Tag Archives: camping

spring camping weekend: round spring

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This past weekend was our bi-annual group camping trip. We try to go every spring and fall, and we rotate through some gorgeous places each time. This year we went to Round Spring Campground, located on the Current River, near Eminence, MO.

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The weather was just perfect, sunny and warm (almost hot) during the days, and cool and comfortable in the mornings and evenings. Not too cold at night, just cool enough to feel comfortable in a tent.

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Speaking of tents – we just purchased a new one during REI’s annual sale, and with a generous gift card from my sister and family. Our former tent was getting a little tight for the family, and had been worked hard on all those family and school camping trips. M agonized a bit on the final choice – looking for something large enough to accommodate four people (most of them TALL people), plus space for gear and friends as the girls get older. He bit the bullet and bought the big guy, and everyone teased us for our mini-mansion at the campsite. Let me tell you – it was the perfect size. And we still might add on the “garage” piece to the front of the tent at some point.

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Most of our trips involve hiking and beach relaxing, and we always have a few kayaks to tool around in. This year we decided to go on a float trip, and we rented canoes and kayaks for the whole crew. (That’s all of us, photo taken by the guy with the school bus and boats that picked us up.) We drove up to Pulltite and got in the water there, and then floated back down to our campsite – just under ten miles according to the map.

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I didn’t take my nice camera (or phone) on the river, so I don’t have any photos of that portion of our trip, but a friend snapped this photo of M, F, and I in our canoe from a distance. E took a friend, and together they manned a two-person canoe for the entire trip. No small feat for their first time. E got the hang of it quickly, and they only got stuck in a tree once!

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There was a lot of river swimming and playing with rocks. And a lot of screaming when this giant water mocassin was spotted in the river full of children. I think we freaked him out, and he moved along to another spot.

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The kids played a lot of kickball, spud, and ghost in the graveyard, and the parents did lot of standing around, talking, drinking, laughing, cooking… The parents did take on the kids in an epic kickball event that was a lot of fun.

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We always divvy up the meal planning and execution, and Saturday night’s Indian feast has become a staple. I wish I had photographed Saturday and Sunday morning’s spread – just fantastic. Sunday morning the mamas did nothing, while the men made Mountain Man for breakfast and served us hot coffee, mimosas, and Kakao chocolate while we waited.

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We moved slowly on Sunday, packing up, hiking to Round Spring, setting up lunch at a nearby beach for a few more hours, before finally heading home mid-afternoon. A really nice way to celebrate Mother’s Day and rewind a bit from all the work and stress of late.

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Dinner at Dewey’s (while the seasonal Tito Santana is around), long, long showers for everyone, and a busy washing machine before the sleepy Monday start again.

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fall camping trip

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Last month we went on another one of our biannual group camping trips. We usually wait until later in the year to schedule the fall trip, but the only free weekend for everyone was earlier in September. That can sometimes mean pretty warm days and nights, and tent camping in cooler temperatures is a lot more pleasant than in warm ones. But we lucked out with the weather this time – it’s really been a glorious summer and fall this year.

We try to venture out to new places each spring and fall, but this trip we revisited an old favorite, Silver Mines Recreation Area. It’s such a beautiful place to camp and hike, not too long a drive on a Friday night, with a nice sandy beach for the kids to dig and play and explore, and nearby rocks to scramble across at the water’s edge. We’ve moved completely away from the individual family meals, and now collaborate on group feasts that are really too good to be considered camping food. We eat well, we sleep well, and the company is as relaxed and comfortable as the surroundings are beautiful.

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summer camping trip: greer crossing recreation area

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Several years ago we were invited to camp with some friends of ours, and since then we’ve made this a biannual tradition. There are typically five to six families (and a few extras) that attend, and despite the fact that we all occupy very different social circles during the rest of the year, we are still connected in this funny little camping way each spring and fall. The kids in the group range in ages from infant to (now) middle school, and the group is certainly girl-heavy, although there are often other boys that tag along.

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I didn’t grow up in a camping family, and so I’m surprised at how much I really enjoy these trips. Each time we venture out we get a little bit better at it – we know what to bring and what not to bring (that’s half the battle right there) and I think we also understand our own comfort levels better. I can manage through a weekend without showering just fine (heck – I’ve got a gold star now in non-showering, right? Six weeks, but who is counting?), but getting the right bedding setup in the tent makes a world of difference between sleeping and not sleeping. M and E camp a lot throughout the year, between the various Girl Scout weekends and E’s class camping trips – E and I even camped one night in the open air – just two sleeping bags we zipped together to conserve body heat and fend off the dew on a night that dipped into the forties. We’ve camped in the humid midsummer heat that the Midwest has perfected, and M and E have camped and hiked in several days of November downpours and January snows. So you better believe we’ve developed a small arsenal of camping gadgets – like portable heaters to take the morning chill off, and a nifty ceiling lantern / fan combo that almost tricks you into thinking you are in a hotel somewhere.

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Another benefit of group camping? Group cooking. We got smart several trips ago and started planning a large communal feast on Saturday night. We spend the day hiking and on the water, and then we all head back to camp and start cooking. This year we had lamb curry with basmati rice and naan grilled over the fire plus salads, green and fruit, cocktails and wine and beer. And s’mores of course…it is a camping trip.

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Friday night we rolled into camp after nine – long after the rest of the families. M pitched the tent by the light of his headlamp, and we joined the sleepy crowd of adults only around the campfire for awhile. The girls drifted off to sleep instantly in the tent, and we found them later, head to head, holding hands. We turned the lantern off, let the fan turn on low, and discovered our tent ceiling had attracted all these fireflies that were now hanging out between the tent top and the rain fly – our own quiet twinkle light show under the canopy of trees above.

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We camp in a different spot each time – and this was our most distant camp yet. Greer Springs, MO on the Eleven Point River – almost to Arkansas. 220 million gallons bubble up out of the spring each day at a constant temperature of fifty-five degrees. It creates this lovely cool mist above the water, and even when the shore temperatures start to climb, the breezes feel amazing. The hike to the spring is pretty manageable, even for scrappy little ones (and those recovering from foot surgery), and it’s an idyllic spot to put in kayaks. The current is brisk, so the paddling is a bit of a workout, but it’s so picturesque in the mist and the shadows. The campground is first come-first served, but we almost had the place to ourselves last weekend – maybe because of the weather forecast? (Although we managed to get lucky and dodge the storms.)

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It truly felt like a mini-vacation this time around. Camping takes effort for sure – there’s a lot of packing and unpacking and erecting and breaking down and putting away. It’s funny how much of the weekend you spend doing those tasks – but that’s where I think that group camping really works. There’s this community of people doing the work around you, slowly emptying out of tents early in the morning, starting up the stoves, sharing extra pancakes and coffee, mapping out the plan for the day. I highly recommend Greer Springs campground – skip out early on a Friday, pick a site, and bring (or like we did, borrow) a kayak. It doesn’t get much prettier than this.

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