It’s been 2 weeks since we arrived back in Dallas after our inaugural trip with the trailer. I apologize for not posting sooner, but the chaos of readying a house to sell and a trailer to live in while working and minding the kids got the better of me. In addition, this month is an emotional one as we prepare to leave our jobs and our beloved neighborhood. Those challenges aside we are excited for the adventure ahead and are so grateful for the encouragement y’all have been.
During our first week with the trailer, I did keep a journal. Below is a synopsis of how it went.
7/12-14/19: Indian Lake State Park- Ohio
(Amenities at campsite: Electric hookups)
Day 1 with the trailer and so far so good. Brad backed it into our site like a pro (it helped that there was ample space). It took us a while to figure out balancing, wheel chocking and de-hitching, but no major issues. Our trailer was christened by an exploding bottle of soda (before we left the sales lot!) and we lost about 1/3 of our water supply when the outdoor shower was accidentally turned on. We all slept well and the trailer stayed cool with the AC. Our campsite was really nice, located next to an inlet to Indian Lake. The kids enjoyed swimming in the pool and rough housing in the lake while the dogs watched from the shore. Burgers on the grill, beers under the 3/4 moon (adults only) and coffee in the morning breeze.
Another trip to the lake in the morning for some more water fun. Sandwiches for lunch, followed by some much needed nap/quiet time. The afternoon sun heated the camper pretty quickly and the AC struggled to keep up (we need to insulate this thing better!). Hot and tired, some of our tempers started to rise. To ease the pressure, Dad took the kids to the pool while Mom cleaned up the camper and started organizing the mess of clothing and supplies. The excitement and novel surroundings wore the dogs out and they just slept. Cooled down by the pool, the kids return for a bit more down time while dinner was prepared. Emotions ran high for one child due to lack of personal space since the bunk ends were folded up to allow the camper to stay cooler. But when dinner was done, everyone settled down and we took the dogs for a walk around the campground. We snuggled on the couch and watched a movie. as the kids got ready for bed, Mom and Dad prepared for tomorrow’s travel day. Fortunately, when the sun set, the camper cooled down significantly and we all slept soundly.
Pitter, patter, pitter, patter… We woke to the soft morning rain and the realization that everything we set out overnight to dry was now wet again. Luckily, the rain quit in time to do the final pack up. Departure went smoothly and we successfully flushed out tanks without covering ourselves in our own poo! As we left Indian Lake we celebrated our first adventure in our new home. We know the adjustment period will be long and the learning curve steep, but we rest in the peace of knowing that God’s grace is abundant and far surpasses our own inadequacies. Onward to Mammoth Cave National Park! Hears to a successful first distance tow!
7/14-16/19: Mammoth Caves National Park: Kentucky
(Amenities at campsite: none)
We made it to Mammoth Cave N.P.! Towing went smoothly and it only took a couple of adjustments to park at our site. Still working on communication strategies as parking the trailer is very stressful, but Caleb was a big help in the process. This was our first go at ‘dry’ camping. We attempted to fill our tanks at the wrong water pump, but the nice park ranger kindly redirected us. We were hoping our water supply was enough to last our time here.
Unfortunately temps were still HOT and the air was HUMID! In desperation, Brad started a water fight with the boys and the kids from the next campsite joined in. Norah played ‘Old Maid’ with a neighboring camper while Lauren finished setting up and prepping dinner.
With the windows and the tent ends open, the camper cools down nicely at night. But we were so thankful for the fans the attach to each bunk end! We had to ration battery power and water since there were no hookups. We did run out of water at one point on our last morning, but we were able to fill some gallon jugs at a nearby fountain and fill the tank just enough to flush toilets. This is something we will have to get much better at if we are going to dry camp regularly!
In the morning, Lauren did the laundry while Brad took the kids to the visitor’s center to get info on cave tours and pick up junior ranger packets. We were only able to get tickets for the self-guided tours as all the other ones were sold out. While the boys went to explore the cave, Norah and Mom hung out with the dogs and worked on the Junior Ranger book. When the boys returned, we all ate lunch and then swapped. Norah was sworn in as a Mammoth Cave Junior Ranger and the girls had fun exploring and learning about the early miners and various resources obtained from this massive cavern. Mammoth Caves is the largest known cave system in the world at over 300 miles of connected tunnels. Unfortunately we only saw about 1/2 miles of it because of tour limitations. Hopefully we will get to return to the caves in the future!
Back at the camp, a new family moved in a few sites down, with a boy Sam’s age and a girl Norah’s age. Despite rain, the kids played foursquare on a makeshift court. Mom and Dad joined in and totally dominated!— NOT! :) We were grateful for the new ‘gentle leader’ leash we got for Lily when 2 deer strolled past the campsite. She was definitely interested in getting a closer look! Everyone was exhausted at bedtime and the boys were needing space from each other, so Sam slept on the kitchen table bed and Caleb got the back bunk to himself.
Rested from a good night of sleep, Caleb relaxed with a book in bed while Norah helped Sam finish his Jr. Ranger book before the swear-in ceremony as we were leaving for the next campground later that day. Mom ran the kids up the the center for the swear-in ceremony and Sam became a Jr. Ranger for the first time! (We love this program! The adults learn just as much as the kids!). While there, we bought a national park passport book and got our first stamp. We look forward to many more!!
Once again, it was time to pack up. Brad ran to do one more quick load of wash (and have some quiet time) while Lauren prepped the inside of the camper for travel and the kids played. It took us about an hour to break camp and get on the road. We were knowingly heading into some stormy weather and were keeping a close eye on the radar. Praying once again for a safe tow. It is 4 and 1/2 hours to Natchez Trace State park in TN. This was our first time in Kentucky and it is beautiful! Next time we come back we will definitely be checking out the bourbon trail and ‘The World’s Best Flea Market!”.
7/16-17/19: Natchez Trace State park: Tennessee
(Amenities at campsite: water and electric)
Well we hit some pretty significant rain on the way here, but fortunately the wind was mild and it cleared up for about a 2 hour window, giving us enough time to setup camp without getting soaked. Pulling into the site was easy as it was a pull through setup and the campground was all but empty. We still have to work out an easier system for leveling the camper, but I am sure that will come. This site had water and electric. Yay! AC!!!
Our campsite overlooked a wooded valley and Norah discovered a tree at the edge of the site with bear markings! Since it was rainy and still hot, we hung out in the camper and played games most of the time. Our time here was short (just one night), so we didn’t have time to explore. On our way out we met a fellow Jeep/off-roader, and he told us that there are over 400 miles of off-road trails in the park! I guess this is another place to add to our list for a return trip!
7/17-19/19: Hot Springs National Park: Arkansas
(Amenities at campsite: water, sewer, electric- yes, that’s everything!)
This was our final destination before heading home from our 1st trip with the trailer and our first site with full hookups! That means good showers and our own personal ‘crapshoot’! I was a bit anxious because they don’t take reservations, but when we arrived there were still several sites to choose from. Brad and I got more practice backing the trailer in as we tried one site that was too sunny and had no fire pit at first, which the kids insisted was a must for S’mores. But I have to say, I was pretty proud of us. We managed to park successfully between trees on both sides of the trailer, leaving enough room to open the slide and bunkhouses. We are slowly establishing roles for setup and breakdown which makes for a smoother process. Caleb tends to the dogs, Brad and Norah run to town for pizza, Sam collects sticks for the campfire and Lauren finishes setting up. After dinner, Sam and Mom go exploring the campground and discover that it backs up to a cold water creek. Sam is in heaven and I am reminded of the fun times I had as a kid playing in the creek. We decide the whole family needs to come here tomorrow to play. Once back at camp, we start a fire and the kids have their S’mores. The ground is still pretty saturated from the previous days of storms, so the fire is smokey. Norah and Sam wash up and head to bed, while Caleb stays up to play some Apples to Apples with Mom and Dad.
In the morning we decide to try a hiking trail that supposedly connects our campground to the center of town where the hot springs are. The sign says its .8 miles. So we think it is no sweat, but of course the hikes starts out with one child melting down over being sprayed with sunscreen while already hot and sweaty. We hike .8 miles and discover it leads to a hotel, not the center of town. So, we push a little further, all the while the previously mention child continues to meltdown. We finally reach another trail marker and aren’t sure where it leads so we decide to turn back and drive into town instead. Now we have a different kid crying because they wanted to keep going! You can’t win as a parent! With our campsite in view, Sam runs full speed ahead without heeding our warning to slowdown on the hills and of course takes a tumble tearing up his knees, elbows and side. :( All in all, I would say it was a successful hike ;) At least the dogs were so worn out that we could safely leave them alone in the camper while we went into town. (I think they were grateful for the quiet and the cool of the AC!)
In town, we explored ‘Bath House Row’ and worked on the Jr. Ranger booklets. Hot Springs is very interesting for its history and we enjoyed seeing all the different forms of ‘pampering’/‘medicine’ that were once enjoyed by so many, but I have to say that it is not what I would expect to constitute a national park as it is very industrialized. That being said we drank from the Hot Springs (Don’t worry, the water is tested and the whole town uses it as their drinking supply) and Brad sampled the local brewery. The kids completed their Jr. Ranger books and were sworn in once again, this time as “Hot Springs Jr. Rangers”!
The next morning, Norah wanted to go back into town to check out the various nature shops and to get some ‘Hot Springs’ water to do an experiment. So, instead of us all going to the creek, the boys took the dogs to frolic in the water and us girls went back into town. The dogs were not fans of the water, but the boys couldn’t get enough! We needed to be out of the campsite by 11, so we quickly packed up and piled into the car for one last leg of our trip. … … Heading Home!
‘HOME’- a now odd word with so many meanings, but ultimately the place where we are all together as a family!