Since we had nothing scheduled this past weekend, we decided to take a trip out to Shenandoah National Park and give camping another go. We planned on leaving Friday at 4pm and coming back home on Sunday. Our first camping trip was only overnight (we were home by 10am on Saturday) and at a park much closer to home. At the least, we figured it would be much cooler temperature-wise in the mountains.
In a move that was appreciated at the time, Brendan took down the car-top carrier as soon as we unloaded from the cottage a few weeks ago. This meant that our packing was confined to the back of the car and the dog would be riding at the kids’ feet. We didn’t anticipate this would be too much of a problem. Let’s just say it was a learning experience and we learned the dog needs to be in the back of the car and the carrier on the roof. Not that he misbehaved, just that it would have been so much more comfortable for everyone.
The sky and the forecast turned a bit ominous on our drive out west. But it was not raining when we arrived at camp. It didn’t look like it was going to hold for too much longer, so we opted to skip the trip to the campstore for wood and just use a BIC FlameDisk (basically a giant sterno) for cooking some burgers and dogs. The tent went up much quicker than last time and the kids and I made up some silly scary stories. Bedtime came early for all of us too. Just in time for the rain to start. At about 1am Bridget woke up and had to use the bathroom. And it was pouring. Thankfully Brendan wasn’t about to reserve us a spot far away from a toilet. He took her down and they came back. Then Johnny woke up and was scared so he crawled into my sleeping bag with me, and naturally was squirmy and not really sleeping. Then Bridget woke up again and had to go to the bathroom again so I took her down. Then we convinced Johnny to go back to his own bed and sleeping bag. But he still woke up at least two more times. It was not the most restful night for any of us.
It was still drippy and rainy in the morning, so Brendan took advantage of a brief break to boil us some water for coffee/oatmeal while the kids ate cereal in the tent. It didn’t stay dry for very long, but luckily there was a single umbrella in the car. After that we were all going slightly crazy, so we all got into the car and went for a long drive down Skyline Drive. We stopped off at a trailhead just before Big Meadows intending to hike down to a waterfall, but it ended up being one of the few trails that dogs are not allowed on. So we buckled up the (now very sad) kids again and headed down to the Visitor’s Center at Big Meadows. It was pretty foggy still (because we were up high enough in elevation the whole time that we were inside the clouds. Down at around 1500 feet it was much clearer) but the ranger we spoke with assured us that unless there was thunder and lightening the Blackberry Festival scheduled for that day was still happening and she gave us a route we could hike with the dog and that would be easier on the kids that put us just at the bottom of the waterfall we had wanted to see.
The hike to the waterfall was much easier than the hike back. The trail was a well-maintained fire road and not hard walking at all, but the kids were just not having it. Somehow we did manage to make it back to the car in one piece.
Then we enjoyed some of everything at the Blackberry Festival: Blackberry lemonade, blackberry cobbler with blackberry icecream and blackberry pulled pork.
Of course that didn’t seem to shake all the crankiness, so we took another drive towards Luray. It was a bit harrowing actually at a few intersections, the clouds were so dense that it was very hard to see. In town, it was much easier and we got a good look at the cloud cover that was surrounding us. It didn’t seem to want to break any time soon.
Then came the difficult decision: do we stay another night or do we go home a day early? I was not looking forward to cooking dinner in the rain and then eating in the tent (again). And neither of us was exicted by the idea of another night of bad sleep. The kids were disappointed to leave, but really it was the best decision. One day we’ll be able to camp for a full weekend.
We did take a different route home and came upon a distillery that we went into intending to take the tour. But Johnny wasn’t thrilled by the idea from the start, so we backed out. We did buy two bottles — one single malt whisky and one single malt spirit (in short: legal moonshine) from the store though we have yet to try them.
I always find rural Virginia stunningly beautiful, and whatever part we are driving through, I immediately want to live in. I am adding Sperryville to the ever-expanding list.
Of course, the sun came out yesterday and we pulled out another FlameDisk and made s’mores on the front porch.
We started out our vacation at the Lake. And one of the things we’ve enjoyed lately is heading to a smallish family amusement park in Erie called Waldameer. It’s got a lot of kid rides and it has trees and it’s not too big (or expensive). We take lunch and dinner with us, leave our cooler on a picnic table and go back to it as needed. It’s relaxed and a good time. The week of the 4th of July, they were open on Monday (a day they are normally closed). Still, we were expecting the park to be crowded (as it was a holiday week) and it just never built up.
There are several roller coasters at the park. The first, a wooden one called The Comet, is one that Bridget rode last year. I am not one for rides generally speaking, but I decided why not. I’m trying to relax, roll with things and this seemed like a good opportunity. So Bridget, Brendan and I got on and it wasn’t too bad. Not the best experience I have ever had, but not horrible either. Then, bouyed by this, Brendan convinced me to get on the Ravine Flyer II. It’s still a wooden coaster, but definitely more intense. There are signs about how if you have a heart condition or are prone to strokes then DO NOT GET ON THE RIDE. Yeah, I was nervous. In line for the Comet was bad enough (I felt like I was going to throw up), so it was a good thing that the park wasn’t crowded. We were able to just walk up and get on the Ravine Flyer II (in fact this was the case all day, Bren got on at least 6 times) so there was no time for me to get too worked up. So the ride was not something I want to experience again. I am solidly not a fan of roller coasters. But I tried. I will stick to Ferris Wheels and Merry-go-rounds thankyouverymuch.
Johnny had a lot of fun on just about everything. This ride in particular — an old school kiddie ride with glittery metalic vehicles and a string to hold him in — was his favorite of the day. But he tried everything with great enthusiasm. Except for the haunted house ride (which was too scary and he declared “I don’t want to get on that again!” at the end), they were all successes. The tea cups couldn’t spin around fast enough (I skipped that one) and The Hopper was perfectly hoppy. When we were riding the Scrambler (my personal favorite), he asked “Daddy make it go fast again?!”.
Bridget tried everything she could, too. Even when she was a little scared (the Octopus and the Pirate ship) she hung tough. I am glad she’s not afraid of trying things. She was almost tall enough for everything. Next year I think is going to be even more fun.
Here Bridget is perfecting her fake pout. I forget exactly why she was pretending to be mad, but it doesn’t matter. I think if I Photoshopped that clown hat into a Santa hat, it would make a perfect Holiday card. It makes me laugh every time I look at it.
The day even ended on a spectacular note, Brendan won the kids ridiculously large stuffed animals at the Ring Toss (and really, who ever wins that game?!).