Into the woods

It was the only night I could find a cabin in a state park anywhere near us. Not that I’d have been able to predict the weather several weeks in advance in any case.

As we drove the hour and a half or so to Silver Falls State Park, the clouds couldn’t make up their mind. To release or to hold it in. I drove through intermittent rain, grateful to have windshield wipers with many adjustable settings. For a while the kids chatted to each other. Then read books. Then napped. They can travel without being plugged in to electronics after all.

Being unplugged soon became a theme in our camping adventure. And perhaps a little unhinged, but that didn’t happen until the middle of the night.

We arrived a little after 2 p.m. But we couldn’t check into our cabin until 4 p.m.

Fortunately, Silver Falls has an awesome lodge and cafe and a friendly Park Ranger to guide us. So with the promise of a hot chocolate upon our return, the kids cheerfully set off in the drizzling rain on a short hike to the nearest waterfall.

It was a quick hike, but probably long enough for the monkeys, as the complaints started about halfway back up the trail. I would have willingly gone to the South Falls hike (another couple of miles) but was glad enough to go back to the cafe and lodge myself. After all, a cup of tea awaited me.

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20140626_171850Restoratives consumed (yes, we were truly roughing it) and coffee for the following morning purchased (I figured it’d be just like an iced coffee with some sugar and milk), we checked into the cabin. And then headed across the campground to get a wheelbarrow of firewood.

$6 got us an entire wheelbarrow. At least I was getting some exercise, I thought, as the kids happily traipsed along behind me, over a quaint covered footbridge and back to our cabin.

20140626_175506Berry was impatient to get dinner cooked, so I dutifully got a roaring fire going with the nice, dry firewood and some bits of paper I’d scavenged from the recycling bin at home.

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A dinner for all tastes. From left: cheeseburger, cheese rolls, gluten-free cheeseburger.

Of course, we couldn’t possibly wait until the fire had died down enough to give us good, hot coals to cook our burgers over. But I managed, all the same, to keep them from being scorched on the outside and raw inside and procured dinner for each of us, according to our taste preferences and dietary restrictions.

I hadn’t bothered to bring lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise for my burger. I did bring ketchup, at least, and that’s practically a vegetable (or fruit if you prefer to believe tomatoes are fruits).

And, besides, we had smores coming.

20140626_183259-MIXBerry dug into hers. Duncan devoured his. Even I had one with half a marshmallow and some gluten-free graham crackers.

And then the kids had some more and I refrained, as sugar makes me cranky and I probably wasn’t going to run off into the woods and hide if I became the Big Bad Mummy Wolf.

During dinner I realized I’d remembered almost everything we needed. But forgot the bottle opener (and soap, but really who needs soap?). Fortunately, our cabin neighbors gallantly opened my hard cider and I relaxed into the soggy evening. (He later came by to borrow salt, an equitable trade all around.)

After dinner, the kids played a came of imaginary Throw Rocks Into The Puddle Pokemon, collecting a dozen special rocks that I cruelly informed them were going to stay in the forest and not come home with us. Eventually, they lined them up on the bench outside for the night and we got ready for bed.

(Taken the next day before we left, after the sleeping bags had been packed in the minivan.)
(Taken the next day before we left, after the sleeping bags had been packed in the minivan.)

Our cabin was outfitted with a double bed and 2 bunkbeds in one room just large enough to accommodate them and a futon couch, table and chairs in the other. In retrospect, I should have slept on the futon, in the other room, away from the creakings and noises of the kids. But I thought the bed would be more comfortable.

It was at this point I realized I forgot another essential item — a sleeping pad.

While you roll your eyes at me, let me explain that I’ve had back pain since I was a pre-teen (scoliosis then a car accidents giving me 3 bulging discs, the lowest one I had removed and my vertebrae fused together 2 years ago). My back is in good shape now, but it has it’s limits. I also have fibromyalgia which means I tend to get a bit achy. Plus I’m really cranky when I don’t sleep well.

But I decided to make the best of it, read to the kids for approximately forever in an attempt to finish the last Gregor the Overlander book (we didn’t) and put them to bed. One sounds of sleeping commenced, I went outside and hung out of the porch (rudely moving the precious rocks aside), knitted and read for a while.

We sadly had no cell service. None at all. So I was unable to share pictures or funny stores — like the moment Berry got upset she lost the coin toss about who got what bunk and stomped off away from the cabin as if she was going to walk home — or text Adam that I missed him already.

I crawled into my sleeping bag with the sound of rain pattering on the roof and a cool breeze coming in through the open window. Don’t worry, we weren’t going to get cold — I turned the heater on in the other room to dry out all our wet things.

It was a rough night. There was a lot of waking up. One falling out of the bunk incident (good thing fate gave Berry the bottom bunk). And we all experienced something that was not my best parenting moment ever in which Berry and I got into a stubbornness battle and she lost all computer time for the weekend, before deciding to use actual words to ask for a drink.

The next day

I was grateful for the cold coffee the next morning, half of which I managed to get into my before I relented to the kids demands to finish Gregor. That done, we ate breakfast and set about the most important task of the day: building another fire so we could eat more smores. I’d never had smores and cold coffee, after all.

Fired #2 proved to be a lot trickier than the day before, as the wood on the porch, while technically dry, had been subjected to the wet atmosphere all night. Plus I was making the fire on a bed of sopping ashes and it was actively raining.

But I may have had some leftover stubbornness from the night before, so I wasn’t about to give up. Attempt #3, with the aid of a pan of hot charcoal from our neighbor, was successful. Yay, fire! Yay, smores!

Even though it was raining, the kids didn’t want to leave. Originally, my plan was to take them to Enchanted Forest on the way home to break up the drive a bit and have lunch there. But it was raining. And with no cell service, I couldn’t check the weather report. (Why is unplugging considered a good thing?)

So we decided to just hang out until we had to check out of the cabin at 1 p.m. Duncan had spotted a Young Rangers treering necklace making activity at 11 a.m., so we amused ourselves until then. We couldn’t find it, unfortunately, until we finally sought assistance of the friendly Park Ranger who directed us pretty much back to where we started. (It was in the campground playground, not the playground in the day use area. Go figure.)

But tree ring necklaces were made. And lunch was eaten. And we eventually got everything packed up and in the minivan. I dowsed the fire, we took one last trip to the bathroom, dropped off our cabin keys and headed home – at exactly the same time as we’d pulled out of our driveway the day before.

What did we learn during our 24-hour adventure?

I”ll ask the kids their thoughts in a minute. I learned that I like to stay connected. And to have a good night’s sleep. My crankiness eventually wore off with the help of caffeine and ibuprofen (I also had my period, which was just a lovely addition to using communal bathrooms, often with 2 children watching me). And I love nature, rain or shine, building fires and hanging out with the kids. I really like a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, though.

Duncan:

  • I learned that camping is fun.
  • I learned that Mummy can be cranky. I never knew that.
  • I learned that the giant waterfall, a long time ago, could have been a tiny drop.
  • I learned that Mummy is awesome, like always.
  • I learned that cabins are tiny.
  • I learned that this list only had 6 dots. That’s it.

Berry:

  •  I learned cabins don’t look like what I imagined.
  • I liked bunk bed, stuff, everything actually.