As I've said in other posts, Seattle had an amazing summer this year. Day after day of blue sky and warm weather. So of course, for our camping trip that I had been planning since MARCH, the weather forecast was for thunder showers. For years I have been wanting to get out of the city to see the August Perseid meteor shower, and this year I organized a group camping excursion with families from Zane's school. I found a site about an hour away and up a long dirt road. Far enough away to seem like quite an adventure, but not too far to take up the whole day. I took Friday off from work, and after a leisurely start to the day packing the car, Zane and I got to the site at about 1pm. Getting there first has its perks, as I got first pick of the tent platforms! Setting up our enormous tent by myself resulted in much swearing, but I got the job done and all the stuff out of my car.
A few hours later other families started to arrive, and the fun began! I brought a bunch of toys with us which was a good thing, because nobody else did. We had extra hammers and tent spikes to play with, buckets and shovels and trucks to dig in the gravel, foam swords, a soccer ball, and a croquet set. Early on Zane, Ryder, and Anneke rode around on their bikes having some sort of foam sword jousting competition. Later on in the weekend when more kids showed up I ended up having to put the swords away, but they were fun for a while. The hammers and stakes were endlessly popular.
The first afternoon and evening was mostly taken up with the excitement of everyone arriving and setting up and all the kids playing and running around. The campsite was really lovely, and we were right next to the toilets which was convenient (and only occasionally smelly). One big bummer, though, is that there was only one solar water pump for the entire campground. There were supposed to be two, but one was not running for some reason. The other was about a 5 minute walk away, which is pretty far when you have an antsy almost-four-year old with you, and you have to drag the water back. That was a little unexpected, so we washed much less than I would have liked.
I took some kids on a flashlight hike around the campsite while dinner was being made. It was a bit spooky for them, and one boy told me in all seriousness he was afraid of sharks. Apparently, they could come up the little streams into the woods! All during dinner, the thunder rolled in the distance, echoing off nearby mountains. We could see flash after flash of lightning, but it didn't seem to be getting closer. After most of the kids were in bed the adults sat around the fire talking and watching the storm get closer and closer. We did have clear skies for quite a long time, but no meteors were to be seen. The rain finally hit us in the night, soaking one family's tent. Zane and I and the Loggers (who were sharing our tent) were cozy and dry.
By Saturday morning the rain was gone, and we were ready for an adventure! Michael arrived just as we were heading off on a hike. The Middle Fork campsite has a nice little loop trail nearby with signs about the trees, and a stop off on the Taylor River. This turned out to be a truly excellent and memorable adventure!
First we clambered over the rocks to the river and discovered some kids in our group were already half naked in the water. I parked my camera and bag and headed in with Zane. We were ready with water shoes and swim pants! The water was cold, but not too bad. Michael got some pictures of us picking our way across the rocks in the river. Eventually Zane wanted to see the other side of the river, so we carefully made our way over. We discovered a small branch of the river entered there, and someone had dammed it up making a lovely swimming pool! We saw another even smaller stream coming in that had also been dammed into a pool, but we didn't take a closer look. After poking around for quite a while we thought we ought to head back, only to discover the rest of the crew coming over to join us! We had 4 kids and 6 adults on this part of our adventure, and everyone thought the pool was cool. Then Auggie's dad Eli discovered the very small pool from the stream was lined with what seemed to be bentonite clay, the green clay used for fancy-pants spa treatments! Eli pried chunks from pool and soon we were all smearing ourselves with clay. The kids loved smearing themselves, and Zane thought it was even better when I invited him to coat me with mud. We hung around in the sun letting the clay dry while the kids played in the water. Eventually it was time to rinse off, and the adults plunged into the water with exhilarated whoops while every single kid screamed and cried while they were washed. We made our way home for lunch, and I managed to carry a chunk of clay back in a zip lock baggie. I still have it under my bathroom sink!
The afternoon was filled with laid back walks and bike rides. By dinner time, the thunder was rumbling again, and the rain had come as a soft drizzle. We had to eat under tarps, but it wasn't too bad. The kids didn't seem to care at all! Zane was just about to lose his marbles, though, as he knew tonight we would make s'mores, and he couldn't wait for dinner to be done! All of the kids were milling about the fire like rogue electrons, waving sharpened sticks. We tried to corral them and make some rules about fire and sticks, and then we got down to business. They were deee-licious! When are s'mores ever not. It was a great fireside end to an amazing day.
Rain and thunder came all through the night and started to get the floor of our tent wet, but not where it mattered. The next day we discovered the only functioning water pump at the campground had quit, so we all packed up a bit earlier than we otherwise might have. I'm so glad I finally got Zane out for some camping, and having a bunch of his friends around, too, made it magical. Everyone agreed, we can't wait to do it again next year!