Monday, July 19, 2010

First family camp-out

There are two times of the year that I'm especially fond of - Christmas and summer vacation. It used to be that while on vacation I would think of Christmas, and during Christmas I would think about vacation! Well my thoughts this year were focused very much on the here and now, as this was our first camping trip as a newly minted family. Now I'm not bragging here when I say this, but Angel & I consider ourselves as seasoned, expert "front-woods" campers. None of this sissy trailer/motor home with the satellite dish type of camping. I mean the type of camping with a tent, Coleman stove and sleeping bags that don't leave you quite so warm at 2AM type of camping. Years of experience have equipped us well not only with the right stuff to bring but also a knowledge of some of the best spots around. It was this well of experience that we were eager to share with our daughter, but there was none more eager here that Jess.

Our adventure started by packing our new Dodge Journey with all our camping gear. Now I have to say that in years past when it was just me, Angel & our Pontiac Wave we would fold the seats down and have the car stuffed from floor to ceiling with all our gear. Nothing changed this year. With room in the back for Jess we thought there would also be some wiggle room in that spacious new cross-over of ours. But nothing could have been farther from the truth, as the familiar pillar to post packing experience resulted. Apparently ten year olds don't travel light, but there was an extra that Angel got mad at me for packing, saying that it needlessly took up space - our three man tent. Apparently she felt that packing it was unnecessary what with our having a big six-man tent as well. Little did we both know how handy it would come in later on our trip, but you'll have to read on to find out how...

With our vehicle packed, in-car DVD player loaded and a hearty A&W breakfast sitting heavy in our stomaches we pointed our Journey south and our journey began by heading to Drumheller. Now for those who aren't familiar with Drumheller, Alberta, it is known for its hoodoos and dinosaur finds. It seems that everything in Drumheller has a dinosaur theme to it - restaurants, shops and touristy type places all play up the prehistoric monster theme. Drumheller even boasts the world's largest dinosaur - a towering beast 26 meters (86 feet) tall that has a set of stairs inside taking you to an impressive view of Drumheller from the inside of its mouth. A little tacky, but yes I did make the climb - and for $3 too. But the best thing that was waiting for us in Drumheller was my brother Niels, his wife Janice and their two kids. They were on the tail end (no pun intended) of their vacation and thought it would be great for ours to overlap with theirs. Jess loves hanging with her younger cousins, and it was a great way to kick off our holidays. We took in the Hoodoos, some walking trails and a couple of touristy places as well as the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum.

Our last night in Drumheller was not quite what we expected, as severe weather blew us (almost literally) out of our camp site. We were forced to bug out and spend the night in a hotel (one of the last rooms available), which Jess didn't mind at all. She said she never stayed in one before, and loved taking advantage of things like the hot tub and a queen sized bed all to herself. Next day, after having a continental breakfast (included in our stay) and a last check of the weather channel, we headed for what we consider the best spot in the province - Waterton Lakes National Park. This is the part where the small tent came in handy. We've learned the hard way that big tents don't fare so well in windy Waterton, so the first night there Jess & Angel slept in the three-man while I slept in the Journey. It was cold and a little wet for them and a bit cramped for me, but we survived. The wind and rain went away and, with the big tent up the next day we set out to take in all that this gem of a park had to offer. The highlight of our stay there was our visit to Red Rock Canyon and the hike to Blakiston Falls, though it was for different reasons. While Angel & I loved the scenery Jess was most impressed by the new friend she made - a squirrel that came right up to her and licked her hand.

Sadly we had to leave Waterton after only two full days, but the trip to Calgary and their rather impressive zoo made for a nice finish to our vacation. We also had time to visit a few friends I went to Bible college with - Janice and Bonnie - and their husbands. Bonnie & her husband Chris are currently on their own adoption journey, and we were happy to answer their questions and share our experiences with them. It all added up to a memorable vacation, this our first family camping trip. For Jess it wasn't just all the sights we visited but simply the time we spent together that made it special. She loved playing games after supper and sleeping together in the same tent. Even when it rained she loved just chilling in the tent with us. Taking Jessica on holidays took me back to my own childhood, and the great memories of camping in the mountains. Looking back on my own memories thrilled me, knowing that we were helping Jess to make her own. And for her the memory making goes on, as we took her to camp right after we got home. While Angel & I get another week of holidays together Jess is at Moose Lake Gospel Camp, where her cousins Jenelle and Rayleen are on staff. It's nice to have that down time after such a busy week of camping. It's so quiet in the house. It's nice.

I wonder how Jess is doing...

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