First And Final Camping Trip 2017

This year was incredibly busy and it seemed like my days never matched up to give me an opportunity to get out and camp and hike as often as I would like. Last year, by July, I had already gone camping 6 times. I hiked more often than that.

Sometimes in life, you have to take what you can get.

I completely understand the bumper sticker that reads “A bad day fishing beats a good day at work”.

A bad weekend camping also pretty much beats a good day anywhere else. Even if it’s cold and raining half the time and you have to will yourself to be there because it beats anything else that you have going on.

We tried. That’s all I can say.

I’ve known my friend, Chalisa since childhood. We are both equine enthusiasts, her a little bit more than me these days. We started planning about three weeks in advance to go camping for the weekend and to take the horses with us.

 

img_4747

Chalisa and I

 

Who plans a camping trip on Friday the 13th? We do. I was in charge of picking up the groceries for our dinners. I couldn’t resist buying a large package of chicken that retailed at $6.66. I dubbed this “The Devil’s Chicken” and claimed to everyone that I was using reverse psychology on the universe to avoid our pending murders at the state park.

22406425_10213200221587838_7971242315964061190_n

I’m known for my weirdness.

As only Murphy’s Law would have it, it was gorgeous all week up to the day of the trip and then the rain was to move in. Not just a little rain, but thunder and lightning on top of heavy downpours. And wind. We can’t forget the wind.

We weren’t going to let that stop us though!

I was finally able to make it to the campsite in the horseman’s campground at Potato Creek State Park. Chalisa was already there getting the horses settled in and our campsite squared away. She likes to stay in her trailer while I prefer the confines of my Kelty Trail Ridge 3 tent. It’s glorious.

Since we knew that the rain was coming, we set up a canopy over the picnic table.  We enjoyed some drinks and laughs while we caught up with our lives and gossip. There’s always plenty to talk about.

We were both exhausted from our day and turned in. We were blessed with a pack of coyotes calling very close to the campground. It was eerie and fantastic all at the same time.

We were up early and enjoyed a breakfast made up of coffee,  bacon, sausage, eggs and fried Honey Crisp apples.  The rain seemed to hold off a little while to allow the sun to peek through the clouds.  It was short lived.

img_4749

We didn’t waste a lot of time getting our horses saddled up so we could head out.   We got about 4 hours of riding in before the thunder and lightning arrived and we had to get off of the trail. It was even nice to just hang out in my tent and read a book.

It was about suppertime and we were contemplating if we were going to let the weather win or if we were going to stick it out all night in hopes that the morning might deliver some better news.

The radar told us that cold, wind and rain would be what we would have to look forward to. Other campers were already loading up and heading home.  I joked that they were quitters knowing that we would likely also be quitters before the night was over.

We decided to at least make our Devil’s Chicken for dinner before making the call to go or stay.  I wrapped our chicken quarters in the aluminum foil along with the other ingredients and placed them into the Dutch Oven.I had never used a Dutch Oven before and I was impressed by it. I didn’t think it would heat up as quickly or as hot as it did.

img_4751

 

 

We enjoyed our dinner and the conversation.  At about 7 o’clock when the rain and wind was picking up we decided to go ahead and call it and head home. The majority of the people that had managed to last the day were now starting to pack up and head out.

We were disappointed but at least we got to go out for a bit and enjoy our time together and with the horses. Just that one night and the day spent out on the trail was enough to recharge the batteries a little bit.

I’d do it again.

In other news. I hung my Kelty Trail Ridge 3 tent up to dry with a fan blowing on it.  It took almost 3 hours to completely dry. That’s how soaked everything was.  I also managed to drop my wifi hotspot on the ground at the campsite. I went back the next morning and found it buried under some leaves.  I was amazed when I discovered that it still worked. I dried it out and I am using it as my primary internet connection as I type this post.

Good times. Ain’t we lucky we got em?

 

Dominic’s First Camping Trip- Adventure And Down Syndrome

Dominic just had a birthday on June 10 where he received some new gear for camping and hiking.  I wrote about that at “Happy Birthday! Dominic Adam Turns Eleven!”  The temperature had cooled off and I was finally able to take him camping for two days.

Dom and I headed to Pokagon State Park to enjoy some time camping and hiking. Dom had never been on an overnight camping trip before. He was really excited about spending the night in our tent and getting to use his brand new sleeping bag.

I have been taking Dom hiking since before he could walk. I had a papoose style carrier that I was able to carry him around with. When he got a little bigger, we also had a all terrain Radio Flyer wagon,  with chunky tires,  that I could pull him around in. It wasn’t nearly as great as being able to carry him in a papoose, but as he got heavier it was harder for me to lug him around.

Dom started walking efficiently a little later than his peers. People with Down Syndrome can have some musculoskeletal issues that need to be managed. For about three years he also wore small braces in his shoes that were supposed to correct the way that his feet pronated when he walked and provide support for his ankles. The ligaments in his ankles are very loose, a common trait in people with Down Syndrome, and he pronates inward and practically walked on his ankles.   We eventually decided that they were never going to do what they were supposed to do and switched him to inserts for his shoes instead.

Eventually, Dom was off and running just like any other child. He was able to hike short distances just like any other child. He would go until he got tired and then I would have to carry him or allow him to ride in the wagon.

People with Down Syndrome also deal with other issues such as  hypotonia (low muscle tone). There are things that “normal people” do with ease that take twice the effort with someone with Down Syndrome.  While I don’t allow him to be a lazy child, I try not to push him too hard.

Dom can usually go about five miles before he starts to get tired. Or bored. Or both. I try to keep him interested in what we are doing by getting him involved and pointing out the various things that we see around us. Generally, he gets very engaged.

We have been known to get pretty lucky with wildlife. On our first hike, we came across a female Painted Turtle that was laying eggs. We observed her briefly and then moved along. We also saw a white tail deer, a juvenile rabbit and later in the evening, we dealt with a nuisance raccoon that we decided to name “Bandit”. Bandit stole some of our stuff, hence the name.

Dominic was expected to assist me in setting up the tent. Then he helped me unload all of our gear from the car and supervised me as I organized our camp. He was eager to help and learn what to do. He takes a lot of pride in the fact that he is capable of doing these things.

I truly believe that the fact I have not allowed myself or others to treat him as though he has a disability has actually worked in his favor. That’s probably an obvious assumption but he has come a long way and has done a lot of work to get to where he’s at. I believe that over-assisting him will be a disservice.

He’s a kid so we treat him like a kid.

After we set up our camp and got everything squared away, we decided to go and complete a quick hike before dinner. My favorite trail in the park is trail #7 aka “Bluebird Hills”. You have to walk about a half mile to the trail head.  It’s a beautiful 1.8 mile loop that leads you along a wooded path to an open and rolling meadow and past the  wetland restoration. It’s so pretty.  When I visited this trail this past May, it was like stepping into a painting with the Dogwoods in bloom.

We had a great time.

We made hot dogs and fried cinnamon apples for dinner. Of course we gorged on Doritos and Root beer too. Then we just sat around and enjoyed our time. Later in the evening, the same raccoon that I dealt with during my last camping trip, arrived to scope out our goodies.

I named that raccoon “Bandit”.  Bandit has no fear of humans. At all. As I was yelling at him/her to go away, he/she calmly continued to walk up to me like a dog. I believe in keeping the wildlife wild. I attempted to redirect Bandit back into the woods by being a loud, belligerent, throwing things etc.

Bandit looked at me like “Jesus lady, what’s your problem?”

Later, after I went to bed, Bandit returned. I put our food in the car so there was no danger of it being eaten or dragged off. I left my cookware out though.  Bandit decided to steal my coffee cup and the lid to the little kettle I use to boil the water for my coffee. I found them both about 15-20 feet in the woods at the base of a tree.

I thought that was hilarious. I think it blew Dominic’s mind. He didn’t know what to think when I told him that the raccoon had taken our dishes and left them in the woods. I explained to him that was why I put our food away so the animals couldn’t get to it.

In the morning we made bacon, eggs and toast over the camp fire. Dom asked if we could visit the playground for a little while before we went hiking, so we did. We played on the playground for a little while and then played catch for a little while.

Unfortunately, bad weather was moving into our area and it forced me to cut the trip short. The weather reports out of Chicago and the surrounding area were indicating that the storms that were passing through were serious and I didn’t want to risk anything.  We had to head home.

Even though our trip was cut short, we still had a really great time. I was concerned at first at how he would do but I was reassured through experience that he would be just fine. I’ve found through the years that sometimes I have to really be careful in how I judge Dominic’s abilities. I am guilty of not giving him enough credit and I think that can rob him of some opportunities.

I have to at least give him a chance to do things. A lesson I remind myself of over and over. Part of that is just me being the protective mama bear. With that said, I am very realistic about what I should or can expect.

I at least have to let him try.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday! Dominic Adam Turns 11

I now have an 11 year old.

I remember thinking last year, “Wow, I have a 10 year old,”  Somehow, this is equally as mind blowing. My little kiddo is not so little anymore. He’s growing up.

My son, Dominic Adam, turned 11 years old on June 10th. We celebrated the previous Sunday with a small gathering of family and friends at our house.  We had a really good time.

In addition to toys and clothes and other gifts, Dom received a brand new sleeping bag and his very own dome tent to use when we go camping. It’s currently still set up in the back yard.  He’s having a lot of fun with it.

The next day, Dom and I went on a day-hike at the Spicer Lake Nature Preserve. This is our favorite local hang out.   The highlight of the trip was the Painted Turtle that we met in the parking lot. Later, we came across a nesting site where several of the hatched eggs were still there.

We had a really good time wandering around the park.  It’s the perfect size for Dom as it only has approximately 4 miles of trails. We can hike the whole park and it doesn’t usually wear him out.

I am planning an over night camping trip for him on my next days off from work. He says he wants to go and is excited. Hopefully the weather isn’t too hot or stormy. I have a ton of ideas to keep him interested and from getting bored.

So excited.

Planning and Deep Thoughts-Replacing What Was Lost

The warmer weather is starting to make me itchy to make plans for the upcoming summer.  There are so many things that I want to do. Last year, I didn’t get to travel anyplace spectacular.  Due to the merger that happened at work, we weren’t permitted to use our vacation time until this year. Also, I was dealing with Lyme Disease and probably wouldn’t have been able to do much if I had gone someplace.

I have two weeks of vacation time to burn before the end of the year! Also, I have been feeling a lot better physically over the past few weeks. I am hoping that this means things are looking up. Lyme sucks, I’ll post about that later.

I’ve had to replace some things over the past few years. One of these things being my camping tent. My ex took my tent. I don’t know why. He wasn’t outdoorsy and didn’t care about it when we were together. However, he felt that it was his.  Sadly, he probably ended up giving it to Goodwill.

While I was married, I didn’t get to do a lot of camping anyway. I went on day hikes and when I did travel to go hiking, I went alone and chose to get lodging vs backpacking and staying out on the trail someplace.

It has been a few years since my divorce and my son, Dom, is about to turn eleven. He likes to be outside and even enjoys hiking. He thinks he’s something special when he wears his Camelbak hydration pack. I have been thinking about taking him camping for quite awhile.

I started looking at different options online. It has been a really long time since I have looked at getting new gear or replacing certain things that I used to own. It turns out that the tent that I owned probably wasn’t so great after all and I could do better.

After about three weeks of researching and reading reviews, I decided to get a Kelty Trail Ridge 3 dome tent. Kelty is a good brand and this particular tent has really good reviews.  I’m anxiously awaiting for its arrival.

I hate that I do this but, sometimes making a purchase like this makes me think of where I have been or where I am going. Things have gotten a lot better since my divorce. It has been six years this past April 10, that it was final.  Coincidentally, this was the date that I finally ordered the new tent.

Little by little, life has come full circle. I just have to be patient for some things.

While I am waiting for our spiffy new tent to arrive, I have been researching sleeping bags.  I’ve also been going through boxes of things that have been moved probably 4 times in the past 6 years that haven’t been gone through in ages. I found my old griddle and other cookware.  It has been patiently waiting for me.

This is exciting. I’ve traveled all over the place but I haven’t been on a real camping trip in a long time. I am looking forward to it. I will probably take Dom for one or two days at a time to see how it goes. He takes after his mama so I am certain that he will love it.