Family Vacation, Part I

Our pretty huge tent. It served us well!

Brooke and I went with the rest of the Baumann clan to the Dominican Republic earlier in the summer, but we wanted to take a few days to go somewhere as a family with Meg.  As both of us grew up enjoying camping with our respective families, it seemed right that we’d make an attempt to do this with our two-year-old.  Thus, Brooke looked around for options up north, where the weather would be a bit cooler, but also a place near some urban center just in case Meg didn’t take to tent camping as well as we’d hope.  The general Minneapolis area was a logical selection, and Interstate State Park fit the bill for a place “close enough yet far enough,” just in case some of our plans would have to be scrapped.

So we left Edie, Sam and the chickens in St. Louis under the care of Rachel (thanks!) and headed up to Hannibal on Tuesday night to stay with Brooke’s parents.  We got up at 5:00 am (ew…) and started heading north the following day.  Meg did not go back to sleep, so I sat in the back of the Sportage to entertain her.  She was a bit grouchy until we stopped in Cedar Rapids for breakfast a few hours later.  After that, she was in a much better mood…and so was her Dad. 🙂

We kept going, having lunch at a rest stop after crossing into Minnesota, then finally made it to our destination around 3:30 pm.  By the time we’d unloaded the car, got the tent set up, and started a fire to make some dinner, the rain was starting to move in.  While there was a 30% chance of rain that night, I don’t think we were anticipating it really starting (or continuing…) that early.

Thankfully, however, we got a pretty large tent with a screened section.

A view from "Meg's room," facing the middle portion of the tent, then Meg and Brooke out in the screened section.

We actually already had a tent (or two), but wanted to get one with two rooms so Meg could go to sleep before the two of us did.  We ended up with a Coleman Weathermaster Screened 6 tent.  I think “6 person” is a bit generous, but it will easily fit us and a few extra kids comfortably.  This particular tent came with the screened portion that was nice to have in a “light rain” situation.  You wouldn’t want to store gear in there, though, as it will definitely get wet.  The tent also came with a “hinged door,” making entry and exit from the tent easy and quiet.

The rain let up for the evening hours, but picked up again overnight.  It actually stormed to a degree, but the wind never got too bad.  We stayed dry, and that’s what was important!

Meg went to sleep around 8:00, which was shockingly easy to accomplish.  We bought a battery powered night light for her room and put out some blankets and a sleeping bag for her and that worked pretty well.  However, Meg woke up around 4:30 am and wouldn’t go back to sleep.  Brooke was able to get a bit more shut-eye, but Meg’s “singing” kept me up.  Yay…

Dutch oven cooking!

The next day, we went on a lengthy hike…but I’ll talk about that in another post.  I wanted to mention the dutch oven first. 🙂

When I was in scouts, we had a full stable of cast iron dutch ovens of all sizes.  We used them to make just about everything, so I got a decent amount of experience using them.  Brooke will talk about each meal in separate posts as usual, but I wanted to briefly mention how it worked.  We picked this one up from Amazon for $25, which was pretty reasonable compared with what we saw at Cabela’s and other camping stores.  It holds 4 quarts, which is also a pretty good size for making most things ranging from soups to cobblers to biscuits and gravy. While you can put the oven directly on wood coals, we brought along some charcoal to help manage things a bit.  I got some charcoal going first, then put the dutch oven directly on the coals, and finally moved some of the charcoal onto the lid of the dutch oven, allowing for heat on the bottom and the top.  It worked about as well as expected, effectively heating the different meals.  I kinda wish we’d taken Brooke’s infrared thermometer along so we could get a better idea of just how hot it got in that oven, but believe you me, it got everything toasty warm!

That's Meg, holding a Pepsi bottle cap, transferring rocks from her shovel to her bucket...

The last thing I wanted to mention here was Meg and her rocks.  We brought some toys and books along for her, but we needed something to keep her entertained while we did cooking, cleaning, setting up the site, and so on.  Thankfully, our campsite was next to a gravel pad for parking the car.  First, we gave her a red 16 oz cup and asked her to fill it with rocks.  This entertained her for most of that first night.  The next day, she returned to this activity, but now did it with her sandbox bucket and shovel…and a blue bottle cap from a Pepsi.  She’d transfer rocks from the ground to the shovel to the blue cap to her bucket.

I can’t count all the hours this took up.

Generally speaking, we were able to keep Meg entertained better than we expected.  From books to puzzles to rocks to the aforementioned hiking trip, she actually held up remarkably well, only asking to “go home” on the first day, and only once.  Besides that time, she seemed to take to the “camping experience” quite well!  Her napping was non-existent, but we kinda expected that.  Thursday afternoon, we hung out in the tent for awhile to help her quiet down some and that was the best we could do.  While she didn’t sleep well that first night, she slept very well the second night.

There are a few more posts coming about our camping trip.  The hiking trip will be next, followed by our excursion to Minneapolis for a day!

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