Archive for April 17, 2010

camping with the kids

Last summer we decided to try out the whole tent camping thing with the kids, so we headed over to Hanging Rock north of Winston-Salem. It was pleasant, low-key, relatively close to home, and it went well. Chalk one up in the success column. This year, we decided to kick it up a notch and go camping on the beach. I have, it turns out, a very narrow window for camping/hiking/outside adventures. I prefer not to freeze at night when I have to traipse to the bathroom if I accidentally drink a beverage after 6:30, and I really do not like scratching my arm raw from bug bites. So, when the camping season opened up on the Outer Banks at the beginning of April, we decided to jump on it.

Last weekend then found us leaving the house at 6:00 am heading eastward with two kids who decided that the adventure was far too grand to waste by sleeping. After reaching Kill Devil Hills in shockingly good time (I guess that’s what happens when you haven’t been to the Outer Banks in a dozen years and they have messed with/straightened roads or created some unfathomable crimp in the time-space continuum), we headed to the Wright Brothers Memorial. The kids, surprisingly, were underwhelmed with the singular exception of the sign urging them to stay on the path due to the (phantom) presence of the prickly pear cactus.

Our next step at Jockey’s Ridge, however, was a home run. The kids tore off across the dunes, racing up and around and back and forth. Both kids managed to climb up the giant dune to take in the view of beach in the distance.

Little e. and I, holding hands, struggled a bit climbing up to the top, but with her brother shouting words of encouragement (“Mama, you’re doing AWESOME! Keep it up!”), we made it to the top.  Twice, little w. thanked us for taking him to Jockey’s Ridge–who is this kid??

Finally, we headed down the highway to catch the ferry to Ocracoke, our camping destination. Little w. proclaimed the vinyl-encrusted passenger area to be the highlight of the 45 minute crossing; apparently the two dozen motorcycles on board just weren’t that noteworthy…

At long last, we set up camp at the National Park Service campground on Ocracoke, a campground about as barebones as one could get– cold showers only and a grim list of “Do NOTs” humorlessly rendered.

I’ve been camping plenty in the mountains, but this was my first time camping on the coast, and it’s really quite a treat.  The kids were bowled over by being able to walk one minute over a dune to a completely abandoned coastline to play–no beach houses, no other people, no piers, no nothing except for tracks from trucks on the beach (How is that still legal?  For fishermen?).

The most memorable part of the being at the beach for me was the terrifying night sky; it was so completely filled with stars in a way that you never see anywhere else due to light pollution and general haziness.  This celestial display certainly invoked awe but also stirred up some cosmic anxiety of how tiny we are in all of this.

Unlike being in the middle of the woods on a camping trip, being on Ocracoke afforded us the ability to be marginally civilized–as civilized as one can be when one refuses to jump into an unheated shower.  Dinner at an amazing restaurant with a lovely patio, Dajio, where I had some truly shocking gazpacho.  Coffee while sitting on the lawn in beach chairs while the kids munched on a delectable cinnamon roll.

This kind of camping, I can get used to.

And the final testament to how much fun the kids had on our camping adventure–little e. sobbed from Goldsboro to Raleigh because she wanted to go back to the campsite.  Someday, but not until the humidity and mosquitoes have run their course…


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