Allow me to introduce you all to Leah, many of you may know her from FB! Leah is my friend Susan’s daughter, she’s 4 and she’s the #1 kid in my life! She and I spend about one weekend together a month, so Mommy gets a break, and we always have fun! I’d been wanting to take her camping while she was still small enough to not take up much space in the bed, but old enough to enjoy camping activities. She seemed like she was ready so I decided it was time to go for it! She’d seen my van on several occasions and she was asking when she’d get to come with me. She’d asked a few times to go camping, although it turns out, she really didn’t have much idea what camping actually was! LOL!
She’s recently graduated from her car seat to a booster seat and she’s tall & skinny so I’m betting it will be years before she weighs enough to go without it so I need to buy one for my car. Luckily I discovered that in the RV I was going to need a high back booster since there aren’t any headrests. Before I sunk $70 into a nice booster I decided we needed to take a shakedown trip and see how things went. Susan and I picked a date and I decided we’d go to Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania, which is about 30 miles from Leah’s house. It seemed a bit ho-hum of a destination at first, but it turned out to be perfect! The campground was lovely, big private sites, a lake to swim in, pre-schooler friendly trails, and electric hook-ups to run the AC!
We headed out Monday afternoon after she got done with Vacation Bible School! She was a bit unsure of the van at 1st, but warmed up quickly! One thing was that since the back seat is also the bed it’s covered with memory foam which caused the booster seat to rock a little more than she was accustomed too. The booster we were using had a tether strap so I secured it, likely in an unsanctioned way, to the bar behind the couch and that helped the wiggle factor. No idea if it was safe. The other thing I was worried about was the heat. It finally turned to summer here in DC and it was quite toasty. I knew the dash AC wouldn’t make it to the back and I didn’t want to run the generator going down the road so I opened the windows and ran the vent fan. She didn’t complain about the heat and she commented that when the van was going fast there was wind. She also enjoyed the extra bumpiness from riding right over the back tires! The only other issue we had while driving was that it was very hard to talk to each other. It’s a long way back there and the noise of the AC fan, the wind & road noise made it very hard. Luckily, she’s pretty content to entertain herself while we are driving and she was eye level with the window and got a great view!
We arrived at the park and after getting registered our first stop was the dump station. The sensor told me it was full, but I didn’t believe it because the fresh water was also full. Silly me forgot that I’d topped off the fresh tank without dumping the tanks. They were out of sync. The black tank was precariously close to being totally full! The design of the dump station and the design of my RV made the dumping process more challenging that it usually is, but I was able to empty the tank and we were on our way to our site.
The campground has about 45 sites and they are HUGE. The campground was also mostly empty. We were given our choice of sites so we made a loop, settling on the first site we’d seen that I liked. It had some shade and was close to the trail to the beach area.
The large square area on the left is the tent pad. It is filled with pea gravel. I have no idea how that feels to sleep on if you are in a tent, but us it meant hours of play! Leah was able to buy her toys, search for golden rocks, make soup, the imaginative play options were endless!
It was seriously hot and humid so our first item of business was to get ourselves to the lake. We put on bathing suits, smeared on sunscreen, packed snacks, towels, beach toys, and floaties and headed down the 1/2 mile paved trail to the beach.
Turns out Leah had never swum in a lake before! She was unsure of the whole experience at first, but eventually warmed up. As we were getting in she was worried that the bottom was sinking – this was because the bottom sloped away and the water got deeper! And, as we got our further the bottom got squishy and she wasn’t a fan of that at all. She has a Ladybug Puddle Jumper swim life jacket that she wears when she swims and in the pool she’s quite comfortable paddling around so I was hopeful that she’d get comfortable in the water and play, so I scooped her up and despite her protests drug her out where she couldn’t touch the squishy bottom. Once she realized that she can float and kick and all she was happier, but wouldn’t really let go of me and if she got more than a few inches from me she’d panic. We swam a bit and then she asked to go back to the shore where she enjoyed building a sand castle!
As we were driving I’d seen some big thunderheads blossoming out to the west and the sky just to to the north of us was starting to look iffy. I had my phone so was checking the radar – there was a HUGE storm just north and east of us. I had no idea how the storm was moving, but I guessed it would likely push off to the north and hit us directly. Still, it was looking like it could storm and I’d rather not have to ride it out in the bathroom at the lake so I decided to pack everything up and head back to the campground. We’d been at the lake about an hour. boo.
We were about 1/2 – 2/3 of the way back to the van (about a 1/2 mile walk) when I heard the first rumbles of the thunder in the distance. I was very glad we’d left when we did! Leah didn’t hear the thunder and was unaware that the weather was going downhill. Back at the van we sat outside – her playing in the gravel, me checking the weather on my phone – as the sky clouded up and the wind kicked up, there was thunder in the distance, but nothing too close. It was actually very pleasant. Until there was a clap of thunder really close! That’s when I moved Leah into the van and put the chairs away. She was still unaware that there was a storm coming or anything to worry about! Once in the van we broke out the DVDs and by the time the torrential rain came (about 5 mins after we moved inside) we were happily watching Finding Nemo, with surround sound!
There was some very loud thunder but it all managed to coincide with tense moments in the movie and she did not notice at all! The surround sound also helped block things out, although it is quite unnerving to suddenly hear voices from the back of the coach – the sound like they are outside! After the rain stopped and the storm was moving on Leah finally registered the thunder and said commented that she was scared of thunder. I told her it had been thundering for over an hour and she hadn’t noticed so I was certain it would be fine!
The rain squashed our dinner plans to roast hot dogs over the campfire, so we had to microwave the hot dogs while we watched the end of the movie. Ahhh…the joys of RV camping! :-)
After dinner and the movie the sun was coming back out and we went back out to play!
Then a bike ride around the campground!
When we got back to the site she was adamant that we roast marshmallows. Turns out, sitting around the campfire and roasting marshmallows were the only activities that constituted “camping” in her little mind! LOL! I couldn’t get her to understand that it was all camping! I gathered some twigs in the woods and broke out the fire starters and produced the world smallest campfire.
After she dried her tears because I wouldn’t let her play in the fire, we quickly stuck our marshmallows in.
As soon as the marshmallows were warmed, the fire went out. I think the only thing that was burning was the fire starter. Leah was quite perturbed by this as she wasn’t done “camping” and wanted to roast more marshmallows. This time I decided to try and burn the marshmallow sticks – they were dry! I began breaking them up and got the rest of the fire starters. They burned a bit better and I was hoping that they weren’t coated with something that would release toxic fumes when burned! She put 2 marshmallows on a stick, held them by the fire for 30 seconds and declared them done! LOL!
While I went in to set up the bed and do the dishes Leah played in the gravel. She buried her toy turtle in the gravel and when I told her it was time to clean up she told me she couldn’t remember where it was. I told her to start digging.
We never did find the turtle, we finally decided to let it go! We headed in and got ready for bed. She watched some Tiny Toon Adventures on DVD while I read and finally around 9:30 we turned off the lights and went to sleep!
I was pleasantly surprised by how well the night went! She stayed on her side of the bed and didn’t snore! She slept all night and didn’t wake up until 7! :-)
Tuesday morning brought more Tiny Toons while I did chores and then a 2 mile hike down the Railroad Ford Trail! She was armed with a bag to collect any treasures that she found, but we didn’t find anything that we could bring back! We saw lots of mushrooms, interesting trees, squirrels, views and even some flowers, but nothing we could collect!
After the hike the heat was really cranking up! It was time to hit the beach for one last swim before we headed home! This time we packed up the RV and drove around. She wasn’t any happier with the squishy bottom, but she was more willing to kick and paddle and swim on her own out in the deep water. She was acting like she scared, but she kept cracking a smile so I know she was playing with me! We swam around a little then she was ready for sandcastle building. She enjoyed the sand while I stood in the water (I hate sand in my bathing suit!). Soon it was time to go back to the van to get ready to head back home!
She was not terribly happy about going home, said she wanted to stay forever and that today was an AWESOME day! :-)
Leah’s 1st camping trip was a huge success and it won’t be her last! Now, I’m off to buy a high backed booster seat!