We went to Governor Dodge park on Thursday, and came back Sunday. We only numbered 4 this time: Eldest Son was working, Eldest Daughter was working, and Middle Daughter was preparing to move to college. (Of course it isn't that far to move, but she wants to stay on campus and is willing to work to cover the cost.)
Of course Youngest Daughter and Youngest Son squabbled; enough to tempt me to title this "Trails and Tribulations," but on the whole we had a good time.
Forgot the tent stakes (oops), the second tarp (but we had a spare tablecloth), the handbroom and dustpan (for keeping the tent clean of course), dishpans (oh no!), and water bottles (oops) and the hand soap (uh oh). The forecast was for thunderstorms, so I decided against taking the awning. I should have brought it along anyway; we had no high winds, and shade from sun and from rain are wonderful things.
Youngest Son and I hiked to the falls. He's fearless about cliff edges: I'm not. He's got a good eye: we spotted things like a hole where a sapling had been uprooted that was taken over for a wasp's nest. When we came back 2 hours later we discovered that my wife had thought I was waking her up instead of telling her to keep resting; and that breakfast had been an hour and a half before.
The hot-dog bag leaked and filled with icewater. I know what we're having tonight! (Note to self: seal all meats/veggies in freezer bags before sticking them in the cooler).
Oddly enough, Youngest Daughter, though far more sedentary than Youngest Son, kept up better on the trails that afternoon, though we had to sit her down and make her eat grapes to keep herself hydrated. Youngest Son hung on my elbow as though he wanted to be pulled along the path. The path to the cave (used by a foreclosed-upon farm family) was clear when you realized where it was (other side trails looked quite reasonable--we kept thinking we'd walked farther than we really had). We made it back just before it started sprinkling. Rain made lighting a campfire a bit tough Friday, but perhaps I should have been more patient and started later.
The kids made sand castles by the beach (we made a sand gecko). You could see in the sand under the water footprints of a heron and raccoon. Youngest Son rebuilt part of a rock dam in the creek.
What did we have? A touch of hay fever (fields of goldenrod). Very brisk nights. Kids complaining about each other. Several trips to WalMart to get missing camp gear. Air mattresses that went flat.
What didn't we end up with? Mosquitoes. Raccoons eating our Oreos. Much rain. Anybody getting seriously sick. No poison ivy, either (they're very good about clearing that stuff away).
What did we see? A number of maple "funnel trees" with many trunks growing out of a single center. A U-tree, with a horizontal branch at the ground leading to a second trunk three feet away. A wedding party. A cat-bird and vultures. A hummingbird sitting still! A ranger trying to explain that campsites weren't interchangeable. Puffballs. A boulder on the trail that must have fallen out of a rock wall the day before. Ashes, elms, walnuts, spring houses, meadows, small caves, burbling creeks with jewel-weed in bloom.
Saturday night was beautifully clear, and I saw a few meteors. Another camper tried to find the Big Dipper while waiting for his daughter: I showed him where it really was and mentioned meteors. He said his daughter had never seen any before, and he was just mentioning them to her when she saw her first streak through the sky. (She insisted that it was a comet.)
It isn't quiet out in the forest. The crickets kept up a constant noisy background to almost everything. The catbird meowed bitterly that we camped in its territory. Coyotes howled at night, the neighbors' dogs barked, a bird that sounded like a rusty hinge chirped. We heard the squirrels chittering, the chee-chee-chee of a bird we never identified, the loud moans of the double-breasted bed thrasher and the annoyed grouse of the sleepless camper.
We didn't bring a radio, or much in the way of books--I only found out about the hurricane when casually mentioning the weather to another camper. It is tempting to try to stay connected, but then you lose the benefit of being away from it all. Of course we weren't entirely "away from it all." I like plumbing (Youngest Son found the rarely used pit-potties more comfortable than the crowded shower building, though), faucets in the campgrounds had running water we could fill up the camp-pot from, and we checked the cellphone regularly to see if there was some urgent message about my mother-in-law's condition. But aside from a few amenities we had no radio, no phone, no newspaper, no email; nothing but us and some simple chores and some beautiful landscape where we were guests and not supervisors.