The other day I mentioned allowing myself to live on whimsy for a little while. After I mentioned planning a camping trip, someone asked me if this would allow me that whimsy-living time. This gave me a bit of a pause because camping is a lot of work. It’s a lot of work get prepare for the trip–it’s not as though you can just run out to the market if you’ve forgotten something (depending on where you are camping). It’s a lot of work during the trip–oh goodness gracious is camping a lot of work. And it’s a lot of work coming home from camping–just trying to get rid of that campfire smell is work enough!
But despite my tendencies to stress-out easily over silly things, I absolutely love camping and the freedom I feel.
I didn’t grow up in a camping family. I attended a few church camps over the years and loved those trips, but my dad’s joke is that his idea of camping is staying at a Holiday Inn. We experienced a lot as kids, but camping as a family was not one of them. It wasn’t until Scott and I were just barely married that I camped for the first timein a tent, and I absolutely fell in love.
Since that first camping trip, we’ve taken a few others with my mom, sisters, and brother as well as other camping trips just as a couple. After we had kids, we knew we didn’t want to camp under the stars with little ones (big huge kuddos to those families who do it with little ones!), so we cut our camping until two years ago when we borrowed a camper. I’ve shared a bit of our huge camping tripwe took last year, and I’m already looking forward to some of the camping we have planned for this year. While it isn’t always sunshine and roses camping with little ones, I’m hoping that we can pass on our love of outdoors and camping with them.
Things I Love About Camping
I could tell you all about the park that we visited (Lake Bob Sandlin, about two hours east of Dallas), but I thought I’d share what I love about camping instead.
Dining Alfresco Makes Everything Tastier
Here’s where we are a little spoiled with the camper–though we cook everything outside, we don’t have to worry about refrigeration or storage. But even before we had “real” plates and silverware, camp meals have always been so delicious. Chili, hobo packs, fajitas, burgers, pancakes and bacon. There’s nothing like tucking into a good meal in the open.
We won’t mention the smell of bug spray or how filthy we might be by the end of the day. Ok, or the allergies that plague us. Being surrounded by nature has such a calming and refreshing effect.
Sometimes it’s tough to escape the internet, even on phones, but I love the feeling of being absolutely focused in the right here and now while we are camping. When we retreat to the campground, it’s amazing how all of my other worries and concerns just disappear.
Messy Hands = Happy Hearts
Digging in dirt, bubbles spilled all over hands, sticky drippy ice cream, layers of bug spray and sunscreen. Sweat. No one cares!
I’ve been teaching Elle the art to perfectly roasting a marshmallow. I like mine caught just a little on fire…several times.
As a family we normally spend quite a bit time together, but this is time together without distractions. There are chores that need to be done, but we all chip in and help. But mostly, we can simply enjoy each other’s company and have a silly good time.
No Schedules, No Time-lines
No set time to eat breakfast. No agenda for the day. Lots of room for improvisation. Dinner is served whenever it is cooked. Bedtime? What? While camping can be a lot of work (how many damn trips do I have to take back and forth to get all of the food ready for Scott to cook!), there is something so relaxing about letting go of the regular daily worries. I don’t experience this on any other kind of vacation. So does camping allow me to experience whimsy-time? Absolutely.
Now if I could just recover from all that laundry!!
Well, the title should actually be “Went Camping” as we’re already done, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it.
For years Scott and I have talked about getting a camper. Talk talk talk. We both enjoy being outdoors and there is such a short window of camping time in Texas because of the extreme summer heat, so tent camping only takes us so far. Plus, you know, the kids. I know we could camp in tents with kids, but we’re kind of wimpy that way.
Finally, after enough talk, we got a small camper a few weeks ago. We took our first trip this past weekend to Beavers Bend State Park in southeastern Oklahoma, about three hours from home. Sunshine was in the forecast when we planned the trip, but unfortunately the rain sent us home a night early. We took advantage of the dry time that we did have and had a blast. I can’t wait until we can go on our next trip. I’m hoping there are many adventures and memories ahead for our little family.
Beavers Bend is a gorgeous park but the RV sites are first come, first serve with very few reserved spots (which are reserved out for weeks). What we are finding is that our “fly by the seat” travel philosophy doesn’t fit well with camping as spots go quickly. We are having this trouble with Yellowstone for this summer as people have been reserving for a year! I think the weather thwarted many campers’ plans this weekend, though, and we got lucky with a lovely riverside campsite.
The girls did great camping. Elle loved it and we “hiked” out to the different playgrounds and a little stream down the way. Elle loves exploring and has no qualms with getting a little (or a lot) dirty. The fresh air did us all amazing good. Our one oversight was not bringing a baby carrier other than the hefty hiking pack or bringing anywhere to set her down outside. She hung out in the hiking pack much of the time but it wasn’t ideal.
Both girls slept well in the camper–Evie was so tired that she ended up sleeping until 10:30 the next morning after one early morning nursing. I wondered how she would sleep in the pack and play but she didn’t make a single peep after I put her down for sleep. On Saturday we cooked breakfast (outdoor cooking might just be my favorite part of camping), played outside, and then drove around the park exploring while it rained. We ate pizza at a local restaurant before deciding to pack up and head back to Dallas as a huge storm was headed our way. I’m sad our trip got caught a little short but it was a wonderful time together.
ROAD TRIP AUGUST 2009 South Dakota / Yellowstone, Wyoming
Scott and I have been talking about going to Yellowstone for several months, but I always figured it would be one of those things that we talked about but never did–kind of like Europe (hint hint). I also knew that I wanted to go to Mount Rushmore and The Badlands, but all of those things are so far away and not really on the way to anything.
It wasn’t until I saw that Sturgis Bike Week was the first week of August that I really pushed for the trip. With a short window of time, we decided we’d head to South Dakota and then head over to Yellowstone. We basically planned our entire trip within a week’s period of time!
We decided we’d leave on Friday night, but I had a party to attend, so we didn’t end up leaving until 10:00 at night.
That first night we drove through Oklahoma and Kansas. We hit some really bad storms in Kansas (although I slept through most of it), but finally hit Topeka at dawn. The next day we drove through Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.
THE BADLANDS, SOUTH DAKOTA
It was a long day driving through South Dakota, but we finally got to The Badlands around 7:00. Knowing that we wouldn’t have time to drop our stuff off at the hotel in Rapid City, we continued on the loop through the park. The scenery was absolutely amazing and it was especially nice driving through at dusk when the sun made the formations really red. We saw some Pronghorn and Prairie Dogs, which made me really excited to see even more wildlife.
Exhausted and stinky from being on the road for 23 hours, we hit the bed pretty quickly once we got to our hotel in Rapid City.
BLACK HILLS, SOUTH DAKOTA
The next morning we woke early to head out to Mount Rushmore since we had agreed to meet my friend Lisa and her family at 10:00. We were on the bike and the ride was a lot of fun, but I could already tell it was going to be much warmer than we anticipated!
We had an absolute blast driving through the Black Hills–the mountains (sorry, hills) are gorgeous and the weather couldn’t have been better. Mount Rushmore was probably a little less impressive than I was expecting, but it was still really neat to see. What was more impressive was the Crazy Horse Memorial. It looks like they are making slow progress on the sculpting, but even what they have finished is really amazing.
I think our favorite thing about the entire day was driving through the hills with all of the other bikers. We stopped for lunch in Hill City and oogled all of the bikes. Even though we got some strange looks for our non-Harley ride, it was really cool to be amongst so many other people all doing the same thing. It was like the hills were made for bikes. We drove through Custer State Park before we realized the day had gotten away from us and we needed to be back in Rapid City for dinner with Lisa and her family.
Crazy Horse Memorial
BLACK HILLS RALLY 2009
After wearing ourselves out the day before, we prepared ourselves for yet another busy day. We headed out early in the morning towards Deadwood, but we ran into some pretty nasty weather. Luckily by the time we got to Deadwood, the sun had come out and no more rain was in sight. Deadwood is home to Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane, so we went to a little museum (yes, I know…but what’s a trip without at least one trip to the museum?) and afterwards grabbed some lunch. The streets and parking lots were full of bikes and we knew that this was just a little taste of what was ahead of us in Sturgis. We had an absolute blast and really enjoyed the hubbub.
Deadwood, South Dakota
We finally headed out to Sturgis from Deadwood. I can’t even begin to describe just how many bikes were in this little podunk town. Hundreds of thousands, I would guess. None of these pictures do the mayhem any justice and Scott and I were both in complete awe. Honestly, though, we both preferred the atmosphere in Deadwood where everyone was joined to have a great time. Sturgis seemed really commercialized–miles of street front lined with tents selling t-shirts. We still had a good time, despite the heat, and found some ice cream (to make Trish happy), but a few hours was plenty of time for us both.
Sturgis, South Dakota
Hill City, South Dakota
We did manage, however, to ham it up a bit (like the true tourists we are). Below I’m handcuffed to the Police Truck and Scott is enjoying himself on an Indian. Dream on little boy!
ROAD TO YELLOWSTONE
And on the road again. On our way out of South Dakota and into Wyoming, we stopped at Devil’s Tower, which is the first national monument. I’m a sucker for stuff like this, so of course I made Scott take the minor detour.
The trip to Yellowstone turned out to be quite a long one, but it was really gorgeous (mostly). Sorry for those of you in Wyoming–I don’t think I can claim it as my favorite state. So much open space, and I’m a sucker for open space. We ran into some bad weather outside of Big Horn National Park, but once we made it into the mountains, the weather cleared up a lot. The drive through the mountains was mostly good until we ran into a bit of construction. As you can see from one of the pictures below, for a few miles there was no road at all! Just a dirt path. Yikes…
Most of the pictures below are taken in Big Horn National Park, Wyoming.
Why is it that we’re always getting to the national parks just at dusk. On our last roadtrip out west, we ended up driving through Yosemite in complete darkness! But made it we did. The landscape right before Yellowstone, coming through Cody was phenomenal. It was amazing to me how each mile brought on different types of rock formations and mountains.
The following pictures are of our various campsites. We got to our first campsite in Grant Village about 10:00 pm. I learned how to set up the tent for the first time while Scott worked on building the campfire. It had been raining, again, but luckily it stopped just as we were setting up camp. Throughout our four-day stay in Yellowstone we camped at three different sites: Grant Village, Madison, and Bridge Bay (see tent picture below). I think of the three, Madison was my favorite. It is set in the mountains where as the others are closer to Lake Yellowstone. All were nicely wooded, though. Man I love camping!
For the most part the weather was really nice during our stay. The first day was gorgeous and actually a little on the hot side. We had some rain the last two days, but what can you do? At night it slipped down to the 30s, but it really only felt cold our last night since it had been raining in the evening and the sun didn’t have a chance to warm us up. My toes nearly froze off that night, but we managed OK. We cooked most of our meals on our little camp stove, which was a life saver. No more campfire dinners, which are such a pain!
Trish and Scott, Yellowstone
On our first day we saw all of the geysers and hot springs in the Lower Basin. The steam from the geysers and hot springs was really hot, but it was amazing to look at all of the different natural formations.
One of the most exciting things for me, at first, was seeing the wildlife. I kind of whined to Scott about not seeing anything, but once we saw one we saw hundreds. There were more Bison than we could count, which often caused traffic jams on the roads, and we also saw numerous Elk and Muledeer.
One of my favorite things about Yellowstone was The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and seeing the falls. Unfortunately we ran into some bad weather that afternoon and had to head to the Canyon Lodge (for some ice cream), but seeing the canyons was just another example at how vastly different the scenery is in Yellowstone.
On our last day we headed up to the Mammoth Hot Springs on the very northern edge of Yellowstone. We quickly drove into Montana, just so we could say we were there, and then headed to the hot springs themselves. The northern part of Yellowstone is much more mountainous than the lower half, but the hot springs stuck out in the landscape where the hills were barren of any trees.
I really wish that Yellowstone were closer to Texas, because I would head back in a heartbeat. We only had three full days, and we were originally only supposed to have two days but knew we couldn’t see it all in such a short period of time.
After our last [freezing] night, we woke early early in the morning and headed home. We stopped the night in Pueblo, Colorado and it was wonderful to sleep in a real bed versus an air mattress. Although it was a great trip, we were both glad to be back home in the end.
The camping trip is over, but it went by so quickly. It is agreed that we all desperately need a shower, but we all had such a great time! We cooked one last breakfast on the fire and packed up the tents. I was sad that the camping portion of our trip was over, but we still had a few hours to kill…so we headed to the marina and rented a pontoon boat to cruise around Lake Texoma.
Again, we were blessed with a gorgeous day, and even though it was a little chilly on the boat, we enjoyed the November sunshine. We were only on the boat for about an hour, but wewere able to see a lot of the Texas and Oklahoma shoreline. I’ve camped on the Oklahoma side of Texoma before, but both sides proved to be very beautiful. I had my qualms about heading an hour away from home, but I would come back to Eisenhower Park in a heartbeat. The campsites were clean and spacious (we actually had two sites next to each other since we had 3 tents).
The boat ride was a blast; Chaz drove most of the time while the rest of us hung out. We had a few issues with going too close to the shore and dragging up the lake bottom and Chaz spraying everyone with water, but mostly the trip was scenic and relaxing. After leaving Texoma, we went to quickly see the dam, which was pretty impressive although I don’t have pictures. On the way home we stopped at Carls Jr for one last meal (yes, we love our food!) and called it a trip. We all had such a great time and can’t wait for our next camping trip! Texas is so varied that there are a number of options. Hopefully the winter will be short so we can take our next weekend camping trip soon!
CAMPING DAY 2: Eating, Hiking, Napping, Eating!!! Scott, Chaz, and I were the first ones up in the morning, so we started cooking breakfast. Truthfully it took a little while for Chaz and Scott to get the fire started (weren’t you guys in boy scouts??), but soon we were on our way! We cooked eggs, pancakes, bacon, and sausage. It was a little tough to get everything organized and cooking the way we wanted it, […]
EISENHOWER STATE PARK, TEXAS (DAY 1) We’ve talked about taking a family camping trip for years, but since we Kuettel girls have never truly experienced camping–yes, camping in a tent, all we’ve done is talk. Finally, we picked a date, Chaz recommended Eisenhower State Park on Lake Texoma (Texas side), and off we were! Scott and I both worked on Friday, so we met everyone around 8:00. Eisenhower SP is about a hour north of […]