Filed under: Entertaining Kids at Camp, Family Weekend Trips, Kid-Friendly Trips, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, Scenic Byways/Historic Routes, State & National Parks, Tent Campgrounds, Uncategorized
DANCING WITH THE STARS
Mary and Alan live just outside the city of Richmond, VA, in a nicely manicured suburban neighborhood. Alan works for the State Government and Mary works in Medical Records for a local hospital. They have two children, a boy and a girl ages 9 and 11. Both children, Bobby and Suzie, attend a local elementary school and stay at an after school daycare until their parents get home from their jobs.
It was the typical busy Monday morning at the hospital for Mary as she entered a rising pile of patient information forms into her computer.
Her closest friend at work, Karen Karnes, was babbling about how excited she was for the coming long weekend and their family plans to go camping at Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park.
Camping? Mary shook her head in wonderment as to why anyone in their right mind would want to go off into the woods and sleep on the hard, cold ground. Thoughts of a camping trip she had made with her big sister some twenty years back when they ended up sleeping, soaking wet, in the back of a station wagon after a horrendous storm came up in the middle of the night. No thank-you, she thought. I have NO desire to do that again!
But Karen kept talking about the upcoming trip. Each time she talked about their plans, she shared something from a previous trip that sounded exciting and fun. Before long, Mary began to wonder if camping in the mountains might be something fun for their family. Perhaps the adventure with her sister years ago was just one of those bad luck things not typical of a family camping trip.
A little after lunch Mary decided to ask some of her own questions of Karen. Things like; where do you sleep, what do you eat, what does it cost, and what equipment do you need?
Karen stopped, put her hand on her hip, and stared at Mary. “You have never taken your children camping, have you?”
Mary felt a guilt feeling rise up in her throat but managed to mutter, “No, we have never been camping”.
Karen had a big grin on her face. She raised her arms up over her head as an expression of exasperation and said, “Well, why don’t you, Alan and the kids go with us this weekend – it would be fun and we have all the stuff you need!”
Mary sat there a minute and thought about the offer. It was extremely generous and – well, shucks, exciting.
That night after dinner, she eased the invitation from Suzie out to her husband – not knowing what kind of reaction to expect.
To her surprise, Alan responded, “I think that would be a great idea. Let’s do it!”
Back at work, the next day Mary told Karen that they would like to take her up on the offer to go camping with them. Karen was ecstatic. She said that they had an extra tent and air mattresses. There was no need for Mary to bring a thing but their toiletries, sleeping bags and a couple of flashlights. All the cooking equipment, coolers, food, etc. that Karen and Kevin had would be shared along with the campsite, which was extremely spacious and had room for two tents and parking two cars. Karen added, “Leave your makeup and hair dryer at home. Do not bring scented soap or lotions and do pack insect repellant with a sunscreen. Be sure to have fresh batteries in your camera and bring comfortable hiking shoes.”
OK…… Mary thought. I can handle that! Together with Alan and the kids, they spent the next few nights assembling their packs with the needed personal gear. Alan bought new sleeping bags along with a bike rack for the back of their car.
When the big day arrived, the air was crisp and clear. The sun was poking its head up over the horizon. Somehow, Alan had managed to mount and secure four bicycles on the back of the car. All of their personal gear was packed inside. Both children were bouncing off the walls with excitement – Mary was thankful for seat belts to keep them situated as they drove over to Karen’s house to meet up for the trip up to the Skyline Drive.
Karen and Kevin had a small trailer hitched to the back of their Honda minivan. Inside the trailer was all the needed camping gear. On top of the trailer were the four bicycles needed for their troupe.
The procession headed west on I64, exited onto SR15 and joined with SR33 to the top of the mountain where they entered the Skyline Drive. The 15-mile drive from the entrance onto the parkway to their destination at Big Meadows was mesmerizing. Everyone stared at the views of the farms and towns below made possible by the numerous overlooks. The wildflowers were in full bloom, Small waterfalls poured out from the rocky cuts into the mountain for the road built decades ago by crews known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). A deer and her fawn ran across the road in front of them as a seemingly intimidated groundhog stood inches away chewing on fresh, green grass.
About a mile before their entrance to the campground, traffic was stopped along the side of the road. A Ranger was there with the blue lights flashing on his car. At first, they thought there had been an accident – then they saw a black bear and her two cubs frolicking in a small field across the road. The Ranger was only making sure people stayed away from the bears and directing traffic that wanted to proceed around the parked cars.
Mary shuddered at the thought of the bears visiting their campsite during the night. But, Karen assured her they would be safe. All of the food that might attract a bear would be safely locked in either the car or one of the metal lockers provided at the campsite.
It took about an hour to get the gear unpacked and the tents set up. Kevin had brought a huge screen house that surrounded the picnic table along with eight folding chairs and a hammock. His camping equipment trailer made bringing all their gear extremely easy.
Immediately, everyone took off on their bikes and rode down to the entrance of the campground where the “Big Meadow” spread across the landscape. They dropped their bikes and walked through the meadow’s pathways watching butterflies, songbirds, deer, rabbits and chipmunks scurry in and out of the tall grass and brush. Tomorrow they would hike down to Dark Hollow Falls and trace part of the Appalachian Trail on their way back.
Back at their campsite, they cooked hot dogs over a campfire and, after dark, roasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate.
None of the children ever looked at their pocket game screens or asked for a smart phone to play with or send a text.
Just before bedtime, all four children formed a circle and started dancing around the campfire. The adults quickly joined in the frolic. As they all danced Suzie, one of the children, looked up at the sky. You could see all the stars bright and clear – something that she had never seen before. You see, the lights from the city near her home always blocked out all but the brightest stars.
The night sky with the glowing embers of the fire was absolutely beautiful. The circle of friends pointed out the Big and Little Dipper, along with other stellar constellations the children had only seen in pictures.
Amy yelled out, “Look, we are dancing with the stars!”
Every one laughed – but agreed. Tired and relaxed, everyone retired to their tent and dreamed of open fields full of wildlife and the glowing stars overhead.
Have you taken your children camping lately so that they may dance with the stars?
HAPPY CAMPING TRAILS TO ALL!