Camping at James River State Park

When Jay and I were dating, we went camping in Florida over winter break.  Most of the details of that trip are gone from my memory, but I do remember one pretty clearly.  We had just finished a really yummy dinner and he asked me, “If we get married, can we keep going camping like this?”  Um….YES!  Six weeks later, he put a ring on it.  Fourteen years and two kids later, we still love camping together.

Friday

Friday we left for our trip to James River State Park.  For dinner that night we had chicken & veggies cooked in foil packs, the same meal that I’m pretty sure convinced Jay he was ready to start talking about marriage 14 years ago.

Saturday

I’ve been counting down the years until Bubba would turn 6, the minimum age for tubing, canoeing, or kayaking at the park.  I ended up deciding to take the kids tubing Saturday morning because I remember enjoying that as a kid.  I just had a whole paragraph typed out about Bubba’s bad attitude during this trip, but I’ve decided I’m not going to let that define my memory.  Instead I’ll choose to remember the rapids that felt big from the water but look tiny from the bank, the magic of watching the bottom of the river zip by you in the shallow parts, and our stop on a sandy island to poke around.  Tubing was just as fun as I had remembered it.

I know Gerry Brooks would not approve of this photo, but I couldn’t help myself.   In the afternoon I took the kids to the Discover Area, a natural playground of sorts.  They played, and I prepared for my upcoming book club in the shade.  I love these slow moments.

 

Saturday night we took a wagon trip to the Tye River Overlook with a park ranger.  (Jay took this shot of us on the ride, and I happen to love it!)  The ranger had an electronic owl call to attract screech owls.  On our third or fourth stop, right about the point that Bubba fell asleep in my lap, we finally got one to respond!  It talked to us from a nearby tree for several minutes, but we never spotted it.  On our last stop we heard both the whinny and bounce calls, and two owls called back and forth to each other.  We joked that we had just helped to make an owl love connection.

Sunday

This day started out the best way…with a run.  I took the Cabell trail, and in keeping with tradition, got slightly lost.  The trail map and markings are great at the park….about 95% of the time.  But when there’s an arrow pointing left and no real trail going left, you just have to make your best guess.

 

The night before, Bubba asked to join me on the morning run, but we all knew that would be fun for like the first 5 minutes.  So I promised him a short run together when I got back.  He turned out to be a much better running partner than expected.  We took the Cabell trail in the opposite direction from what I had just run and figured out where I went off course.  I’m still sticking with the fact that it was a signage error….not mine. 🙂

Later that morning we went to two programs led by the rangers.  We watched Cobb, the corn snake, eat his weekly meal of a tiny thawed out mouse, then both kids held him.  We also learned lots of interesting ways to start a fire, and Chica got to try it out with a magnifying glass.  When I asked the kids at lunch today what their three favorite parts of the weekend were, both of these were mentioned.  I was slightly underwhelmed, but they were enthralled.  Doesn’t it often work that way??

If I’m being honest, I feel like I have a hard time connecting with this one these days.  I’ve written about that a bit, but that feeling keeps nagging at me.  So when she expressed interest in kayaking, I jumped on the opportunity to spend some time just with her.  We rented two boats after lunch on Sunday, and it was everything I hoped it would be.  She was (is) brave and strong and chatty and positive and encouraging.  We docked our boats twice and explored.  At lunch today both of us voted kayaking as our favorite part of the trip.

As if we hadn’t already packed enough into this day, I ended up sending the kids on a scavenger hunt before dinner.  I hid some Dollar Tree toys around the campground with clues, and they rode their bikes to find them.  The hunt was followed by a few (mostly drama free) hours of playing together.

Monday

I was feeling brave this morning, so I decided on a morning bike ride instead of run.  I’m still so green at riding trails.  I picked the longest, easiest trail in the park, the River Trail.  Most of it was a really wide, grassy path, but the end had several super steep downhill sections.  I’ve been reading about taking risks in my math teacher book, and I know risks are how we learn.  So…..I leveled my pedals, stood up, stuck my elbows out and butt back, cried out “Jesus! Jesus!” a few times, and went for it.  I lived to tell about it, y’all.  It was kinda fun.

The rest of the day was just packing up and hot.  Real hot.  The most exciting thing that happened was that we found a black widow spider building an egg sac on the top of our tent, under the rain fly.  I snapped this picture and took a short video before Jay killed it.

 

And finally, a few more pictures just for fun!  I asked Jay to send me a few of his best photos from the weekend.  Apparently he either really likes funny face photos, or that’s all we ever do when he pulls out the camera.

   

 

 

 

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Rested and Thankful

I’m two weeks into my summer break, and I’ve already enjoyed two vacations.  I feel so very rested and thankful for the time off.

The Monday after school let out I flew to Boulder, Colorado for NASA’s MAVEN Elementary Teachers’ Summit.  In a nutshell….teacher nerd camp.  I planned a free day on either end of the four day workshop to explore Boulder on my own.  It was glorious.

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Then this past Friday my family of four headed out for a camping trip at James River State Park.  The weekend was full of hammock swinging, hunting bugs, and S’MORES!  This trip was also glorious.

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On one particularly slow stroll back from the bathhouse this weekend I started to contemplate just how different these two trips were, but how I still thoroughly enjoyed both.  Below are a few of the more interesting comparisons….

Dinners
CO: I ate all but one dinner by myself in a restaurant along downtown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.  I was that person who took a picture of my meal each time.  I spent the first few nights feeling self-conscious for dining alone, but I eventually ended up enjoying the freedom of choosing a spot to eat without having to consider anyone else.

I had a picture of all six dinners here, but I decided to spare you.  These were just two of my favorites…some cheesy goodness from Pasta Jay’s and empanadas from the farmer’s market.
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JRSP:  I ate each cooked-over-the-fire dinner with my sweet family at our tent site.  Chicken hobo packets, pizza on naan, and hot dogs, all washed down with perfectly roasted marshmallows.  This time I was too busy enjoying it to snap any pictures.

Dishes
CO: None.  I tried to tip well out of thankfulness for this fact.
JRSP:  I willingly took this job under our unspoken division of labor.  My introvert self rather liked the few minutes at the bathhouse all alone.  I’ll admit there was no rushing this task.

Accommodations
CO: A-  I stayed in University of Colorado Boulder dorms called Williams Village North.  We each got our own room and shared a hall bathroom.  I would have given them an A if they had just sprung for a fitted sheet.
JRSP:  A.  When you spend a night in the pouring rain and wake up with just the normal amount of Virginia summer stickiness, that’s a sign of a winner of a tent.  Thank you Nana and Papa for the loaner!

Learning
CO:  So much!  We learned about the history of Mars, planetary magnetism, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, the geology of Mars, and on and on and on.  I also learned a ton just from comparing stories over lunch with like-minded teachers from all around the country.  While our acronyms and standards might be slightly different, we all face the same challenges and posses the same passion for what we do.
JRSP:  Camp songs still motivate tired or scared hikers.  Two nights in a row we hiked to an overlook on a trail that was mostly uphill.  On the first night there was much grumbling and begging Bubba to keep up.  On the second night I remembered the magic of Herman the Worm and Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Coconut, and we were up that hill in hot minute (or 30??).  On the way back down in the dark, let’s just be honest, Mommy and Daddy were scared.  So we sang every song we could think of, as loud as we could manage while carrying kids on our backs, in an effort to scare away anything that might be lurking.  It worked.

Hiking
CO: On the final day of my trip, I got up early to go for a hike in Chautauqua Park.  Actually, I thought I was going for a trail run, but that quickly turned into a big ol’ JK when I saw the trails.  Straight up and mostly rocks make for a better hike than run.  Anyways, it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I completed two different trails: Royal Arch and the 1st and 2nd Flatirons.

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JRSP: The kids found a trail behind our campsite and we decided to explore it this morning.  The Cabel Trail was a multi-use trail, and I quickly learned that Bubba didn’t recognize horse poop.  Fun times.

Biking
CO:  This was my transportation method of choice thanks to Boulder B-Cycle.  The program keeps track of your miles, and I rode over 25 miles during the week.  Boulder has bike trails every where, so this was very easy to do!
JRSP:  My kiddos are still trying to figure out the whole bike thing.  We brought bikes and rode them once, but there was much drama involved.  We’ll need a few more years, I think, before this will really be fun as a family.

Reading
CO:  While I started a book on the plane, I ended up perusing the Facebooks and emails each night before bed.  Blah.
JRSP:  There was basically no cell service.  Yaaaaaaay!  (That was a for realz cheer…no sarcasm.)  I finished The Outcasts of 19 Schulyer Place and started Elijah of Buxton.  And yes, these are both books I snagged from my classroom library shelf when I packed up my room.

And last but not least…

Showers
CO: One a day.
JRSP: One.

Summer on, friends.

P.S. Saw this in Boulder.  Can you read the yellow sign?  Guess that’s a thing now.
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