We had our family camping trip last week. We started at an academic conference in Pittsburgh, PA, an amazingly beautiful city. Although the number of people smoking was shocking (and that's saying something coming from NC), it's definitely one of the top 10 cities I would live in.
Of course, our family trips end up having a theme. We don't plan them, but frequently, something happens throughout our trips that we see a linkage over events that gives each trip a special flavor.
The theme for this trip was negative surprises at first that turn out ok. Hmmmmm? First night in Pittsburgh, I realized I had left my toiletries bag and Dave had left, um, his duffle bag with all his clothes. Whoops. While I went shopping and spent an ungodly amount of money to get the basics, our housesitter FedExed Dave's duffle to him. ((Note to everyone: the cheap makeup I bought was fine. But Ana's Potions, the serums, cleansers, and creams I use, cannot be replaced. And are apparently the best part of my beauty regime)).
So um, yeah.
That theme continued when we arrived at the state park. We love state parks. We love the rustic beauty and the ability to let the kids safely roam and explore nature. When we arrived (an hour later than expected b/c Waze took us to hell and we could hear the Deliverance music playing), we did not see rustic nature. We saw partying. Young people with poor camping equipment partying in tent sites right on top of each other. We found the most remote/private site we could and began to talk about leaving as quickly as we could. That first night, two people got speeding tickets. Someone nearly backed their boat off the hill over us. And someone else knocked off the water spigot at the closest place for us to get fresh water.
And then, by 9 am Sunday morning, everyone was gone!! No seriously. EVERYONE. We had our section of the campground completely to ourselves!! The park superintendent told us that one night a week, this park is packed with party people (I added the alliteration) and the rest of the time it is deserted. Yay for us!!
We found a path to the lake and evidence of a massive flood two weeks earlier. The point of this park is to keep Pittsburgh from flooding; so it floods when necessary. We walked. We hiked. We found the beach and swam. We went to the nature center and flirted with the snakes and mouse. We ended up happily staying there the whole time.
Of course, though, a theme is not just two events. Any two points can make a line. There were additional experiences that made this a memorable trip. We decided to do a family kayak around the lake. It was gorgeous and fun, the SECOND time we tried. The first time, we were out for 10 minutes and it started thundering and the thunder came closer. We turned around and paddled back as quickly as we could. Bridget, in particular, was quite frightened. We went back first thing the next morning and had a blast. Thinking of getting family kayaks for around here. ((For all the free time we don't have))
The final experience involved animals. We are not camping novices. We know about them there raccoons. We were shocked that the first night, we didn't see evidence of a raccoon invasion. Looking back, we believe it was because the raccoons had plenty to choose from and our camp wasn't appealing.
The OTHER nights, though.
The first night it wasn't party central, Dave heard noises and saw our cookies walking down the hill with a new bandit friend. He was sad to lose the cookies but we've lost worse to more aggressive raccoons. More humorous was the shout he heard 15 minutes later when one of the novice tent campers in the distance shouted "OH NO YOU DON'T!!!!" and commenced to chasing off these same raccoons from stealing their food.
The final night was definitely an adventure. I woke with the coyote howled the first time. I woke Dave when the second coyote howled. Yes, they were nowhere near us, but it's the first time I thought of how thin our tent is. Then almost immediately we heard Mrawr, mrawr, mrawr, mrawr right outside our tent.
W. T. F.
Had the raccoons gone rabid?!?!?!? Had the fox we seen earlier stopping by to look for treats!??! NO!!!
It was a small group of feral house cats. In heat. Deciding to look for love and enemies at our tent site!! Two things come from the feral house cats. One, a great new saying we use all the time. Whenever we can work in the phrase "Yeah, but they are no feral house cats in heat" we do. Second, apparently, the coyotes and the feral house cats in heat were enough excitement to permanently disrupt my sleep that night. I ended up sleep crawling through the tent and shining a flash light and then trying to convince Dave that I saw a mountain lion sitting under our kitchen canopy. By the time I woke up for good in the morning, I couldn't tell if the mountain lion was all a dream or real, but Dave assured me that there are no mountain lions in WVA and yes, I spent a good portion of the night trying to convince him otherwise.
All said and done, it was a great trip. And we're going to the NC mountains next weekend to see the Perseids meteor shower!