Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Life is Sticky. Life is Sweet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Camping & Rafting Trip 2011

We took the kids rafting and camping last weeked. It was a great experience and we plan on making it an annual summer trip.

Lots of friends were asking about the details, so I'm posting them below:

We set out for Barryville, NY on Saturday morning at about 8 am. We made the obligatory Wawa stop for gas, coffee and snacks that are waaaay too crunchy to be consumed in small and confined areas on long car trips.

The trip took about two-and-a-half hours and it was very easy-- simple directions and smooth northbound sailing. We gawked at all the suckers stuck in miles of southbound traffic.

We chose Indian Head Canoes for rafting on the Delaware River. I made tons of phone calls and this was the only company that would let us take Liam along, who is almost 3-years-old and barely 33 pounds. Most companies require rafters to be either five years old or at least 40 pounds.

Once the kids were changed and thoroughly sunscreened, and once the waivers were signed, we were on the river at around 11:30 am.

Although the website gave an estimate of a 4-hour paddle time, the 9-mile trip took almost 6 hours. The actual paddling is not really necessary as the current does most of the work, but at times we paddled to speed up and access the shore line. There were some "rapids", but they were very mild and the kids probably would have preferred a more thrilling ride-- but it was perfect for traveling with little ones. The rapids were separated by long stretches of calm water where we were able to jump into the water and swim. The depth of the water varied from roughly two feet to so deep that none of us could touch bottom. We all wore life jackets the entire time-- these were mandatory for the kids, however the adults were allowed to remove them during the trip.

There were plenty of interesting areas to stop and explore. We pulled the boat over and dragged it onto a rocky shore line with big rocks and shallow water. This was a favorite with the kids-- they climbed, jumped and explored-- I winced, warned and pleaded for them to be careful, paranoid that one of them was going to slip and fall. They were wearing rubber-soled water shoes, which thankfully helped to keep them safe. They each chose a giant rock on which to sit and eat lunch.

The six hour trip was a little on the long side. Bill and I were panicking a little towards the end, thinking that we had somehow missed the base where we were supposed to return our boats. For the last 45-minutes or so, the kids were somewhat whiny and complainish. In large part, this was due to the fact that mom and dad had abandoned "fun-mode" for "anxiety-mode". Anxiety mode basically entails us paddling, looking around in desperation, figuring out a plan for getting home in the event that we had really missed the base and yelling at the kids for mostly reasonable-kidlike behavior. The good news is that we didn't miss it. We couldn't have missed it if we tried because it was obviously labeled with signage and such. There were a few bases that we had passed earlier that weren't really labeled, so we just weren't sure.

Once we were bussed back to our starting point, we headed to the campgrounds at Kittatinny. We really didn't have any particular reason for booking here-- I think it was just the first place Bill called. The site we ended up with was pretty basic-- a small area of land, a metal fire ring, a picnic table, a garbage can and a port-a-potty a bit down the road-- far enough so we couldn't smell it, but close enough so we could hear the door banging closed all night long.

We set up camp, which basically entailed opening up four folding chairs and putting up a tent. Many of the 'professionals' had huge set-ups-- hammocks and multiple tents and long tables with cooking supplies and I don't even know-- just lots and lots of stuff. Being amateurs, we planned on having dinner out (which we did) and we only packed snacks and ingredients for smores. Bill attempted to tackle the wet-firewood-problem with a giant bottle of lighter fluid-- but ultimately he had to make a quick trip down the road to purchase some dry stuff. He then got the fire going in no time-- which seemed weirdly important to him-- like some kind of a man test or something.

We thought that the kids would be exhausted, but they were completely wired. In retrospect, letting them pack their swords probably wasn't the best idea. Also, since the sites were practically right on top of each other, it was a losing battle to get them to respect other people's borders. I feel like people were mostly laid back about this-- but I'm always certain that we have the loudest, wildest and craziest kids, so I'm super-sensitive about wrangling them. We let them run wild until they drove us to the brink of insanity and then we locked them in the tent. (In retrospect, we probably should have just done some camp-like bedtime routine and tucked them in at a somewhat reasonable hour.) This was confirmed several minutes later, when Will popped his head out of the tent to puke the entire contents of his stomach. Liam was sleeping, so we let Will hang with us by the fire while he settled down. We cuddled him and heaped tons of praise on him for having the common sense to puke OUTSIDE of the tent.
I also heaped tons of praise on Bill for having the common sense to bury the puke with the kids' beach shovel.

We put Will to sleep and hung out for a little while longer before calling it a night. Some campers at a nearby site had some kick-ass speakers and they were playing some great Springsteen. It was perfectly muted, not obnoxiously loud, and the fire was so cozy. It was great to spend time without the distractions of the internet, the television or the telephone-- that sounds so cliche, but it's totally true.

I'm not going to lie, it was a very crappy sleep. The ground was freaking HARD and the port-a-potty door kept slamming. Liam kept rolling into the corner of the tent and Will kept coughing in his sleep and we were terrified that he would inadvertently put on a repeat of his earlier performance. Liam woke up around 5 am and he was in and out of sleep for the next two hours. During this time, I noticed two spiders that had made their way into the tent at some point and were busy weaving webs right above our heads. I'm not terrified of spiders or anything, but it was just hard to get back to sleep with thoughts of the not-so-itsy-bitsy spider landing on my face.

We were all up and out of the tent by 7:30 am or so. Bill made a small fire with what was left of the wood and the kids feasted on some donuts and wandered around the woods while we packed our gear. At this point, I was pretty pleased with the fact that we had brought so little-- it took almost no time at all to get back on the road.

I am conditioned to have coffee in my system within an hour of waking, so we made a stop at a Dunkin Donuts and there was an accident on Parkway south that held us up-- but we were back in our driveway before noon on Sunday.

All in all, it was a great trip. The total cost came in under the overnight trip we took to Sesame Place last year, but I found this way more enjoyable. For next year, we're going to try and make dinner at camp rather than go out. We're going to put up a "play tent" for the kids to go in and out and in and out and in and out of-- they were pretty rough on our tent and they never really got the hang of taking their shoes off before charging inside. We're also going to pack a tube for the kids on the river as they struggled a little with the awkwardness of just the life jackets. We're going to rig up some kind of rope ladder for the boat as well-- getting pulled and pushed up onto the raft like a giant dead fish, ass and legs in the air, was kind of rough on the ego. (The raft was pretty big and high, so no one was pulling themselves up on upper arm strength alone.) Oh and an air mattress, that too. Bill wasn't too big on this suggestion, but did I mention how HARD the ground was? And a waterproof digital camera... in a perfect world we'll be able to save for one of these. We took rafting pics using a disposable waterproof camera. It was expensive and the photos won't be available for a week. Living at the shore, I figure a good digital one is a good investment.

We might also take a crack at camping locally this fall. In the meantime, I've got to figure out a way to make the ground softer. Also, how to make coffee while camping. Either that, or we just camp within a few-mile radius of coffee. Good coffee. All of the coffee I tried in Barryville tasted like instant dirty water. And tasted like smoke. Go figure.