Monday, June 21, 2010

Camping at First Landing: When Plans Go Awry

This weekend we finally went to the beach! I can officially now believe that summer has started. It certainly was hot enough!

Unfortunately, very little this weekend went as planned.

I had planned that we would get to First Landing State Park quite early on Friday, preferably around 4pm when check-in begins. I knew that a good number of the campsites backed up to a very busy road that connects two sections of busy Viginia Beach, and I'm a light sleeper so wanted to make sure we got a site as far away from the road as possible. Well, we didn't end up leaving very early, and of course got stuck in all the rush-hour traffic leading to the tunnel, so it was nearly 7pm by the time we arrived. Suffice to say all the "good" sites were taken, and as I feared, our site backed up to the road. It was a really beautiful site nestled in the forested dunes and surrounded by beachy trees with lots of good climbing branches. If it hadn't been for the near constant roar of traffic, it would have been a little slice of heaven. But thankfully, it was not the end of the world, and we almost got used to the noise by the end of the weekend. I did sleep badly the first night with all the annoyingly loud bar traffic roaring through, but by the second night I was tired enough to not notice it as much!

Since I had planned to get to the camp ground early, I also had wanted to go to the welcome campfire program being hosted by the Rangers at 8pm that night. We set up camp as quickly as we could and then drove over to the visitor center to find the campfire. The description mentioned stories and I hoped to hear something about the area or the Indians or anything I might use for Scouts. We looked all around for the campfire. No luck. Sigh... Well, instead we went down on the beach and played around in the sand and water while the sun finished setting. It was a nice evening, even if I didn't get a new story to add to my repitoire.

Back at the campsite I lit a fire and started getting the kids ready for bed. I was thoroughly amused by the small group of teenages that walked hesitantly over to our site to ask how I got my fire lit. Apparently this was their first foray into the woods and they'd been trying for hours, unsuccessfuly, to light a fire to cook their hot dogs. A Scout is helpful, so while DH took the kids to the bathrooms, I went over and helped the next generation by showing them how to build a fire. They were nice kids, not at all rowdy as some teenagers can be, and very thankful for my help. I hope they have an easier time of it on their next trip out in the wilderness!

So, the next morning I had planned to go on the "Swamp Stomp" hike being led by park interpreters at 11am. It sounded really neat, with the kids scooping up buckets of swamp water and looking for bugs and animals that lived there. It figures that 7am found me scrambling to get the tent unzipped before OS threw up all over the blankets. He hadn't shown any signs of being sick, it was a total surprise. He seemed to feel better after that, so we started our long walk over to the bathrooms and he got sick again on the way. Ummm, no Swamp Stomp for us that day. Bummer. After making it back to the campsite, my poor sick boy crawled back into the tent and went back to sleep for a few hours. At this point we weren't sure if we'd end up having to leave, but we figured for now he was probably more comfortable in the tent than he would be in the car. DH took YS to the playground for a while, then I took him on a bike ride up to explore the visitors center. Miraculously, when OS woke up late that morning he seemed to feel much better and kept down a small amount of food and water. But then he had issues with the other end of his digestive tract, if you know what I mean. Note to self - pack even more emergency underwear for the kids next time.

Well, by 4:00 all the odd sickness seemed to have passed and OS was happily running around the site and swinging from the rope swing that some previous camper had strung up over a pit formed from the bottom of several dunes. So, finally, we got to head to the beach for a little while. The kids had a blast, they love the shallow water and small waves of the Bay. I was very thankful that my big boy got well fast enough to enjoy some part of the day!

After a super yummy dinner on the grill - steak, corn on the cob and garlic bread - I decided to make up for the missed Swamp Stomp hike by going on the interpreter-led Night Hike, which started at 8:30pm. I knew it would be a streatch to have YS hike that much when it was already past his bedtime, but I was determined to get at least one good hike in. I'm so glad we did it, hiking at night was a new experience for the boys, and the interpreter was fantastic with the kids. We listened for different kinds of frogs and owls, watched for bats, and got to test our night vision with a neat experiment. Even though I ended up having to carry YS back on my shoulders, it was a great way to end what had started out as a questionable day.

We woke up late Sunday morning to a stifling heat. The weather on Friday and Saturday had been hot, but tolerable in the shade, and at night it was pleasently cool. Sunday decided to bring on all its heat and humidity with full force. We were already drenched with sweat before we even got out of the tent. Of course, I had thought we'd be up early and take a hike before the heat really set in, but who knew we'd all be so tired we'd sleep in that much? Ahh, but that didn't stop me from making pancakes and bacon for my hubby's Father's Day breakfast! After loading up on the carbs, we decided to try a bike hike instead. We got on our bikes and headed out of the campsite and across the road to do some biking on the Cape Henry Trail. Even though it was hot, the breeze while biking made it a little more tolerable. I'm so very glad that a Scout aquaintence of mine lent us her bike rack for the trip! I'm not sure what we would have done without the bikes there, it really made a big difference, especially just getting to and from the distant bathrooms! I have no idea how far we biked on the trail, but I know my legs and rear end were screaming for mercy by the time we were back at the campsite! It was a good ride.

After the bike hike we hit the beach again for a little bit and then packed up to go home, thouroughly exhausted. Considering we weren't even sure if we'd be able to stay the weekend, I think we had a great trip and still managed to fit a lot of fun stuff in. The kids both kept saying how much they didn't want to leave (they obviously don't long for air conditioning as much as we adults do!), and in the car, just before he fell asleep, YS let out a big sigh and said, "I love our camping trips." Those five words alone made all the stress of plans gone awry completely worth it.

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