First, let me get this off my chest. I’m afraid my mother-in-law thinks I’m trying to kill her (I’m not). She and my father-in-law come over once a week to spend time with Gabriel and join us for dinner. She has an allergy to mammal meat. A few weeks ago, I made a stir fry with rice. The stir fry sauce recipe I adapted called for chicken broth, and then I used some of the same broth to make the rice. We quickly realized something had gone awry, and I realized after dinner that I had used beef broth, not chicken broth. The following week, I baked chicken thighs. I even used a thermometer to check the temperature of the meat (which I don’t usually do when it’s just my family, but when I have people over, I more often do). But my mother in law cut into hers, and asked if we thought it was done. Everyone, including me, agreed it looked fine – and it did. It had a little color which I chalked up to it being dark meat and having some BBQ sauce mixed in, but I suggested she cook it a bit longer if she was worried (which she did). Part of the way through my own thigh, I realized that part of it was NOT cooked through. And the remaining thigh in the dish was also NOT cooked through. Sigh. I chalk it up to the fact that they hadn’t totally thawed when I put them in the oven, so they cooked unevenly. Word to the wise. Anyway, MIL – I promise, I’m not trying to kill you.
Whew, ok. I previously wrote a post about Camping with Babies, which I’ve shared with several people recently. But in doing so, I realized that the considerations when camping with toddler are different than they were when we were camping with baby. So I thought I’d write a new post with new information. And to just record these fun trips.
We’ve been on three camping trips since my camping with babies post. Gabriel has been a walker for all of them, and while not officially a talker, is increasingly capable of making his thoughts, feelings, and preferences very well known. In general, we’re still car camping. I’m afraid we’ve missed a window for backpacking. We still have the backpack carrier for him, and we’ve used it for lots of hikes, but he’s getting quite big for it. He likes it still, but also wants up, then down, then up, then down. I don’t know that we’ll be able to use it much longer, with him so heavy and mobile. So if we’re not using it, then we’re limited by how far he can walk, which isn’t far. Dunno. Maybe we’ll just have to wait a few more years.
Without further ado:
Trip #4 (with kiddo): Sherando Lake in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Virginia
This trip was a good 3.5-hour drive from Baltimore. We again planned to meet our friend who’d camped with us in Wolf Gap in the spring and his wife, who were driving from Knoxville, TN. It was much further for them. We went for two nights, but they could only join us for the second night (which turned out to be extra unfortunate for them). My parents were visiting us in Baltimore at the time, and my father came with us on the camping trip and drove. I don’t remember much about the drive or setting up camp, but I do remember that the first night was quite cold. We went in mid-October. The next morning was also quite cold, and Gabriel was in reasonable spirits until he realized how cold his hands were because he refused to wear his mittens, and then he literally cried for an hour for the entire campground to hear. I held him and walked around with him for a long time, to no avail. He was just cold and uncomfortable. Once he got over that, everything else was fine for the day.
Dan and I took Gabriel with us on a hike in the morning. We were able to start on the trail from the campground, and it was pretty steep up for the first bit. We lost Gabriel’s hat and the dog’s leash along the way. Looking at this map, I believe we hiked the west part of the Blue Loop trail and then west on the Torry Ridge Trail. We had planned to have my father meet us where the trail intersected with the Blue Ridge Parkway, which actually worked out well, despite general lack of cell service (but good pre-planning!). My dad actually backed quite a ways up a gravel road (I think Slacks Trail in that maps) and met us partway. The hike was 5.45 miles overall for us. I was a little concerned about the length and nap time and all that, which is true of every hike we try to go on with Gabriel. I always feel like we bite off more than I think we should try to chew. But of course it was fine.
I assume Gabriel napped just fine, but have no memory of it. Our friends finally arrived that afternoon. They and Dan went back up the same hike to look for our dog’s leash, then came back another way to arrive at Sherando Lake, and I met them there on the far side of the lake with Gabriel. I think that hike for them (up the steep bit of Blue Loop Trail, east, down the other side, around the lake, and back to camp) was probably about 2.5 miles. Then we all had dinner and hangouts together around the fire, which was lovely. Then we went to bed.
And it started raining. Pouring, in fact. And our friends’ tent started leaking. And we heard them pack up at 3 in the morning, get in their car, and drive away. They’d spent maybe 10 hours total at the camp site, and had at least 10 hours of driving total. Sigh. It continued pouring into the morning with no sign it would abate any time soon, so we quickly took down camp around 8 or 8:30, put everything (including ourselves) soaking wet into the car, and drove away. Sigh.
- Sleeping: We again used the mansion tent, and Gabriel slept in the Guava Lotus pack and play inside. Since it was cold, I think he slept in the navy Columbia puffy onesie (as the outer layer of possibly several) you see in the pictures below.
- Food: He eats what we eat. So, hot dog. Oatmeal. Clif bars. Crackers, cheese. We probably had several fruit/veggie pouches as well.
- Eating ‘stuff’: Still highly recommend the bib with pouch (seen in pictures – this one is BabyBjorn but there are lots of options out there). And we brought his silicone bowl.
- Milk: We brought a cooler with milk and his sippy cup. We were still giving him milk at night at that time in his sippy cup (for the record, we stopped that when we potty trained him at the beginning of May, so about 23 months).
- Hiking: Deuter Kid Comfort child carrier.
Trip #5: Owens Creek Campground in Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland
We spent a night at Owens Creek Campground in mid to late June, when Gabriel was about two years and one month. This trip was originally scheduled for the weekend of May 1 and had been scheduled for months. We were going to go with another couple and their daughter who is around Gabriel’s age. Coronavirus through a wrench in those plans, though. Maryland state parks cancelled all reservations in May (or at least that early in May… but I think all of May). As the date neared, we looked for other options and were actually able to make a reservation for Caledonia State Park in Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania… but it was also cancelled a few days before the trip. We considered doing an airbnb somewhere (like the quarry one we’d been to the previous year), but ultimately decided to spend that weekend home potty training. Fun alternative.
We ended up finally getting a reservation at Owens Creek Campground for later in June, as did our friends (they may have gotten theirs first, in fact). Strangely, their reservation was cancelled on them, but ours wasn’t. So they found a different site in Cunningham Falls State Park, which is nearby (which, also strangely, I’m pretty sure I had looked at before booking Owens Creek and there hadn’t been any availability).
We drove up on Saturday during nap time and met our friends at their campsite at Cunningham Falls State Park. After their daughter woke up from her nap, the kids biked on their Strider bikes for a bit, then we drove down to the lake in hopes of a swim. But right as we got into the water, there was a bit of thunder, so we all had to get out. We never got back in and went on a short hike to the waterfall instead. The kids ran or biked the whole way, they had a blast. After that, we left the state park to go to Owens Creek, set up camp, had dinner, and all that lovely stuff. We had a great fire. The next morning, we met our friends again for a four-mile hike from the Catoctin Visitor’s Center to Chimney and Wolf Rocks and back to the Visitors Center before driving back to Baltimore. The snake (pictured below) was at Chimney Rock, and was actually further away than it seems from the picture, below us, under a rock we were on.
The logistics were essentially the same, except:
- We didn’t bring the backpack carrier (we did a lot of carrying Gabriel on the hike, though)
- We did bring the Strider bike.
- No more milk at night, and no more silicone plates.
- We brought his BabyBjorn potty! He went either in there or in the campground restroom when we went and brought him with us.
- Our little guy is growing up!!
Trip #6: Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland
Have I said before that I hate the beach? Well. I do.
I have been interested in camping on Assateague since I moved to Maryland. Wild ponies, seashore, camping, what’s not to love? Well, in July: 95-degree weather, having to lug all your stuff across very hot sand to the ‘walk-in’ beach camping spot, mosquitoes, and… well… the beach (and salt and sand). That’s what’s not to love. Also a toddler who didn’t nap and woke up every hour over night.
I had no idea what to expect on this trip. It wasn’t this. Dan’s colleague had reserved the spot and had raved about camping there earlier in the season. We drove 3.5-ish hours to get to the island and then sat in a single-file traffic line for an hour to go less than a mile to enter the National Seashore via the entrance booths. Which put us past Gabriel’s nap time (we were hoping to arrive and have camp set up for nap time, and had been on track for that, until we actually got there and had to wait in that line). Then we had to haul all our stuff to the walk-in spot and set up camp, which took another hour-ish. And it was effing hot, and moreso in the tent where we had planned to have Gabriel nap. So we set up his pack n play on the sand under the shade canopy by the picnic table. He was not interested in napping, but seemed like maybe he was getting closer until Dan’s colleagues arrived and had to lug all their stuff to the site, and with all the commotion, a nap was just not in the cards.
That went mostly okay until bedtime. With the rest of the afternoon, we all went in the water, which Gabriel loved, wearing his life jacket for the first time. Over a month after this trip, we took a family trip to Lake Powell where we knew he would have to basically live in his life jacket. Life jackets are apparently made for infants up to 30 lbs and then toddlers 30-50 lbs. Gabriel was right at (or a pound or so under) 30 lbs, but it didn’t make sense to get an infant life vest. So we got the bigger one, and it was a little too big. But still, it was fine. Dan did all the research before selecting one. I forget what it is. O’Neill something? After that, Dan’s colleague, his girlfriend, Gabriel, and I did a short walk along a boardwalk to a nice view. We also made dinner (hot dogs of course for us… Dan’s colleague and his girlfriend had fish and potatoes, yum), shared wine. Then we put Gabriel to bed. And he cried for a really long time in a way he hasn’t cried since he was like six months old. It took an hour or so of going in there to soothe him before he finally settled down. And then, seriously, woke up every hour over night, and I comforted him back to sleep. Ugh.
All the same logistics, plus the fan that I’d purchased for his stroller when he was an infant in 95-degree Baltimore summer. It was essential. Oh, and the Coleman shade canopy and sandbags (for weighting it down) that I purchased specifically for this trip when I saw an image of the campsite and realized for the first time that there would be no trees or shade of any kind. And it was July.
I am never camping in Assateague in July again. Maybe April. Maybe October. Maybe not ever again. Gabriel will, though. Despite the sleeping issues, I think he had a blast.
And that’s that. We are going camping again in early October for one night at Gambrill State Park. Another couple and their son are also coming. We just purchased a sleeping pad and sleeping bag for Gabriel, so I think we’ll leave the pack and play behind and see how that goes! We’ve laid it out for him and had him get in his sleeping bag (and I got in mine next to him). He’s sort of into the idea. We’ll see.