Thursday, July 27, 2017

I Hate Beach Camping #2

After the Assateague Island disaster of 2016, I decided to try again with a different beach and a different season. Thankfully no theft or illness befell us while we were camping at First Landing State Park but it was miserable.

1. I made the mistake of choosing camp site 150.

  • On the map, 150 looked great. There was nothing between 150 and the ocean. In real life, though, site 150 was surrounded by tall shrubs and sand dunes making a beach view impossible. 
  • Site 150 was in the full sun with zero shade available.  The sand was burning hot and there was no shade to escape to. In the early morning the site was ideal, but only until about 9 am.
  • 150 was all sand and no dirt. I had to pitch the tent on the deep sand because there were no other choices available. With sand right outside the tent door, keeping sand out of the tent was impossible. 

2. We arrived during a heatwave

  • Even on a reasonably cool July day I should have expected lots of sun and temps in the 70s and 80s. We arrived during a heat wave and the temps were in the 90s with high humidity. 
  • Camping with children is tiring on a good day. Excessive heat makes camping exhausting.

3. We didn't sleep well in the tent

  • The night provided little relief from the heat. The humidity and sweat caused sand to stick to our bodies even in bed.
  • The helicopters from Fort Story were active during the night, flying directly over the tent at low altitude many times. This was a neat experience, but tiring.

4. Sand was everywhere

  • Sand was in the car. I still have sand in the car from Assateague Island from 2016. Next year I still have sand in the car from First Landing. No amount of vacuuming will remove all of it.
  • Sand was on our bodies during the night despite rinsing off at the beach shower. We should have gone to the bath house to take a full shower but we were too tired on that first night.  
  • Sand was in my bed the morning after I got home. I used the same blanket in the tent that I used on my bed but I shook it out well. It wasn't enough.

5. We weren't at the ocean!

  • How I could have missed the fact that First Landing State Park was on the Chesapeake Bay and not the Atlantic Ocean is mind boggling to me. The ocean was a 5 mile drive away but we didn't go because I thought we were looking at the ocean. One look at the campground map would have informed me of this, but I was so sure the campground was on the ocean that information to the contrary didn't register.

6. The water at our beach was dangerously dirty with poop

  • One day after we left, the State of Virginia issued a Swimming Advisory and posted a warning sign at First Landing beach explaining how people shouldn't wade or swim in the water because the poop levels were too high. Yuck!
  • All the beaches surrounding First Landing were fine. Of all the water we could have chosen, we had to choose the dirty water.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Some Items Need a Spare and the Magic of Laundry Baskets

Usually the CRV is so packed that the girls can't see each other in the back seat and I can't see out the rear view mirror. I  packed lighter this time but my efforts backfired. Our faithful air mattress of two years leaked terrible on the first night, leaving us sleeping on the rocky ground. The lightweight girls didn't sleep too badly but I spent most of the night awake and in pain. I eventually abandoned air mattresses altogether in favor of a cot but I hadn't made the switch yet at this point.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Roof Bag and Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag

Taking two children camping is no small task. Even an adult alone requires a bunch of equipment. The car is usually stuffed so tight that my girls can't see each other and the passenger seat is filled.

That situation changed when I began using a Sherpak Go! 15 Roof Bag on my Assateague Island Trip of 2016. I packed the roof bag on the ground to see how things would fit but then I took everything out, hefted the bag up to the roof, and repacked it on top of the car.

At first I threaded one strap through the front car door opening and the back strap through the back door opening but the straps buzzed terribly and gave me such a headache I had to pull over. This was, unfortunately, right before I had to drive over the dreaded Chesapeake Bay Bridge. For my next trip I threaded both roof straps through the back door opening and the buzzing was more tolerable.

The roof bag isn't easy to use. At 5'4" I have to climb on top of the car every time to zip it shut and secure the straps. The buckles for both compression straps have broken but I won't really be in trouble unless one of the buckles for the main straps break (the straps that hold the bag to the roof). The Sherpa roof bag works and it does give more space in my passenger compartment but it's not easy for me to use.

For Assateague Island in March 2016 I also had another untested item to try out. I brought a Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Women's Sleeping Bag from REI. The first night of our trip the temps were about 25 at night and I had to used another lightweight down sleeping bag as a liner before I was warm enough to sleep. Maybe if I had worn expedition weight long underwear with two pairs of wool socks I might have been warm enough with the Kelty Cosmic Down sleeping bag alone but I was freezing. My Kelty Cosmic Down is ideal about about 50 degrees.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I Hate Beach Camping #1

I thought camping at Maryland's Assateague Island National Seashore would be fun during spring break. The temps were cold enough that mosquitoes would not be a problem and the beach would not be crowded during the off season. I was right about the beach not being crowded and the lack of mosquitoes but oh, what a mistake I made going camping at Assateague in March!

From the park employees I met at check in, I learned that March is the windiest month at Assateague Island. Not that they needed to tell me about the wind. I experienced this first hand.

I was really glad I bought sand anchors for the tent. Metal tent stakes, even long ones, would have come out in the 30 mph winds. The sand anchors held fast, though. Sand anchors are a great product. I dug the sand anchors up to my elbows before I buried them. I dug with one of the plastic sand toys we brought to play in the sand. The 40 degree temps and the 30 mph wind froze my facial muscles and make talking difficult. I didn't want to wear my gloves because they would get wet and sandy.

We lasted one or two nights in the windy tent. Two, I think, before I tore the tent down to move to the bay side with less wind. Unfortunately, once I had the tent down I couldn't put it back up. The wind was too strong. My oldest child wasn't feeling well so I left our bikes, our cooler full of food (with bungees on it to keep the horses out), and our fire extinguisher on the site while we went to a hotel for the night with plans to return the next morning. That night my oldest developed a fever and I knew we needed to head home the next day. In the morning, we left the hotel and returned to our camp site to find that the bikes, cooler, and fire extinguisher had been stolen overnight! The law enforcement ranger said there were opportunistic locals who liked to cruise through the camps looking for unattended items to steal. What a bummer! My older was diagnosed with strep throat later that day and she took her first dose of amoxicillin before bed that night.

The trip was a disaster but the ponies roaming around was cool:


Sunday, October 26, 2014

I Couldn't Start the Fire

The survival book made it seem so easy. Crumpled paper. Twigs. Kindling. Dry wood. Light the fire. Done.

We did a fun hike with a shopping bag to collect twigs on the trail from Culler's Overlook to the RV campground.

We had our smore sticks, our marshmallows, chocolate, and our Graham cracker squares.

We put four $1 bills into the collection box and carried a bad of heavy wood back to our camp site.

I tried. And tried. And tried again.

I rearranged the paper, the kindling. I lit. I blew air on the little fire.

I blew so much breath I felt lightheaded. I thought about that guy from Survivor who passed out into his fire many years ago. Maybe he fainted because he was blowing his breath on to his fire.

After an hour of trying to start a fire, I have up and played Crazy 8's in the tent with the girls.

When I got home, I saw the large, unopened box of firestarters in the garage. Next time I will take one.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ranger Bill and the Bear Song

I remember Ranger Bill Jones from our camping trip last summer at Big Meadows. His genuine kindness and patience for children shined through immediately during his Junior Ranger program. 

So, I was happy to see Ranger Bill the first Friday we stayed at Loft Mountain.

I think the expression on his face while showing my 8 year old a bear foot print communicates how much he likes what he is doing.

Plus, Ranger Bill sang the "I Met a Bear" song. Once we got back to the car, I realized we had this song on one of our cds and we listened to it many times with new enthusiasm as we drove Skyline Drive.....but I still like Ranger Bill's rendition of the song better:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What Is This Footprint?

One of the guests at a ranger program showed a photo on her cell phone of a strange animal track on the Simmons Gap fire road in the southern district of Shenandoah National Park.

The girls and I walked the fire road the next day not really expecting to find the print since it was 24 hours old, but my 8 year old has keen eyes and she spotted the track on the right just past the metal bridge.

While I was getting the camera ready, my 8 year old took her index and middle finger and made fingerprints in the third and fourth toes of the track. I told her not to do that next time!

Note that this track has four big toe prints and no claw marks. Bears have five toes and leave claw marks. A cat, however, has four toe pads and no claw marks since cats retract their claws until they need them.

Bobcat tracks are like house cats so they could not have been this animal. 

Mountain lion? My 8 year old is wearing a girls' size 2 shoe in this photo. Note her double sideways fingermarks on toes 3 and 4.