Too Much Adventure for Me!!

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There was still much to be done before we could retire for the night, and all of it needed to be accomplished with one good flashlight and four mediocre ones.

(I’m kicking myself at this point for not investing in a lantern.)

First of all the food needed to be transported back to the van…

and we needed to convince two little girls to relieve themselves in the forest or inside the dark, foul-smelling outhouse.

I convinced 1 out of 2 to pee in the leaves and the other insisted she didn’t need to go.

I took her word for it.

I headed inside the larger tent to ready the 3 youngest for bed.  Duff and the 4 olders headed off to the van.

I zipped the tent door shut and  hadn’t taken one full step inside…before hitting the first landmine.

It was an acorn threatening to pop through the tent floor.

Best to avoid that spot I decided.

I moved forward another step, toward the bag holding the kid’s pajamas…


And another


With each step that I tread, my foot met a hard, unyielding acorn, bulging forth against the thin plastic floor.

There must have been hundreds of them…perhaps thousands.

They didn’t clear away the acorns?!  What were they thinking?!

My chances for a good night’s sleep were virtually nil, I realized.

I prepared the little ones for bed and recognized that teeth brushing on camping trips really becomes a nice-to-have.

If you promise not to judge, the toothbrushes did not make one single appearance the entire 48 hours.  It was just that chaotic.

As I laid out the bedding, I decided padding the floor against the bothersome bumps was more important than saving covers for warmth.

I braced myself for complaints as my two younger girls snuggled under their covers, but none came.

I wasn’t sure how that was possible, but I reclined beside them with Logan, and began telling them a bedtime story.

As Goldilocks and the Three Bears tumbled forth from my mouth, my mind began to creatively problem solve the acorn situation.

If I piled enough winter coats into a thick layer beneath my body perhaps that would provide sufficient padding?

Yes,  I decided, I would try that.

I stayed inside the tent until my babies were snoozing and then moved back out to the campfire.

The remaining 6 of us chatted and relaxed a bit while letting the fire die down, deciding to save smores for breakfast.

When exhaustion settled over us, we hunkered down in the tents for the night.

I determined pretty quickly that I am the real deal, a genuine princess through and through.  Despite the mountain of winter coats arranged beneath me, I could still feel those dern acorns poking and prodding into my flesh.

Nevertheless, in my discomfort, I did manage to hold my tongue.  Not a single word of complaint came out of my mouth that night.

Okay, I lied.

I may have questioned his judgement once or twice, before finally falling into a restless sleep.

Then all at once I was startled awake.

What was that?!

My heart raced, pumping blood faster than ever to each of my four extremities.  I struggled to clear the disorientation from my mind.

The wind was knocking bucketfuls of acorns loose from the trees above and they were loudly pelting the tent at irregular intervals.

In between the rounds of acorns being fired,  I heard lots of rustling and movement outside our thin nylon enclosure.  My imagination began to run wild.

Was it a bear? Racoons?

I lay there on my back completely paralyzed with fear, praying for protection.

I would drift off to sleep only to be woken moments later by another sound foreign to my ears.  My adrenaline would once again begin rushing.

The little mite beside me behaved as a small tornado, spinning endlessly during the night, taking all of my covers with him.

I was frozen and scared.

I began to ponder why anyone would choose to leave the comforts of their cozy home to do this thing called camping.  It seemed so senseless.

And in case your’e wondering how my knight in shining armor fared…

He snored through it all like a motionless log.  Not so much as a peep from his side of the tent.

I thoroughly reveled in the first light of dawn.

I readied kids for the day, getting them dressed and putting their shoes on.

Duff and the boys got the fire going and we retrieved food from the van.

As I bit into a sweet, gooey smores…

I honestly began to feel a bit ridiculous about my nighttime panic attacks, like maybe it had all been in my head.


We excitedly prepared to hike together as a family to the top of Hanging Rock, where the views are spectacular.

We chose a shorter trail of 2.6 miles,  knowing we had failed to bring a carrier for the youngest and little legs would tire quickly.

Gavin took the lead with Makinley, our 3 year old, who turned out to be a little moutain goat.

I became Gabby’s trainer, speaking words of encouragement into her ears every step of the way.

Duff was transformed into the family pack mule, lugging a large backpack on his shoulders and a 28 pound toddler in his arms.

I wasn’t sure he was going to make it.  I wish I had pictures to share.  He just seemed beyond the point of extending a warm welcome to my friend, the camera.

We stopped for a water break about 3/4 of the way up…

and a photo op.

Moments later, Gabby lost her footing on a rock and grazed her knee.  I was forced to carry her the last little bit to the first outlook just below the mountain’s peak.

As we took in the view and snapped pictures, Gabby planted herself on a large rock where she happily munched on a baggy full of Cheez-its.  I wasn’t sure we would ever peel her away from that rock. 

But after a decent break we were able to coax her onward to the top.

The views really were magnificent.

Enough so, that my acrophobia quickly set in.

There is something about children and unprotected cliff edges that causes my stomach to tingle and do flip flops.

Frightful things pop into my imagination.   I become hypervigilant.  A child walking anywhere near a drop-off sends me quickly into hysterics.

Tell me I’m not alone in this.  I’m beginning to think I have a problem, first the wild animals and now heights. I see Xanax in my future.

So we’re on the picturesque summit and I’m trying my hardest to enjoy the beauty that surrounds me, when Gabby realizes her Cheez-its are gone.  Gone as in a younger sibing has consumed the remainder of the bag.

I’m not sure if the hike was too much for her or if she was ready for her nap.  Perhaps her blood sugar was dropping or maybe she was just plain ornery.

But whatever the cause, she proceeded to have a top-of-the-mountain meltdown over little orange square crackers that go crunch.  Unbelievable.

 I was more than ready to return to our campsite, when she finally recovered.  I even began to entertain the idea of a mid-day tent nap, acorns and all.

The hike back down was mostly a breeze.  Gabby was so thrilled with the ease of it,  she did not stop chattering and giggling the entire way.  Duff sought out a few five-minute-bench breaks, but we made it back down to the bottom in time for a late lunch!

So…it was back to the campsite we went, lugging our cooler along, to begin sandwich assembly.

And as we sat there around the campfire finishing up our food, that single moment of peacefulness came, giving my 7 year old son a moment to reflect.

It was then that he spoke the words that captured every thought I’d entertained since our arrival 24 hours earlier.

“Sooooo…what’s so fun about camping??”

Following lunch, Duff thought he’d better take Kin up to the visitor’s center to use the “real” bathrooms.  He did not fool this seasoned wife.  I knew full well he was using his little girl as an excuse.  An excuse to avoid using the pit toilet himself.  But I didn’t say anything to him.  Best to leave his male ego intact, I decided.


Late afternoon was reasonably quiet.

Duff took Gavin canoeing and supposedly they became heroes to a few people stranded in a row boat.

When they returned, we roasted weiners over the fire, straightened up camp, and had everyone ready for bed before sundown.

I was going to sleep like a baby tonight, I decided. Nothing could keep this sleep deprived mama awake.

I bundled up well so cold temperatures would not be an issue.  I arranged myself close to Duff who doubles quite nicely as a furnace.  I fell fast asleep….

Until the rain began falling in torrents and the wind picked up.  I lay there staring upward at the tent seams, wondering if it would hold, keeping us dry.

Or… would we find ourselves lying in puddles…with 7 children…in the middle of dark wilderness?  I once again prayed.

The rain was steady for most of the night.  I regularly checked the kiddos to be sure they were staying warm and dry.

I had trouble hearing any nighttime prowlers over the constant rain and wind, but I did note a lot of barking and yelping in the vicinity.  Dogs I concluded, bothered by the thunderstorm.

I briefly snoozed, only to be woken by fat raindrops bouncing off my forehead.  The entire tent felt moist.  Duff readjusted the rain fly and we had some good laughs with the kids over raindrops falling on our heads.

Realistically there was nothing very funny about the predicament we now found ourselves in.  Wet bedding everywhere.  Wet bags.  Wet shoes.  Wet tents.  Rain pouring down.  Campsite turned mud puddle.  Van parked inconveniently far away.  Little children needing to pee.

I dreaded what the next hour would entail.

I wanted to snap my fingers in a very bad way.

Somehow though, we managed to pack up that campsite and cram it all back into the van.

When I say “we”, I use the term very loosely.

I transported the 3 youngest to the van and made one trip with wet sleeping bags.

And as I placed my contribution into the rear of the van that morning, a friendly fellow camper greeted me with a good morning.  He wondered how we had fared during the night and asked if I had heard all the coyotes.

“Coyotes?” I questioned “Don’t you mean the dogs?”

“If that’s what you need to believe.” he retorted.

We headed out without looking back, promising ourselves some kind of reward.

We had survived 48 hours of primitive camping with 7 kids, this warranted a celebratory breakfast.

Bojangles, here we come!!

And as we filed out of the Chevy van and into the warm establishment, to place our orders for sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits galore, I realized what a motley crew we must appear.  All still clad in our damp pajamas and coats, with hair disheveled, and teeth unbrushed.

I knew we needed a picture…to capture this morning forever.

One last delay before hot coffee and warm food…..

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