came across a small toad the kids eagerly inspected, Dovid going so far as to pick him up. Not bad for a city slicker.
The kids really do amazing on the trail, and when they are old enough, they're totally going to be my backpacking buddies.
After the trail, we hit the swimming area for some beach time. Cunningham Falls park is home to a relatively small lake, which was the perfect swimming area for the kids. The water wasn't especially warm, but that didn't slow the kids down one bit. The water was only a couple of feet deep, so they could play all they wanted without needing to worry about overdoing it. I brought along our inflatable boat, and the kids eventually warmed to sitting in it. Dovid didn't take kindly to me (gently) dumping him out of the boat, and wanted to know why the lifeguard didn't rescue him when his life was clearly in danger. I tried to explain to him that when he stood up, he towered over the water, but he didn't seem to care. Yeah, I'll probably be hearing from his lawyer.
After swimming time, we had lunch and then headed back home. As camping areas go, Cunningham Falls was just about perfect. The campground was clean and the bathrooms quite acceptable. The trails were perfect for the kids, and the swimming was a nice bonus to add on to it. In some respects, Point Lookout had better facilities and more interesting swimming, but not nearly the hiking opportunities. So they are both good options. Even on a Wednesday, Cunningham was pretty busy, I can't imagine what it's like during peak season on a weekend.
I'm already starting to plan next year's trip...