Camping with the Andersons

Wayne and the kids and I hadn’t had a lot of experience camping.  We’d only gone once – two years ago and figured it was time to try again. We made plans with our friends, Ryan and Michelle and their four fun kids to do a little camping last weekend. It turned out to be a whole lot of fun!

We met up at Bruneau Dunes State Park on Friday evening and enjoyed hot dogs and smores around a campfire, while we settled in.  Though it had been a brutally hot day, as the sun was setting the temperature was pretty close to perfect.  After the sun had set, we gathered up the 9 kids between us (yeah, we looked like a school field trip more than two families out for some fun), and drove to the Observatory only about a mile and a half from camp to enjoy some close-up views of the stars and planets.

The moon was full and it turns out that’s the worst time to try and view the stars, constellations and planets! Oops! It was so bright out! I’d even worn my Robie Creek glow-in-the dark skull shirt to amuse the kids, but you couldn’t even tell it was glowing the moon was so bright!  We still had a good time, though, checking out all the telescopes and chatting with the other people there.  We got into the long line to see the main telescope and we were treated to a very up-close-and personal view of the moon.

By the time our families got back to the tents, we were all pretty tired. No one in my family even bothered to brush teeth or put on pajamas. We just snuggled into our sleeping bags and fell into a restful, deep sleep. I found that the fresh air lulls me to sleep like a contented baby.  It was very cozy in our tent and I dreamed happy dreams all night, surrounded by my sweet family.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast of donuts, fruit and bagels, we headed over to the best attraction of all out there – the sand dunes!  The last time our family had been there, my kids were pretty young, so it didn’t occur to me that they might be doing a LOT of climbing and need plenty of hydration! Oops! Luckily, Ryan was on the ball and brought his Nathan vest filled with water and snacks. It was pretty funny watching kid after kid walk up to him and beg for a drink! I think he got voted “Nicest Grownup of the Day” after that. I, too, admit to begging for a drink of water from Ryan’s magic hydration vest.

It was such a blast walking the little trails out there in a long line (13 people in all shapes and sizes!!!) Savannah was the littlest at age 4 and I was the oldest at age 38! We made a colorful pilgrimage to the best dunes, the littlest ones sometimes saying, “Could you carry me, puuuleeezee????”  The kids had a blast climbing up and down, playing in the sand and burying each other. My son Wayne Jr and Ryan and Michelle’s son, Zach seemed determined to see how many times they could do hill repeats on the steepest dune of all! I think they ascended and descended it like 8 times and they were still full of energy when we left! Those little dudes totally impressed my socks off! We definitely have to get those two boys out on the trails soon and really let them go to town and see how they do! We could have a couple of future Badwater contenders on our hands here!

Nearly the entire group did climb close to the top at least once.  I made it up after Ryan, Jr and Zach had already arrived. The view was spectacular up there! Idaho is such a beautiful, scenic state and this particular area is especially lovely from way up high! The blue sky didn’t have a cloud in it. You could see the greenish-tinted lake down below.  There were hawks flying about, looking for prey. It was definitely a view worthy of the climb to get there.

After a bit, I told Ryan I wanted to roll down the dune to the bottom. He agreed to race me! My husband got some funny pictures of us careening down the hillside, sand flying everywhere. I think I may have kicked Ryan in the head on the way down (Sorry, man!)  It actually was a painful journey, too. It felt like hammers were hitting every body part as I rolled. I think I yelped, “OUCH!” a few times, but doing so only caused more sand to get into my mouth – choke choke.   When we hit the bottom, I was so dizzy, I couldn’t lift my head for a minute. I was smiling when I finally got up, though. That was crazy, but fun! I had so much sand in my ears, they were totally coated in it! Ryan looked like someone had sandblasted him.

Ryan headed up again with the two boys and they aimed for the tallest dune around and made it all the way to the top! The photos they got from there were pretty cool! I regret that I didn’t join them and check it out too! Next time!!!

After everyone was tired out and hungry, we headed back to camp to pack up.  We drove a couple of hours to Baumgartner Hot Springs for our next night of camping adventures! We were not disappointed either! It was awesome!  There were Ponderosa trees everywhere, there was an icy cold lake to dive and swim in and a natural hot springs to warm up with! There were even trails for hiking and running! It was SO cool!!!

I think the kids would say they loved swimming in the lake the best. It was fun watching them jump on floating tubes and ride around, laughing and having fun or taking turns leaping off the giant rock in the middle.  Ryan kept doing these crazy back-flips right off the top and I had to cover my eyes since I was certain he was going to kill himself with his crazy acrobatics!  Luckily, no one was injured at the Lake and everyone had a great time.

After eating a yummy dinner around the campfire, we all headed to the hot springs pool.  It’s a pretty cool set up. The water is actually drained and refilled each day, so it’s fairly clean despite the zillions of people who are there bathing with you.  I think the drastic change to the very hot water from the icy cold water was a fun one for the kids (and very appreciated by me, since I’m a total weenie in cold water!)  It was relaxing and a lot of fun!

Back at camp, the kids played chase, football, tag and enjoyed one another’s company. The grownups sat around the campfire until each of the younger ones had been tucked in for the night. It was a lovely time, sitting under the stars and moon, sharing stories with one another under the night sky. Staring into the flames of the firelight, I breathed deeply the scent of wood and forest and smoke and felt truly happy and at peace.

After a bit, we all headed to our tents to get some rest. I’d told Ryan I wanted to join him on his morning run, so I slept a bit fitfully, wondering if I was oversleeping or not, waking and checking the night sky from the vent on the top of my tent and wondering if it was 4 am or not yet.  Finally, my husband woke me from a deep sleep and told me Ryan was ready to run. I stumbled out of the tent and headed to the car where I’d laid out my Garmin and running clothes the night before.  All was still and the night was black around me as I gathered my things and headed to the bathroom to change, while trying to be quiet and not wake up the rest of the campers.

Finally I was ready. I ate a banana and told Ryan “Good morning” in a whisper. The truth was, I was pretty nervous about this run. Since my IT band acted up at Wild Idaho, the week before, I had not ran one single step and I was fearful that I would try to run and only make it a few steps before finding the pain too much and having to turn back and go back to sleep.  Injuries always scare me like that since healing happens in it’s own sweet time (not when I want it to get better unfortunately!)

Luckily, Ryan suggested we walk the first few minutes, which I think helped my IT band a lot since it was warm before I pushed it harder.  We stayed very quiet as we passed several campsites and only began chatting and running once we’d gotten further away and wouldn’t disturb anyone.  The moon was full, the stars were shining bright and the scent of the damp earth and the pine trees rejuvenated my senses and brought me to life – even though it was pitch black all around me and hours before I usually wake up for the day. The chill in the morning air made me shiver in my shorts and tank top, but I had a huge smile on my face since I was actually RUNNING and not in a lot of pain! Times like this, when I’m out running under a dark sky with a friend make me feel like I’ve discovered a secret — that the real fun isn’t in staying under the covers for an extra hour or two, but it’s in being one with nature, letting the breeze whip your hair from your face, feeling the damp grass under your feet, watching the sun rise while on a mountain top and in sharing those special moments with a friend who’ll look you in the eye and share a knowing smile as the day begins anew.

We didn’t have any particular goals, so we just ran up one trail and when it dead ended, we’d find a new one.  This happened a lot! Ryan even took me cross-country a couple times to get back to the main road when the trail we were running became too rugged. We came to one spot where there was a deep water crossing.  Normally, we’d both just go for it and run right through, but it was very cold and we were both shivering in the morning air and decided against that path.  We spotted the hoof prints of a deer near where we’d been running and hoped we’d bump into some cool wildlife — but… it didn’t happen. It must have been nearby, though! The tracks seemed fresh.  We did stop when we heard a really loud turkey calling into the morning air! That was cool, even though we didn’t get to see him either!

We ran and then walked as my IT band eventually started to get sore again.  The sun rose as we finished up our 10.5 miles and headed back to camp to start the fire and get breakfast going for the families. It was a relaxing, enjoyable start to the day! We were so distracted getting morning preparations going at camp, that we forgot to remove our headlamps.  Ryan’s wife came out of the tent and teased, “You guys can take those off now you know.” haha! It was funny! At least they weren’t turned ON!

After a hearty breakfast of pancakes, sausages and bacon with juice and coffee, the kids begged to go swimming one last time. Ryan kept an eye on them while the rest of us packed up camp. We ended the morning with one last dip in the hot springs, which was the perfect way to relax before going on the long drive back home.

My children said as we drove away, “I hope we can do it again soon!’  My sentiments exactly!!!

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