Have Van, Will Travel
This year we were able to purchase (with huge help from my Dad) a full size Ford Transit van to replace our poor, dying minivan. This has opened up a whole new world of possibilities (and created a few limitations for parking in garages in the city).
One of the most exciting possibilities that opened up with the purchase of a larger vehicle was the opportunity of taking the kids camping. Our minivan was just too small to hold all our clothing, camping gear, and big coolers for food. And even if we could have squished all the stuff in, the kids were on top of one another and long drives were miserable for everyone, especially Bella squeezed in the middle of the back seat between two booster seats.
Yes, we went camping once three years ago. We drove up to Maine in the minivan packed with stuff and then unloaded it all into my mother-in-law’s camper and that gave us enough room to make the logistics of camping work pretty well.
But now we have CARGO SPACE! And room for the kids to spread out so that no one needs to be right next to anyone else.
Acadia, New England’s National Park
Dom is in love with Acadia National Park, but I’ve never been. The closest I’d come before last week is an overnight in Bar Harbor on our honeymoon, but we hardly got to see any sights as we got in fairly late and had to catch the ferry early the next morning.
Acadia was beautiful and definitely lived up to the hype. I’ve camped and hiked in many of the great Western National Parks– Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Mesa Verde, Grand Teton, Olympic, Mount Rainier, etc– and Acadia has its own character which is unlike any of the others; a combination of mountains and ocean front, forests and beaches.
Tent Camping with Five Kids
We didn’t camp in the actual park, no free space at such short notice. But we stayed in a very nice private campground not too far from the park and that worked out really well.
Our campsite had wild raspberries and blackberries growing in the trees right next to us. The kids harvested a big bowlful on our first evening. Our site was among the trees for that real woodland feel with wind blowing in the branches all night, leaves dropping on our tent, and crows and woodpeckers and chickadees forming a morning wake-up chorus. But it was also on the edge of a great big field where you could stand to look up at the stars without trees to block the view. We saw the Milky Way! And Mars and Saturn and the Big Dipper and shooting stars.
We didn’t pack well with cooking equipment— this really was our camping trial run and I somehow couldn’t wrap my head around how to pack for it ahead of time, even though I’ve been camping before plenty of times. So we figured out a lot of what we should pack next time. We did cook breakfast every morning at the campsite, then we ate a picnic lunch in the park at various picnic spots, and then ate dinner out every night. Not the most economical and we were all tired of restaurant food by the end, but it was ok.
The Treasures of Acadia
The park really was as lovely as expected. There was the coast, great granite slabs to clamber over, dotted with tidepools filled with treasures. That was maybe the biggest hit.
There was Cadillac Mountain with more granite slabs, making little caves and cubicles just perfect for playhouses. The kids were in love and wanted to go back to play some more in their special houses. And there was an amazing view that looked down to Frenchman’s Bay and the vast Gulf of Maine, dotted with islands, hazy with mist.
And there were also fearsome Otter Cliffs, which Dom nicknames the Cliffs of Insanity. (In truth, they were nothing as scary as the Cliffs of Moher, but on the other hand there were my children clambering about on the rocks and my heart threatening to stop at any moment.) We didn’t stay very long because, well, I didn’t think it prudent.
And there were deep mysterious forests and ponds and lakes and beautiful vistas. We spotted beaver lodges, deer, and red squirrels. The kids foraged for blueberries. We saw lovely sunsets. And of course there were campfires with toasted marshmallows and smores.
There were bug bites and cuts and a mysteriously swollen hand. There were children who threw rocks over cliffs before I noticed what they were doing and angered the rock climbers below to my extreme mortification. There were children who clambered onto tall rocks from which they did not know how to climb down. And there were treats at the gift shops, including chocolate-covered blueberries, blueberry soda, whoopie pies, and juice. And balsam-filled pillows and a yo-yo and a t-shirt for the child who was overdressed and didn’t have a short sleeved shirt in the car that day. Oops.
We listened to most of The Hobbit both on the way to and from Maine and as we drove around the loop road in the park. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever extricate images of Mont Desert Island from dwarves and goblins and Mirkwood Forest and the Lonely Mountain.
And none of these words have captured the glory of those stars, the blasts of those winds, the scent of the spruce and fir woods, and the joys and frustrations of a week spent living even more on top of each other than we usually are. It’s good to be back home as it was good to get away. And I’m looking forward already to our next camping trip when hopefully we will bring more useful pots and pans and have a real meal plan of things to cook while camping.