Thursday, August 20, 2015

Watkins Glen is gorges

When asked my opinion on camping, I will enthusiastically tow the party line with a resounding, "Yes, our family loves to camp!" I think about all the fun times my brothers and I had on our family camping trips. And I think about the time Jon's parents invited my parents to join them camping. And I think about the time I started to really fall in love with the guy that would eventually become my husband on a very wet and muddy camping vacation. Then there's the fun memories of our first time camping as a family of 3 (when I found myself visiting the bathhouse more often than usual only to realize after we got home that I was, duh, pregnant again!) Or when we got real brave and decided to attempt camping the following year with our 10 week old. It was the coldest camping trip I've ever been on ... but that's when Jude started sleeping through the night!

Sadly, that was the last camping excursion we'd been on (5 years ago!) Jon's family goes every year, and every year we've had a spot reserved, but between school, jobs, moving, and babies, we just haven't been able to swing it. And so our brand new tent has sat untouched for quite some time. This year, Jon's parents decided to switch things up and, instead of our usual campground, we had reservations for Watkins Glen in New York. And this year I was determined to make it happen.

Camping with 4 kids ... and a very neat and tidy husband!

They created a cemetery for all their deceased critters.
I'm so glad we did. Both Jon and I agree we tried to do "too much" this summer. But looking back, we're not sure what we would undo if we had the choice. So I try to keep a memory making perspective. I'll chronicle the fun and adventures, the time with family and friends, and as for the days and days of laundry and packing and unpacking and all the projects at home that never get done--we'll just leave those out for now. Because, summer.

She's finally starting to warm up to other people!

So we set off on yet another road trip with our Fantastic Four. No, make that five. We had the dog with us this time. We considered bringing him camping, but he's still just too much too handle. And since kenneling him for each and every road trip is starting to get a little out of hand, we were incredibly thankful that Marmie and Poppa offered to run their first ever Canine Grandy Camp!!

She got a new princess skirt for her birthday this week, so of course it was her outfit of choice each day of camping!

After driving 3 hours to their house, eating lunch, and saying goodbye to the dog, we had another 2.5 hours to go. So while Watkins Glen is truly lovely and I highly recommend it, it was also a bit of a trek for us Marylanders. But it also had one thing going for it that none of the other campgrounds within a 4 hour radius of home had--family! And we were so excited to spend a few days with Nonnie and Poppie, Aunt Rachel and Uncle Matt, Aunt Katie and the 6 cousins!

We made it to our campsite with just enough time to set up, eat dinner, and get ready for bed before it rained. And rained. And rained. The good news was our tent was brand new. The bad news was we had never waterproofed it. And so as the water began to pile up on top of the fly, it started dripping in through the seams. Drip, drip, drip. Thankfully, our kids were so exhausted they fell right asleep. Meanwhile Jon and I laid on the air mattress reading while water dripped on our noses, books, sheets ... It ended up raining well into the night. But the next morning we woke up to a beautiful, sunny day!

In addition to the famous racetrack (I have no idea  about race tracks, I've just heard it's famous), Watkins Glen is also known for its gorges. I actually saw a picture of them on Pinterest once and was like, "Hey, I know that place!" So after getting our group of 17 people around (and with camping everything seems to take twice as long!) we set off to hike the gorges.

Poppy giving instructions. His buddy, Jude, standing in solidarity.

Off like a herd of turtles!

I'm not sure how long the hike was. I know it took all day. Jon estimates we walked around 4 miles. So it was not a good sign when Jack started complaining that his feet were tired approximately 50 yards down the road. Good thing we had all the older cousins around to keep the kids energized and motivated! But the trail really was "gorgeous," and a new surprise around every bend kept us going. All we had with us was the Ergo. So I carried Joci on my back (who actually slept for a few hours!) and the rest of the adults took turns carrying Julia or keeping track of two eager boys who tended to wander too close to the edge!

Since it was a Sunday, the trails were a bit crowded ... and extremely narrow at certain points. But I would absolutely return for another look. I think it would be beautiful here in the fall!

We returned to our campsite later that afternoon exhausted and hungry. We accidentally took a "short cut" that ended up not being "short." And along the way Jack had gotten stung by a bee. And then Julia had a bit of a fall that was only intensified by her exhaustion. Joci was now awake and tired of being strapped to my back. So we limped back to the site for a little lunch and then decided a refreshing visit to the swimming pool was in order.

We arrived at the (very crowded) pool and approximately 10 minutes later, one of the guests threw up in the main pool and it was closed for the next two hours. So the kids moved their fun to the baby pool (along with everybody else) and I dangled my feet in the water while trying to keep an eye on my Fantastic Four in a sea of swimsuit clad youngins'.

Photo Credit: Nonnie

Photo Credit: Nonnie

Photo Credit: Nonnie
The rest of our trip was pretty typical camping--s'mores, catching bugs, staying up late chatting around the fire, playing in the woods, cooking over the fire and washing dishes in the bathroom, and just spending time with family. We also took a lovely day trip to Seneca Lake.

Ice cream cones were not the smartest idea!

Walking out to the rocks with the big, brave kids ...

And staying by the pier with the littler legs!

Unlike Rickett's Glen, Watkins Glen is actually near some civilization. So we were even able to run out to Wal-Mart one evening to restock supplies ... and maybe buy some Legos to keep the kids occupied. I thought maybe Legos would be a quiet and clean activity for them to partake in. Not so much. The boys soon figured out that minifigures love mud baths!

He's not always so grumpy, he just likes to be difficult for mom's camera.
One other advantage (or not) to Watkins Glen is that you still have cell phone coverage. I rather like the idea of "living off the grid" while camping, but this week in particular we were glad to remain somewhat connected. Because during our few days in the mountains we received notice of two major changes in our family (1) mama was going back to work and (2) our family is definitely moving next summer!

Visit from Aunt Churdle!
Photo Credit: Nonnie

Photo Credit: Nonnie

Photo Credit: Nonnie
And so, while camping with four kids under 7 is a LOT of work. We're glad we did it. It's not likely we'll make it on the annual trip next year. And depending on where we move to, who knows how often we'll get to visit family. And with the onset of a new and busy fall schedule of work and school and soccer and MOPS, I'm so glad we took some time to wind down and just be together. You just never know how things will change!
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