Monday, April 21, 2014

Family Camping Trip to Lake Catherine 4/11-13/2014

We went to Lake Catherine State Park with the Mackey's last weekend and had a fantastic camping trip.  I hadn't been to the park in a while, so it was nice to revisit my old stomping grounds. 

The site was plenty big, and right on the lake.  The kids had tons of space to run around, get dirty, and throw things, and that's all they needed for a satisfying trip.  We also had frequent visits from the local wildlife, including two ducks who frequented our bread-throwing children, and a few really mean Canadian Geese, who, upon seeing the ducks feeding, would come honking and hissing toward our site.  We ran them off several times.

Charging the ducks with handfulls of bread was not well received.

Nate was even easier to amuse, as he was thrilled by all the leaves.
He tasted many, along with sticks, rocks, and who knows what else.

Friday evening we set up camp.  Jeremy had arrived early and set up a zipline for the kids to ride.  They had a blast.  He had also hung a great hammock that we all took turns in.  I'm pretty sure you could waste an entire day in that thing and not feel a pang of regret.

Yeah.  He's having a great time.

Sandra grilled some chicken and some chicken sausages.  They had Guy Fieri's picture on them, so we knew they would be good.  We were not disappointed.  She grilled some zucchini and pineapple, too.  All good stuff.  During the cooking, Bill found the spray can of Pam, and decided to use it as hair spray.  That was fun.

We all sat around the campfire for a while, enjoyed far too many s'mores, and had a great first night.  Jeremy and I played Farkle, several card games, while the ladies sat by the fire chatting, then we called it a night.  Sandra, the kids and I all shared a tent.  Bill slept in the double sleeping bag between us, with Nate in a playpen.  We warned the Mackeys before bed that Bill usually wakes around or before 6, and would likely come to their tent looking for his best buddy Jacob. 

Saturday, 6:12 am.
Bill gets away from me as I'm changing Nate's diaper.  The Mackeys are awakened by the floating head of our three-year-old sticking into their tent saying "Guys, it's time to get up."  
Jeremy asks, "Bill, why are you awake so early?"
Bill replies, "Because God is in my heart already."
There's just no arguing with a statement like that.  We spent quite a bit of our morning haze laughing about it, all the while watching two three-year-olds running in circles around us.  Ah, to have that kind of energy at 6am.

Bill's always up for some stick-throwing.

We had a nice breakfast - eggs, toast, potatoes and plenty of bacon...everything you need to start a day in the wilderness.  (Look, just try to stay on a diet and camp.  I dare you.  All bets were off this weekend.)  Not long after we ate, we hiked out to the waterfall. 

Nate's just taking it all in.

We opted to take the Falls Branch Trail from the end, rather than starting at the trail head.  The whole trail is about a mile and a half.  Starting from the head, it's a mile to the falls.  We figured it would be easier on the three-year-olds just to walk a half mile there and back.  The weather was perfect, and the area was gorgeous.  They had a blast.

 The water was running pretty nicely.

Bill and Nate enjoying the view from the top of the falls.
Afterward, we hit the playground for a while, then headed back to camp.  A few more trips on the zipline, more running and throwing, more feeding the animals, and the kids went down for a nap.  Nate slept longer than he's slept at naptime in days.  

 Good grief, they're getting big.  Both had a great time playing around.

 Afterward: Out like a light.

Bill refused to sleep.  After a while, Sandra took him out of the tent and stuck him in the hammock.  She told him he could hang there if he stayed quiet.  A couple of minutes later, he was out cold.
 Hard to beat a hammock for a nap.
 Sandra got to take some time to feed the ducks.  I'm sure they enjoyed her methods a lot more, since she didn't jump up and run after them every time the came up to her.  Nor did she pelt them with bread.
While the kids were down, Jeremy and I went out on the lake on his trimaran.  Pretty cool little boat. The crazy gusts of wind that were coming in that day made it interesting.  I don't think we got any pics, but here is what it looks like:

After we got back, I decided to get a jump on things and go ahead and prep the campfire for the night.  I built a nice, huge log pile, filled it with fuel and coals from the morning, then the wind came in strong and lit it a few hours before we planned.  That's ok.  I just started my s'more binge early.  We did lots of experimenting with s'mores this weekend.  Here are a few things we learned:

1. My previous post about using the coconut marshmallows was completely accurate.  They work great in s'mores, and are even better from a fire than a microwave.
2. Using chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers is awesome...naturally, with coconut marshmallows.
3. The coconut marshmallows are even better if you roast them and let them cool.  The coconut becomes a crunchy shell around a nice gooey marshmallow center.
4. Did I mention the coconut marshmallows?

The kids got to fly kites for a while, and we left our mark on the neighboring campsite by getting a Jake and the Neverland Pirates kite stuck in a tree, right over the tent pad.  It was still hanging there when we left the next day.  Jeremy grilled burgers and hot dogs, and made some home-made french fries for dinner.  Another fantastic meal.  Kids in bed, we played more cards, then off to bed.
The next day, we all got up, had another bacon-laden breakfast, and started getting ready to pack.  We were pros.  Sandra felt the first few drops of rain on its way in, which kicked us all into gear.  Even with three kids running around, we had camp packed up by 9:30. 

 Bill tried a new approach and waited patiently for Jacob Sunday morning.  
He just stood there, at the edge of their tent pad, staring at the tent and waiting.

We tried out a new trail at the park, one nearer to the entrance.  It's a nice concrete wildflower trail.  I recommend it for a nice walk when the weather is nice.  Afterward, we headed back to the playground.  It had started sprinkling on us on the way, so we floated the idea of heading into town for lunch and paying someone to feed us.  Our trip closed over apple pie and ice cream at Purple Cow.

All in all, we decided we definitely need to do this more.  You know its been a good trip when you really can't believe it's already over.  It's hard to beat having this much fun spending a weekend 20 minutes from your house.

Don't let having small kids keep you from camping once in a while!  It's totally worth the extra work.

Thanks for taking such great pictures, Jeremy Mackey!

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