When the kids and I offered Ian the choice of a gift along with a fancy meal out or unplugged family time in a tent for the weekend to celebrate Father's Day, we already knew what his answer would be.
After all, he is in his element grooming the kids to be efficient little campsite "setter uppers."
Our family works pretty much like an oiled machine when it comes to pitching a tent and getting a campfire started these days. Within an hour the tent was up, sleeping bags were unrolled and we were enjoying our dinner. That left just enough time for s'mores and a few rounds of a storytelling game before calling it a night.
Saturday mornings at the campsite are the best. No rush at all, just taking it easy in our pajamas.
The slower pace of life as we wait for pancakes and sausage is a welcome change from the usual hustle and bustle.
One of our neighbors had just given us an army men set that includes soldiers from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and both World Wars. On a whim I grabbed the container and tossed it into the van along with our camping supplies. Once the soldiers came out all the kids were drawn in and while it was a bit unusual to occasionally see a tank amidst the Redcoats, the kids had a blast reenacting bits of wars they've learned about in history classes. Ian and I enjoyed getting a glimpse at the perceived "good guys" and "bad guys" of the wars in their minds.
Eventually breakfast had been consumed and the dishes were cleaned up and we headed off to our first hike of the weekend. Back in April Ian and I had the chance for a weekend getaway and had stopped to hike Catawba Falls on the way to our destination. We both commented then that we thought the kids would love the hike, so that swayed Ian's choice of where we camped for Father's Day.
The weather was perfect that day! Sunny and warm, but not hot.
Even though hiking isn't quite "her thing," itty bit did okay as long as she could hold Daddy's hand.
And while I was more than content to just watch the water rushing down the mountain, the siren song of the water spoke loudly to our kids.
We picnicked at the base of the main falls and just soaked in the serenity of the area.
The kids also enjoyed a bit of "rock scrambling" in the river.
Then it was time to head up partway to the upper falls. (There was an area even higher up that we had checked out back in the spring, but not all of our crew is quite up to the correct agility level yet...)
Ian in his element with his kiddos.
Father's Day camping = perfection.
The evening was pretty much a carbon copy of the night before. Dinner. S'mores. Storytelling games.
Everyone crashing quickly from exhaustion...
Likewise, breakfast Sunday was mostly a repeat of the previous morning.
Pancakes, sausage, melon, coffee (for Mommy and Daddy) and lots of smiles.
Sunday we tackled the main hike within South Mountains State park where we camped.
Ian and I stuck to the trail most of the time, but our kids were happier to rock scramble in the river as it meandered along beside the path.
In addition to great views of a beautiful waterfall,
the High Shoals trail allows you to explore the geology of the area. One favorite was a giant outcropping of granite that had been exposed in an otherwise heavily wooded area.
And did I mention the rock scrambling?
Another favorite moment for the boys was the discovery of a real live dung beetle.
I mean, what's cooler than a beetle rolling around a ball of poop?
After a bit the trail turns away from the water and just takes you to a peaceful place. On this section of the trail we didn't encounter anyone else for almost an hour. Just dappled sunshine and serenity.
So amazingly beautiful.
Eventually we popped back out near a river.
Not as many rocks, so scrambling was quickly adapted to scrambling/wading.
I can't begin to describe just how funky the laundry in the back of the van from the combo of sweat and river water smelled, but we were content.
This trip to South Mountains State Park has gone down as our most favorite camping trip yet.