Thursday, July 10, 2014

Camping - Day 1

Forgive this bit of navel gazing, but I haven't blogged for a while and wanted to capture a memorable trip with the kids.

Friday, July 4, dawned clear and cool in Chicago. The forecast was for mild temperatures and sun across the Great Lakes. We were preparing for a drive to northern Wisconsin, exact destination unknown. Still, the car was laden with camping equipment and other provisions for a family of four, including children ages 4 and 15 months. We had no room to spare in the car--a day pack rode at my feet in the passenger side.

The CRV, packed to the gills.
The ride out of Chicago was uneventful, without a stop until Manitowoc, well north of Milwaukee. Sonja's first comment of "I want to go home" came somewhere around Skokie on I-94--not a good sign--but Celeste slept well (it was her usual nap time). By 1 we were approaching our target destination: Bagley Rapids Campground, Nicolet National Forest, near Mountain, Wis. This is about an hour northwest of Green Bay. We were nearly there when we encountered a tangly detour and highway closure near Pound, Wis. We drove east to go west at one point, but soon were approaching Bagley Rapids. The terrain transitioned from farmland to forest along the way.

I had made reservations for two July nights at Wells State Park, in Michigan, sometime in May. The original plan was for a simple Lake Michigan circle tour. But plans changed and we ended up needing to leave July 4, one day before our Wells reservation, if we were to get a three-night trip in. We scanned for online reservations of campsites in northern Wisconsin and none were available. It didn't bode well for a small family looking for the ease of a reserved campsite and minimal driving. We didn't want to be driving vast distances in hopes of finding a site.

As we approached Mountain, we saw a small sign pointing to the south of the highway "National Forest Campground," three of the best words in the English language. ATVs, piloted by overly young children, whirred on snowmobile paths as we made our way toward the campground. We were relieved when we saw that a few sites would be available. In fact, we got a pretty site not far from the latrine and within earshot of the namesake rapids. We knew insect life would be one of the potential challenges of this trip, and we were indeed greeted by swarms of mosquitoes at our site. We applied bug spray to all of us and put on long sleeves. Soon enough, we had set up our tent and took a short walk to investigate the rapids.

Bagley Rapids, on the Oconto River
The girls adjusted to camping fairly well. We set up Sonja's potty in a clearing adjacent to our site. The mosquitoes were no fun. They massed in the vestibule of our tent, which we nicknamed Mosquito Garage. The girls slipped into and out of the tent quickly so as not to let any skeeters in. Sonja especially liked the tent and even spent some time alone reading a new Frozen book.

Celeste, table climber
Dinner was mac and cheese and hot dogs. Then the challenge of bedtime came. Kristin went in the tent with both girls near dusk. It was after their bedtime, and the long day and the thrill of camping did not encourage sleep. Both girls lolled about the tent--Celeste taking belly flops across piles of pillows and bedding. Sonja emerged from the tent at one point, and we talked about the moon, the fire and the stars. Finally, well after dark, the cries and queries from the tent slowed and eventually ended altogether.

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