December tends to be a bit of a clean-up month around here, as I hustle to share in the same calendar year anything of note that hasn’t quite made it to the blog! As such, I’ll occasionally serve up posts that are a bit out of season – but we’ll just consider them inspiration for the seasons ahead :) In this spirit, today I’m sharing a few photos and stories from our eighth annual family camping trip with the Rays. Hold onto your boots – it was a cold and wet one!
For our eighth year, we returned to Blue Bear Mountain Camp, outside of Boone, North Carolina. As always, our car was absolutely stuffed.
This was our third trip to Blue Bear, and it never disappoints – it’s a lovely campsite, with friendly people, and decent bathroom facilities (ha!). Sadly, we had to postpone from our original weekend due to weather, and we did not get our top choice campsites upon rescheduling. The sites were actually pretty inconvenient, especially for families with small children – down a steep hill from the cars and bathrooms, and with a fairly steep (though wooded) drop-off on the other side. But we made the best of it!
We arrived on Friday afternoon in gray chill, which eventually progressed into mist (the photos of our site were all taken the next morning!). The grass was already wet from rain earlier in the day, which made hauling in our gear tricky and resulted in wet feet almost immediately. Thankfully, John and I were well equipped thanks to his excellent suggestion to wear our Bean boots, but for some reason we didn’t extend that logic to our kiddos, so they quickly were complaining of cold, wet feet – not pleasant, and I don’t blame them one bit! In fact, I felt terrible we didn’t think to bring their rain boots – total parent fail.
All was not lost, though! We had yummy beef stew for dinner that we warmed up over the camp stove, a crackling fire for s’mores, and a neat tarp covering rigged up by John and Will (that took advantage of our strange campsite!) to keep the rain off. And once everyone was in jams and dry socks in the tent, all was warm and cozy.
And the next morning, we woke up to glorious sun!! After breakfast around the campfire, we trundled off to Julian Price Memorial Park, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, for our big hike of the weekend. Though VERY muddy at times, everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it afforded plenty of rock-throwing and snack-eating opportunities. We didn’t make it the full distance of our planned hike, but still called it a success since no one fell in the water or face-planted in the mud.
We tucked into our traditional dinner of hot dogs over the fire and all the fixings (including, of course, s’mores) that evening. Then it was a warm breakfast in the morning, packing up the campsites, and lots of hugs goodbye as we headed back to Raleigh. On the way, our family stopped in Blowing Rock for lunch (which I’d highly recommend – they have a really fun new playground in the center of town!).
Friends, you know I’m always going to shoot it to you straight when it comes to camping, and I have to say I think this was our family’s toughest year so far (I think last year holds that title for the Rays). Friday’s weather was dispiriting (our first-ever precipitation on a camping trip!), I did really feel bad about the kids’ wet feet situation, the mud and terrain of our specific campsites made it hard for the kids to roam freely back and forth, and we missed one night of campfire conversation due to grown-ups who were just too tired to stay up after the kids went to bed.
Am I glad we went? Of course! I never considered not going, and never once wished we were at home while we were away. The kids seemed to have a fantastic time. But, though there were many sweet moments to be had (building fairy houses! yummy food! good conversation! a beautiful hike!), 2020 will not go down in the books as my favorite camping trip of all time. Which, honestly, seems entirely on brand for 2020 :) And you know what? That’s okay – because it means we’re stacking this year up against some pretty amazing past experiences, and every year can’t be the absolute best.
With kids aged 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 in tow (yes, really!), we are banking on the fact that it can pretty much only get easier from here. We’ll pray for better weather and our first choice of campsite in 2021! :)
P.S. If you want to hear more about our experiences camping with kids (and our best advice!), be sure to listen to my episode of the Work & Play podcast!