We just returned from an absolutely enjoyable and relaxing weekend in the woods with Friends School families!
I was a bit nervous before the trip when I realized that we would have a 6, 7, and 8 year old. We’ve had younger kids on trips, but usually with older kids, too. I didn’t know if the trip would be a constant struggle of “herding cats” or what. But the moment we were all together, I realized how much fun these families would be. The kids loved the woods. They explored, played, laughed, ran around playing “monster tag,” examined puffball mushrooms, did silly dancing, and even kept their cool as our group watched a snake (non-venomous) slither past the trail.
Though I’m tempted to write that this age is my favorite to take to the woods, I realize that I say that about 10 & 11 year olds and about teenagers and about pre-teens and about adults. So be it. I just love introducing everybody to the wilderness!
When we arrived at our campsite, we dropped our packs, grabbed our food bags, and went to the waterfall to eat. The sun was out, the rocks were warm, and we sunned ourselves for hours. The kids played in the waterfall, on the rocks, and climbed halfway up the 60 foot falls (with adults’ help, of course). This was the perfect start to our trip: good food, warm sun, relaxation, and adventure!
One particularly fun and unique thing about this trip was that two of the parents are musicians and decided to bring their instruments along. Whenever we were sitting around the fire, we got to hear tunes from a guitar and clawhammer banjo! I usually don’t think to bring instruments on wilderness trips (though I once carried a harmonica, which is significantly less heavy), but this experience makes me rethink that. The fact that the music was high-quality helped, too.
At one point in the weekend, I looked at our camp and mused about how amazing it is that we can arrive at a semi-cleared area of ground surrounded by a creek and trees and transform it into a bustling home so quickly. One of my favorite things about camping is our ability to recreate the warmth and comfort of home with only things we carry on our backs. To me, that’s a revolutionary aspect of what I do.
But I digress–the real fun of this trip was watching the kids gain more and more confidence in the outdoors. One girl carried a puffball mushroom in her pocket, amazed at how long it kept puffing out spores. One boy watched adults build a fire with rapt attention, repeatedly asking “why won’t it stay lit?” One girl spent hours building castles in the sand by the river bank. And all the kids (while wearing jeans, no less) waded and even sat in the waterfall!
Despite the age of the kids, this was one of the least picky groups of eaters I’ve seen. We wolfed down backcountry shepherd’s pie, s’mores by the dozen, nutella & cheese sandwiches, bacon, eggs, bagels, and GORP (well, mainly just the M&Ms). And I even learned about a new Starbucks product–instant coffee in a small packet. We also learned that each coffee packet makes only a small cup of coffee, and it was helpful to add cocoa. I’m not a coffee-drinker, so I have to rely on trip participants to teach me how to feed that caffeine craving in the woods.
Finally, our trip of music, exploration, food, and relaxation would not have been complete without storytelling. After I told “Jack & the Varmits” on Saturday evening, I was immediately begged to tell more and more stories. So the kids got to hear “Go to sleep, Gecko!” and “Brer Rabbit, Brer Coon, and the Frogs.” They were a superb audience and helped me practice for my performance on on the “Traditional Tales” stage at Winter StoryFest in January.
I’ll end this post with one more short story. On the second day of our trip, the adults decided we should all go for a day hike. We wanted to get out of camp and help the kids feel more adventurous. I was somewhat leery about it–hiking with young kids can be a slow process. Instead, the kids led us the whole way. I took the lead at first, and gave a running commentary about plants that I saw. I saw each of the children staring at trees, leaves, mushrooms and the overall terrain. They asked intriguing questions and seemed to really take in the beauty of the forest. One young man was hoping we’d come to a tree that had fallen over the path that we’d have to climb to get over. Unfortunately, the trail was too well maintained for this adventure to happen. The kids zoomed up and down the hills and we made better time than I have on some hikes with teens or adults.
Cheers to these families and to the Friends School. I can’t wait until our next Family Camping Trip in May!
To view more photos of our trip, visit the Sure Foot Adventures Facebook page.