Fall Family Camping Trip

dsc05080Labor Day Weekend 2010 was possibly the most beautiful three days of the year, and we got to spend them camping in the mountains! Our small group of two 3-year-olds and three adults had a fun weekend exploring the woods and wading in the Chattooga River.

There was zero chance of rain and the sky was a deep blue all weekend. It made for great photographs, but also for a particularly enjoyable camping trip. It was as if the weather knew that September was here. The temperature dropped and the humidity was as low as I remember it all summer.

dsc05048I was afraid that we’d have a hard time finding parking and then a campsite since it was Labor Day weekend. And when we arrived I was correct about parking. We parked no more than 200 yards from the trailhead and then walked towards the campsites. The two little boys immediately ran to the front of our group. Though they were carrying backpacks, their excitement propelled them forward. To our surprise and glee, the best campsite was still available, so we pitched tents and made it our home.

Even with kids this young, I saw a lot of growth on this short trip. About a month ago, a huge storm blew through the area, toppling trees, raising water levels in the creeks and washing out bridges. As a result, whenever we went hiking this weekend, we had to step or climb over blow-down trees. On the hike from our vehicles to the campsite, we reached the first of these obstacles. The boys said, “There’s a tree over the trail!”

“How are you going to get over it?” I replied.

So, the boys both worked and worked to climb over the tree, pulling themselves up, then sliding down, and pulling themselves up again. Finally, after many tries, they both made it without any help from the adults.

dsc05073The next day, after climbing over many more trees, the boys had so much more confidence in their abilities, I once saw them jump right over a tree. One the way back to our vehicles, they reached that same tree that had vexed them and climbed over it without even a pause.

(Just to provide a little reality check and reminder that these are 3-year-olds, on this last tree, the second young man climbed right up onto the fallen trunk, but then got his foot stuck in a crevasse in the bark, and fell backward, twisting his leg a bit. He then spent the next couple minutes crying from the scare. Nevertheless, it was his confidence that I was impressed with.)

dsc05057My favorite part of the trip was standing the water of the Chattooga River watching the boys play in the shallow water and helping them maneuver the small rapids. The sun shone brightly in the bluest of blue skies. The still-green leaves rustled in the light breeze, and our group forgot about all of our cares of city life and simply focused on the beauty of the scenery and joy of the small boys in our midst.

That evening, we built a fire and cooked tortellini and buttered toast over the flames. Since the kids hadn’t had a nap, we decided to go to bed by 8pm. But the early bedtime was not to be – the boys were too amped up from the day to fall asleep quickly. After several potty attempts, I suggested that I could tell a story to calm them down before bed. I told one of my father’s stories – “What’s the Name of that Tree?” (you should hear him tell it – and buy his CD!) and then we all were able to go to sleep for the night.

In what seemed like the middle of the night (but was probably only 9:30pm), I got up randomly to check on the fire’s embers and saw a headlamp coming through the forest. Nervously, I stood my ground and announced myself to the intruders. They said “I’m so glad we found you – we were paddling the river when it got too dark to continue, so we pulled our boats onto land and are now searching for our jeep. Do you know where Sandy Ford Road is?” So, breathed a sign of relief and gave them directions on the trail. Maybe reckless with their own adventure, these men weren’t dangerous. And the next morning, they showed up with big thanks for us and then went off to find their canoes.

Sunday morning was cool and clear. We all put on our warm hats and pullovers and I started a fire. As the sun rose through the trees, I exhaled and said a quiet “thank you” that this is the work I get to do.

For more photos, see our Facebook page.