Monday, July 19, 2010

To the woods

Over the weekend we camped at our favorite place. It was almost a last minute decision. We've wanted to camped several times this season but there has always been something that prevented us from going to the woods. We were not too certain the past weekend was going to be a good one. With all the rain storms passing through it was a big concern. Perfect weather held out and we had a good time. We left late Friday afternoon arriving just before suppertime. As we drove into the campground we saw a family of wild turkeys (wild turkeys!) crossing the road. Please insert jokes here. This was right after Keith told us about a friend of his who camped in the same park years before and was overrun with a flock of wild turkeys in front of their tent. We paused a moment to watch the two hens and their brood cross the road and disappear into the green foliage. Keith and the girls picked out a great campsite, meeting the girls' approval. I drove to the wayside to get some firewood and register our site. While I was gone they set to work getting everything all sorted out. It was still hot by nightfall and we had hoped for a more mountain cool night. During supper we could tell that is was going to be a noisy night there at the 'ol campground. A group of young adults with large dogs set up 3 sites from us. True to form they were up well past 2am enjoying their beverages and loud important conversations. That was not what I was hoping would happen. Good news was that the girls were able to sleep despite their noise. I had a difficult time sleeping for many reasons. Well of course the loud campers were going strong most the night but it was also due to the idiot family who let their toddler (2-3 year old) scream all night long. This kid yelled "NO!" for hours. It wasn't until 3am that the kid finally stopped and must have fallen asleep. That kid was screaming when we got there throwing tantrum after tantrum. Good times.

Saturday morning we woke early. Most everyone around us were still sleeping which was fantastic to enjoy the quiet. Our quick breakfast was filling. We agreed to take a short hike around the campground and be back in time for lunch. On our way we passed that cranky toddler and his family. He sat in a chair and screamed while his family ignored him. I desperately hoped they would go home later that day. I'm not sure why parents let their kids carry on like that for so long. All the evening before, most the night and now it begins for the morning. Ugh. We were glad to disappear into to woods. On our hike we heard a bear, Keith was able to see it, but we girls could not see over the thick underbrush to see the bear browsing for food. A few deer wandered by unaware of us. Our hike concluded faster than Keith hoped but perfect for me. I took Olivia back to camp with me while Keith and Leah went exploring. There was a good hour and half before lunch time so they wanted to find some more critters. Olivia chatted me up the entire time. For her this was a treat. Every little kid likes to get their parent to themselves for a while. I watched her jump rope, perform some soccer skills and do silly dance moves. As I continued to knit she moved from topic to topic activity to activity passing the time nicely. She was showing signs of boredom when Leah arrived at the site. She and Keith were a sweaty mess. Leah just wanted to lay down and kick off her shoes.   

After lunch we decided to go see about that Blackberry Delight Festival we kept hearing about. It rained hard as we arrived. That was good because it sent the crowd away and left us with short lines. We were ready for a treat and what's better than something sweet? As we waited in line the bluegrass band played keeping everyone in good spirits. By the time we reached the food tent the sun had returned bringing the heat. There was so much to choose from: trifle, pie, cobbler, shakes, ice cream plus pulled pork and sausages. It was a good spread all made on site by chefs from the nearby lodge. With that heat burning we chose to dessert on some blackberry ice cream and a bit of that blackberry cobbler. Oh wow was it good. Maybe the heat influenced us a little but that fresh blackberry taste is always a winner with us. We found a great spot near the band tent. There we gobbled up our treats. I couldn't believe how enthusiastic the girls were about that cobbler. They tend to like pie, but not as much as they like cookies or ice cream. We shared our treats each of us hoping for one more bite. While we ate we watched the people around us. Most were day trippers coming to the mountains to enjoy a Saturday afternoon. Besides the occasional hikers very few people there were weekend campers. I couldn't believe how many dogs were wandering around. They were just as happy as the people enjoying all the sights and the occasional dropped food. The girls noticed a lady with her tiny dog strapped to her chest not unlike you would strap a child. I think that was the oddest thing I've seen. I suppose if you have a tiny dog it would be safer being held in a busy festival.

Eager for something else to do Keith wanted to go explore the Big Meadows across the street. He noticed a few deer out there browsing and he wanted to get a close look. Leah was more concerned with figuring out how to get her hands on a blackberry snow cone. I didn't want to take a hike, or rather, I didn't want to take a Keith length hike in the meadow. Olivia was eager for something to do too so she tagged along with him. While they were exploring Leah and I went on a snow cone safari. The only food booth that accepted cash was the gourmet one were we bought the desserts. All others required the use of tickets as payment. We needed to find where those tickets were sold. It seemed like an easy task. It wasn't. None of the booths were labeled. Most were a hodgepodge of goods which made determination difficult. We were not alone in our confusion. Several people were on the hunt for those tickets. But first we needed to know how much a snow cone cost. Leah asked the gals working the booth and we learned that is was a 2 ticket item. Excellent. Still we were unsure of the source of tickets. We walked by one tent that was selling a pint of blackberries and did they look good. I began to think about how nice those berries would be for dessert and so was Leah. She asked about buying us some but when I looked at the price $7, I knew that was out of the question. I couldn't believe it $7 and the pint was barely full. We pressed on. About when I was ready to give up, all that walking around in the heat was wearing me out, Leah overhead a little girl instructing her Grandma on where to get tickets. Leah followed and we were successful. We found the booth tucked in the back most corner of the beer tent. There a young girl in a blue shirt was selling tickets. I would have never even thought about checking the beer tent. Although it does make sense to put tickets near the biggest consumption item. With tickets in hand Leah skipped over to the snow cone booth. It was a long wait. I didn't know why until we were closer, they were also selling handmade ice cream. Everyone was going nuts for that ice cream. It was in limited supply so once that bucket was gone most of the line disappeared.

Leah gladly took her snow cone slurping up the sticky blackberry syrup. She was in heaven. I needed a place in the shade to cool off while we waited for our explores to return. A cool breeze was blowing across the meadow and a huge oak tree at the edge of the festival was the perfect place to cool off. We sat and chatted about things. Mostly when talking to Leah now it involves books. Things she has read and her assessment of those stories. But then again she'll pick up some random thought and give me a glimpse of that little girl mind. It was nice to have that one on one time with her. About the time Leah was finishing up her snow cone Keith and Olivia returned. They found several deer chomping on grass, many were hiding in the taller grasses. They remarked about the number of wild blueberries growing on the low bushes along the trails. And some blackberries were noticed. I remembered reading that the park allows visitors to pick and eat the wild berries, so long as it's what you can eat at that moment. The way Leah reacted you'd think I said there was free money growing out in that meadow. She could barely contain her excitement. She wanted to go out there and pick some berries. First she and I needed to get some better shoes on. Sandals are not the type of shoe meant for a hike. Leah was so eager she walked too quickly for me back to the car to get our shoes. I had to remind her to slow down just a bit. It was so funny watching her on the mission for shoes. As we made our way back to the oak tree Leah chatted about blueberries. She was so excited about trying them. Olivia was enjoying the last bit of her orange snow cone when Leah charged over to them rattling off incoherent talk of blueberries. It was time to be off to explore berries. I have to admit I was not thinking that there would be many blueberries. What a surprise to see so many. The girls went crazy picking those berries. All the low bush berries were ready and perfect. With the big rain not 2 hours before they were free from hot summer dust. Ready to eat. Eat they did. Handful after handful they picked their way along the trail. It was so fun to watch them enjoying that simple summer treat. After a while other hikers began to pass by. They must have thought my children crazy. I suppose they also assumed that the berries were off limits as are most plant life is within the park. How fortunate for us to know that we were able to enjoy that wonderful treat. The girls were so happy snacking that we didn't think we'd be able to pull them away from those berries.

Back at camp they were still talking about those berries. Leah was the most fascinated with being able to enjoy that bounty. I hope that memory will stick with her for years to come. I know it will for me. A supper of burgers and grilled corn made for a nice meal. As the sun set we sat around the fire talking. We had a wonderful clear night for stargazing which was so great. The night was far cooler than Friday which made for a nice time. Keith put together some s'mores and we looked at the stars. Thankfully Saturday night was much more quiet than Friday. That makes all the difference when you are outside enjoying the night.

Sunday morning we again rose early. This time there were so few people awake it was eerily quiet. Packed up. We ate breakfast and watched the campground wake up. The campground hosts passed by several times taking count of the open sites. While I prepared breakfast Keith and the girls worked on tearing down camp. We were nearly finished when our site neighbors across from us rose. They were all young couples, child free, from the city. I bet they sleep in late often and hearing my kids as well as all the others around us were up making too much noise made it hard for them to sleep in. After breakfast we had just a few more things to pack up. Once we were all ready to go it was time for Keith and the girls to hike to the wayside. I checked out and then drove to the wayside to meet up with them. I ended up sitting in the car knitting while the girls and Keith hiked. Just about when I was wondering what was taking them so long the girls came running up to the car. Their hands were stained purple. Then I knew. Blackberries. As it turned out the trail was loaded with blackberry bushes which were relieved of their fruits. They ate quite a bit as Keith tells the story. There was mention that those girls may have even fought off a bear or two for those yummy berries. I'd believe that for sure. A quick trip to the restroom and we were ready to go home. Our camping weekend concluded with blackberry milkshakes, a treat from Dad. He must have gone off to get one while we girls were in the restroom. It was just the thing to make a refreshing ending to a hot morning. Olivia said it was the best milkshake ever. I must say that she was right. I think it even better than a strawberry shake.

We'd love to go camping again this summer but that heat and my growing belly is going to keep me home. I didn't mind it so much but I am feeling the slight ache of sleeping on an air mattress. Not to mention the getting up 3 times to visit the restroom. Keith wants to go back once more before the baby comes. I think that will be a Daddy and his girls trip only. Even though it was harder to camp 30 weeks pregnant it wasn't so bad. Although there were some strange looks people gave me. I was glad to hear both the girls say how much they love camping. They love everything about it and I hope that they do for a long time.

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