I LOVE CAMPING!!!
So much so that nearly the whole month of August is devoted to it. Well, not the whole month but certainly most of it.
For 12 days the kids and I went to Ludington State Park with my parents and dear friend. I love it there. There is SOO MUCH to do. All within the confines of the park you can go out on the boat to Hamlin Lake, canoe, lazy river tube down the Au Sable River, hike, bike, geocache, climb sand dunes, play on the beaches of either Lake Michigan or Hamlin(Lake Michigan has waves/Hamlin is calm), climb a lighthouse, there is large variety of activities throughout the day led by park naturalist and voluteers. There is always something to do. That does not even touch the time back at camp lounging around reading or sitting around the camp fire.
So obviously this place is one of our favorites. It is also loved by many others which makes it esp. hard to get into during the summer months. Exactly six months in advance, usually in the first 5 minutes of the reservation center opening THE PLACE IS BOOKED. Thankfully we got in this summer. The kids have been here many times but during fall color change when the salmon are running. The last time we had made it up for the summer months was when DS was 4 months old. Since we made it during the summer this year the place was overflowing with kids. And God smiled on my dear ones as we were surrounded by them. We had 4 first grade boys with their younger sisters. Perfect playmates for my kiddos. The parents took turns supervising as they made their way around from site to site as a little pack. Those first few days it was hard to keep track of the boy as he wanted to be with his friends. I never had to look far, he was at one of the surrounding sites with one of his new pals. Since our site backed up to a sand dune and wooded area it made for a great place area for the kids. Giving me time to sit back and read while still being able to see what they were up to. I actually got through a trilogy on this trip. Woohoo!
The kids and I like to canoe so we brought ours along. On our first night there, the naturalist led a canoe tour through parts of Hamlin and Lost Lake. It was nice and informative. Ludington has an elaborate canoe trail for those wishing to explore the wetlands. While we did not do this with the naturalist we decided we would give it a try later in the week. On one calm morning we packed a picnic lunch and headed across Hamlin to a shelter to do a geocache that was nearby. We made our find, ate our picnic and chatted with some hikers who had hiked out to the shelter. Nice trip! Near the end of our stay we had another calm morning so the kids and I (including my niece who joined us) packed another picnic and headed out to explore the canoe trails. However, it is a ways out to the entrance and what started out calm, turned to wind and waves. Not too ferocious so we pressed on. We made it to the entrance of the canoe trail. My mom and Bob decided to fish near the end to watch for us to come out. We paddle along through overgrown lilypads and weed thick paths. Then we hit our first stump. The kids grow concerned and think we should go back. I maneuver around it and we press on. When we made it to our first portage we had our picnic lunch and picked blueberries. Pond to second portage was very nice. Pond to third portage was a bit stumpy but easy to get around. The pond to our last and final portage was more than the kids could bear. Following the arrows we found ourselves stuck. It was very mud and rather shallow. This alone had the kids concerned. When we came upon the two down limbs they lost it. "Were gonna die" "How will we get out of here?" "I don't like this." "I want my mom." "Let's go back." amidst tears. When I could not get over the limbs we turned back around to take an alternative path. I could now see Hamlin Lake ahead and knew we were nearly there. Yet my niece would not be calmed. She cried for the next 20 minutes as we worked our way through the VERY THICK lily pads. Finally we arrived to the last portage and the end of the trail. Or so we thought. It turns out there was an additional route and the END END was around the bend. Meaning my mom was out of sight. The kids played in the water and calmed down but it was obvious they wanted nothing more to do with the canoe. I decided to go around the bend to alert Mom and Bob that we there at the first exit. The depth of the water and the waves that were coming in made taking the kids not a great option. I opted for leaving them in a cove with the understanding that they stay put and look out for each other. I made may way to the point and could see their boat, I yelled back to the kids that I saw them and then made my way closer to them to get their attention. Finally they heard me and came to pick me up. Then we made our way to the kids. Who were crying again. Even though I had been gone a total of 15 minutes and less than 5 of it out of their sight. I loaded them into Bob's boat, rescued and we tied the canoe to trail behind. All the kids have absolutely NO desire to ever canoe the trail again.
The visitor center has well done displays explaining the local history and wild life. My favorite was the monarch display. When we first arrived they had over 20 caterpillars and many chrysalis. On our second trip DS was showing grandpa the display when he noticed that one of the caterpillars was morphing. For the next minute we watched in awe as it transformed from a caterpillar into its chrysalis. It was not like anything I expected. Here is what happened, somewhat sci-fi like. The head of the caterpillar split open to expose a green goo like substance. It then continued to shed it's skin as it did a swirling dance motion. Wiggling and squirming it made it's way completely out of it's skin until it was this green glob hanging. For the next hour it dried with a yellow band slowly making the gold drops that I love. It was so AMAZING! We made frequent trips back to the visitor center and watched as more chrysalis appeared. We had hoped to catch a butterfly emerging but never did time it right.
While away we attended another geocaching event. This one was a meet, eat and greet in a park in Grand Rapids. Making it a nice place to meet my sister to get my niece and nephew. We did some caches in the park, met some new cachers, saw some we have seen before, ate some good food and overall had a good time. Add this to the geocaches we found in the Ludington area and we are now up to 167 finds. I think we will have no problem making it to our goal of 200 finds for 2007. It will probably end up being more like 250+.
Now home with the laundry done, I think it's time we headed out to go camping again.
I will attempt to post pictures at the end of the month when we slow down enough to get it done.
Have a great week and get outdoors!