Seven Quick Takes

7 Quick Takes

Family Camping: The Sequel Edition

Last Labor Day weekend, we gave family camping another shot. After several years’ hiatus allowing our babies and toddlers to grow into preschoolers, the six of us tent camped for a weekend. You can read about our adventures with pit toilets and fish pedicures here, but all in all, it was well worth it.

This year, we chose better when it came to the facilities, more memories were made, more lessons learned.


The “Facilities”  and Site Location Make a Difference

We went from putrid pit toilets and no showers last year to pristine bathrooms and showers this year. What a difference it makes! My camping bathroom standards aren’t ridiculously high. We are in the outdoors after all, and I expect a certain number of moths, spiders, and other creepy crawlies to make their way inside. But these bathrooms had next to none! My only quibble is the fact that no paper towels were available, only weak hand driers. (But that also probably contributed to the cleanliness factor.)

While this site was another previously-unseen walk-in, its steep incline from parking spot to tent site amounted to a matter of yards. No excruciating, back-breaking treks up and down with gear or to the potty. Speaking of the potty . . .

mossy trail

The mossy trail behind our tent.


We Should’ve Pitched a Tent in the Bathroom

I thought we made a lot of potty trips last year. From this vantage point, that estimation is laughable. Our so-called potty trainer of last year is still a potty trainer this year. And the other preschooler, while fully trained, is a thirsty critter with a  small bladder. The first evening alone – we’re talking a period of four to five hours – eleven trips were made to the bathroom with various children. One day, I counted four trips in one hour! If the road hadn’t been paved, we would’ve worn our own path. I can only imagine what the people in the RVs thought as we trekked by them with crotch-grabbing kids for the umpteenth time.


A Beach is a Beach

It may not be an ocean, but a beach is fun, even if it is only a small lake beach. This beach was large and, like the bathrooms, spotless. I didn’t find a single cigarette butt in the sand or the water. Nor a bottle cap. Nor a plastic lid. Which is something I can’t say for nearly any other beach I’ve visited – lake or ocean. And bonus: more minnow pedicures this year. At least for me. The little fish seemed to ignore the rest of the family.

Cowan's Gap State Park beach

The lake beach at Cowan’s Gap State Park.


Wildlife MIA

Before we hit the beach, we hiked the perimeter of the lake. While beautiful (and clean!), we were disappointed in the lack of wildlife. Maybe it was too crowded due to the holiday-ish weekend, but at least a dozen times my daughter and I mourned perfect sunning spots for turtles that, sadly, included no turtles. No water snakes. No interesting waterfowl. Only several deer I spotted in the campground close to midnight.

Nature Hike Cowan's Gap

My little guy surveying the lake.


Angels in Action

Nothing builds trust in guardian angels like abandoning your children to Divine Providence. We set our four kids out on a paddle boat. I had no qualms about the older two, who are competent swimmers. The younger two, well, I had some qualms. It helped that both had just come off of a week of Red Cross swimming lessons in which they’d donned life jackets and learned about water safety. The older of the two can do a pretty good dog paddle. The little guy? *gulp*

I entrusted them to a fairly stable looking boat, PFDs, an older brother/Boy Scout with some life-saving training, the benevolence of strangers on the lake, and their guardian angels. I waved them off with a confident smile and instructions for the little ones to remain seated. I don’t think they had any idea of the niggling fears I had.

No one cried, no one died. And I said a prayer of thanks to their guardian angels.

paddle boating

My babies on a paddle boat.


No Cell Service – Thank you, Jesus!

I didn’t anticipate our lack of cell phone service until the day before we left. So, all that posting and sharing I was going to keep up with while camping? Poof! Once we left the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I couldn’t get more than a single bar. Or circle, as it appears on my phone. What a blessing. All those notifications and messages? They could wait. It was only a couple of days. When I resumed catching up on social media stuff after I returned home, I quickly noticed its effect on me.

I mostly enjoyed my two days in a tent with my family. After quickly scanning my feeds and seeing these people in Europe, this family in Hawaii, and those at the beach, my mini-vacay seemed to pale in comparison. And it shouldn’t. I should be grateful for and satisfied with those couple of days with the people I love, not comparing how much less of a vacation we’ll get. And yet that’s what happened as soon as I started scrolling.

I could probably stand to indulge in social media a little more sparingly.


The Souvenir No One Wants

We brought home an unexpected souvenir from the campground: a wretched stomach bug. Home little more than twelve hours, it started with the nine-year old. Then the four-year old. Then the fourteen year old. And finally the five-year old. Fast forward two days to about the time my husband and I thought we’d get through this one unscathed. Uh-uh. Stomach bug – 6.  Astfalk family – 0.

How are your vacation plans going this summer?


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4 thoughts on “Seven Quick Takes

  1. What a fun vacation! We will soon be going camping too! I hope we have as much fun, and it’s always a good idea to detach from social media now and then in order to focus on the gifts we have right in front of us! Thanks for sharing your perspective!
    “No one cried, no one died.” –haha! You kill me!

    • Hope you have a great time and great weather! Weather makes such a difference and we were really blessed with great weather on this little trip.

    • Glad I made you smile, Susan! The good news is that the restrooms were much closer to our site than we initially thought. For a few minutes, we though we’d have to DRIVE to the restroom every time. That would’ve been even worse.

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