July 29-31, 2016
After our Mother's/Father's Day weekend camping trips the kids begged for one last weekend in a tent before our family beach trips that would mark the end of summer.
Determined to squeeze in one last hurrah, we pushed a few things around on the calendar, managed to find a campsite at a state park we wanted to visit and headed off to Hanging Rock. Upon arrival we quickly had the tent set up and found a bit of extra time before we needed to get the campfire started for dinner.
The kiddos expressed interest in learning to whittle and so after a quick safety lesson, a good bit of time was passed with them sharpening sticks.
Dinner was followed by storytelling around the campfire while we roasted our marshmallows for s'mores.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that it was a lovely night and so we decided to leave the rain fly off the tent to promote better air circulation. Besides, it is quite nice to look up at the stars while you drift off to sleep.
Sometime around 2:30am Ian and I regretted that decision though as we awakened to a strong wind and rain drops hitting our faces. Two amazing things happened though...we managed to get the rain fly on the tent in the dark before we were completely soaked and somehow the kids totally slept through the entire ordeal. It's now become one of our favorite, "Remember that time..." stories.
Thankfully the rain blew on through and we awakened to beautiful blue skies on Saturday morning that almost left us wondering if we had both dreamed the rain. After our leisurely breakfast we began hiking. Our first easy walk brought us to the lovely Upper Cascades Falls.
From there we hiked back to the visitor's center for a quick snack break and to map out our next hike.
Hidden Falls was the gem at the end of this trail.
This time was a bit further of a hike with more elevation change, so we did a bit more exploring and relaxing here before heading on.
Next came Window Falls...we assume named because of the window in the rock right beside it.
Some of the gang decided to test the waters.
While others decided being dry for the hike out would be more pleasant.
Eventually it was time to head back to the campsite and the littlest legs were getting tired. Thank goodness for amazing older siblings who did more than their share of piggy back carrying!
In addition to the usual evening activity of building a campfire, dinner, s'mores and card games, the park had a visitor from the raptor center come present about birds of prey. All DQ needed to hear was that there was a snowy owl...
It was another beautiful night and so we threw caution to the wind (overlooking the lesson we had learned the night before) and took the rain fly back off the tent. Thankfully this time we were rewarded with cool breezes and a wonderful view of the starry sky with no raindrops.
Sunday's hike was a toss up between two destinations. A nearly four mile moderate hike or a mere 1.5 mile strenuous hike? We opted for the shorter.
Little did we realize that the elevation change in that hike was over 950 feet. Sheer exhaustion was setting in for the smaller set and so we took advantage of many stopping points to soak in the view.
As we obviously got closer and closer to the top, the oldest kids ran ahead while our itty bit was lagging sorely behind. I took off to make sure no one went too far and Ian slowed his pace, offering encouragement to press on. Just as Nat sat down and told Ian to go on without her...and he explained that the M family never leaves a man behind...the rest of us reached the fire observation tower and Caleb hollered down, "Natalie, you are almost here...keep coming! The view is AMAZING!" That was all she needed. Ian said at the sound of her big brother's voice she hopped up, started running and yelled, "See you at the top!" over her shoulder to him.
Indeed, the view did not disappoint. With the clear skies we could see for miles in all directions.
We stopped for a snack break and to fully appreciate the views for a while.
Then came the "controlled run" back down the mountain. You know, the one when your legs are completely noodlely?
Thankfully no one ate trail and we made it back down just in time to take advantage of the free admission to the lake beach. From there we headed back to the campsite, broke down camp, showered and headed home, van loaded to the brim with dirty laundry but our hearts full of camping memories.
We wonder what camping/hiking will look like with Nicholas in the mix. With his heart we may be scaling down our physical activity...but hopefully his health will allow us to continue camping in some form. At any rate, we're thankful for the three trips we squeezed in in 2016 and look forward to camping season 2017!