I’m proud of us! We’re campers!! Yes, we’ve camped for a few years now, but never by ourselves – just our wee fam ‘o five. We boldly went where we’d never gone before: camping without the security blanket of our bff’s who are camping pro’s and who, I know, always got us covered should we forget something vital. So, summoning all courage (and all our camping accoutrement), we left Friday afternoon for Seaquest State Park – conveninently located near Mt. St. Helen’s (and only two miles from the visitor center).
The first ruh-roh, when we arrived was the small printed out sign that said, “No campfires allowed.” WHAT?! Are you stinkin’ kidding me?!! This was part of the reason we WENT to Seaquest. It was one of the state parks that didn’t have a burn ban – as of Wednesday when I called. Turns out, as of Thursday, it too had a burn ban. We tried to had our frustration (seeing as I’d even told the state park lady on the phone, that we HAD to have a campfire for s’mores purposes and our children just wouldn’t consider it camping without that).
Ruh-roh number two was the sprinkling, smattering of rain that commenced as we erected the tent. Awesome. So, we can’t have a fire because, you know, the conditions are too dry, but we have to deal with rain?! Mike was quick to put up a handy-dandy tarp covering over our picnic table (which we moved to cover the taunting yet-unusable and tripping-hazard fire pit). And then, of course, once our rain cover was up, it didn’t sprinkle at all after that.
Ruh-roh number three: um, yeah, so we went to the visitor’s center on Saturday morning, which was great. When we got to the end of the exhibit there was a sign in front of the window with a little diagram complete with arrow and “Mt. St. Helens, 30 miles away.” Um, what?! I thought, we were camping right next to the mountain and seeing as we were 2 miles from the visitor center, I figured we must be close. Then, as I looked out the window, I thought, “My gosh! Maybe it’s one of those things that, when you’re a kid everything seems SO huge, but wow! Mt. St. Helen’s just looks like the rest of the foothills. It’s really not much bigger than the other hills over there.” We pointed out the biggest hill to the boys and ‘oohed and ahhed’ at how small it was compared to how big it must’ve appeared BEFORE the 1980 eruption. Then we departed and did a mile hike around the wetlands.
So, it wasn’t until the NEXT day, shortly before we departed, that we realized we hadn’t ACTUALLY even SEEN Mt. St. Helens. (Oh, what people must’ve thought of us, as we showed our children the small mound in the distance and told them it was the volcano!). I decided that we should drive out a little ways, so that we could at least get a VIEW of the mountain. As we headed down the highway (in the opposite direction of the freeway – where we needed to go for heading home), we kept trying to catch glimpses of the infamous volcano. Finally after about 20 minutes, we saw a “viewpoint” sign. Mike quickly pulled off the highway and we followed the signs which lead us to…a hiking trail…which (had we taken it) would have taken us to a viewpoint of…a sediment dam. Seriously? A view of a wall that blocks mud?? Awesome. We turned around and headed for home, totally mountain-viewless. Poop.
I kinda feel like the biggest moron and pretty lame that here I thought we were camping right by the mountain, then thought we’d seen the mountain and actually never had…ever. (Turns out the smoke from the fires in Eastern WA was providing a big enough haze that blocked our view).
Anyway, aside from not actually seeing Mt. St. Helens (other than at the Visitor Center in film and photo), we had a very good camping trip, AND the campground hosts showed up right after dinner on Saturday evening to tell us that we COULD have a campfire that night – woohoo! The boys went and scavenged wood from vacant campsite firepits. Apparently Zach even went into an occupied site and started to steal their wood scraps (the people said it was fine once Mike intervened and apologized). I pictured the boys covered in soot and, with British accents saying, “Please, sir, just a bit ‘o wood to build a fire to keep the chill out of me bones.”
We had s’mores, we had camping food (not the healthiest, but so delicious fare). We had quality family time: charades, a hike, playing at the camp playground, playing catch, playing cards. We had outdoorsy-ness: fresh air, the kids played with countless sticks and LOVED having so many vacant sites to play in; we were woken up by a freakishly loud owl. We made camping memories…and all by ourselves!