It's been a little quiet on the ole blog-o this week. Which is due mostly to the fact that I've been without internet for the past 5 days. Why? Because we've been out in the woods!
It was pretty much a disaster of a camping trip. I had warned Thatboy in advance that camping with our children wasn't going to be the relaxing vacation he envisioned. I think the exact words I used were "This is going to be more work than vacation."
He decided that he wanted to prove me wrong. Fueled by visions of his own family camping trips (which occurred when he was a teenager and involved sleeping in campers or cabins with working kitchens) he promised to plan the whole thing. His number one goal was to find a place with a nearby lake to swim in. He found and booked the campsite. "There's even a restaurant in town! So you plan breakfasts, and we'll pick up lunch and dinner. See, vacation! No cooking!"
Except as we drove through town we noticed that the restaurant? She was no longer open. Closed for business.
And then we pulled into the campground and I asked what our campsite number was. He didn't have an answer. "I was going to look it up on my phone." He didn't even think that maybe we wouldn't have cell service in the middle of the woods. So we drove around and headed back to town to find someone with cell service to look up our reservation online.
Finally, we were back at the campground and ready to set up camp.
Because the local restaurant was closed, we ended up heading to Lake Arrowhead for dinner - which was about 30 minutes away. During the drive Thatbaby fell asleep in the car.
You guys know about the curse of the car nap? If you're a parent, chances are you've experienced it. They get just enough sleep to recharge them, making any subsequent sleep impossible. The entire way home from dinner, Thatbaby sang and talked. When we got back to the campsite and tucked into sleeping bags, he was bouncing off the tent walls. It took forever to get him to settle down and go to sleep.
The next morning I went to make breakfast, only to find Thatboy hadn't packed any cookware. Despite the fact I had asked him to make a list of all the things we had in our camping gear twice, and the fact that my mom had brought us up a cookware set that he claimed we didn't need because we already had one, and the fact that the morning we packed the car I tried to go over a list of "what we had." Without a pan, there was no way to cook/reheat the food I'd brought. And without a pot or coffee pot, there was no way to make the hot chocolate I'd promised the kids. We did our best with foil, but ended up eating semi warm eggs and potatoes. Thank goodness I had cooked them before we left or it would have been a real disaster.
After breakfast we went for a little hike around the campgrounds, before getting dressed and heading to the lake for that swimming Thatboy had wanted to do so badly. Except he hadn't done research to realize that the one part of the lake that allowed swimming was fenced off and no dogs were allowed.
So he and the boys went swimming, while I took Thatdog to a different part of the lake and we just sat and enjoyed the view for a few hours.
(Between you and I, those quiet hours were some of my favorite of the entire trip!) We met up for lunch at the "Artisan Faire" the town was having. Which meant there was a food truck where we could grab burgers and hot dogs. Camp food not at the campsite!
While the kids napped, we drove to 2 different nearby towns looking for cookware so we could make breakfast the rest of the time we were there. When the boys woke up, we headed back to the lake to give the boys their first fishing lessons!
We caught nothing. Which was okay by me! We headed to the next town over to grab dinner, only to find that there was no outdoor seating. Which meant no dogs allowed. And with the weather in the 80s, it was a little too warm to be leaving Thatdog in the car. In fact, there were no restaurants for the next 3-4 towns over that allowed dogs. So back to Arrowhead we went. And another rough night was had.
Our second morning I was able to cook breakfast AND make hot cocoa. While Thatboy built our first fire.
Today was hiking day. And we headed up to the very top of Keller's Peak to the lookout for some killer views.
Thatboy and Thatkid headed up even further to the Peak's Lookout, while those of us with four legs, small legs, and fears of heights stayed down below.
I had found a great nearby hike for the family - National Children's Forest. It was a little less than a mile loop, on a paved path, that promised beautiful views. Thatboy wasn't thrilled about the idea of a paved path, but I knew it was exactly right for our little guys. Including the one who didn't want to walk the entire trip. For 3 days he wanted to be carried everywhere we went.
The older one only made it about half a mile before he started complaining about how tired he was and how much his legs hurt. Luckily I spotted one of those promised beautiful views and guided him towards there with the promise of a rest and snack.
We sat for a while and ate, and then, miraculously his legs felt better and he wanted to climb every rock in the area. And the little guy, wanting to do whatever his brother did, decided he could walk a little (and climb) too.
We headed back to the campsite where I entertained the kids for a bit while Thatboy ran and grabbed dinner to bring back and eat there. Then we managed to actually get Thatbaby to sleep! We stayed up with Thatkid doing glowsticks and smores.
The next morning was breakfast, more cocoa, and then packing everything up to head home. The trip felt much longer than 3 days, and we were exhausted from poor sleep, lots of work, and bored children. The campsite offered no showers or hot water, so we were definitely not at our best in the smell department either.
Things I learned from the trip:
1) Thatboy is not the planner in our relationship. And I should stay being the one in charge of planning everything.
2) Children 5 and under are not great at "entertaining themselves" with nothing more than a ball and some trees.
3) I used to love camping in tents when I was younger, or when it was just Thatboy and me. But with young kids? I don't see the need. I think we're going to stick with cabins for the next few years. I mean, we can still get to do all the same thing, but with warmer, more comfortable beds, separate spaces, and a place to cook meals.
In truth, you can have almost all the "fun" aspects of camping without even leaving your immediate vicinity. We have hiking, lakes, trails, all right here. We set up the tent in the backyard every year and we have a firepit for making smores. We even can eat campfood in the comfort of our own yard! Like beans! A pot of beans has always been "camp food" for me. Because it's easy to cook over an open fire or camp stove, it's filling, and versatile. Even Thatboy's family used to make beans when camping and use them for dinners and breakfasts.
These are cooked low and slow, sweetened by maple syrup, flavored by bacon and bourbon. Served with hot dogs, burgers, chicken, or steak - whatever you love to cook when camping. As a bonus, they won't leave you smelling like a campfire for days after the fact!
Bourbon Baked Beans(From Cooking Light)
1 lb dried navy beans
3 applewood smoked bacon slices
1 cup finely chopped onion
5 cups water, divided
1/2 cup maple syrup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp bourbon, divided
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
- Sort and wash beans. Place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, cover, and let stand overnight. Drain.
- Preheat oven to 350. Heat pan over medium high heat. Add bacon to pan and cook 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove from pan, reserving 1 1/2 Tbsp drippings in pan. Crumble bacon.
- Add onion to drippings in pan, cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown, stirring frequently.
- Add beans, bacon, 4 cups water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup bourbon, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover and bake for 2 hours.
- Stir in 1 cup water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 2 Tbsp bourbon. Cover and bake 1 hour or until beans are tender and liquid is almost absorbed.
- Stir in vinegar and season with salt.