After many weekends of having our plans thwarted by the weather, we finally made it out for our first tent camping trip of the season. Our yurt camping trips in the winter months are a lot of fun, and get us out to the woods and beaches year-round, but there's something about off-pavement camping that feeds the soul in a greater way. No campgrounds, no neighbors, no cars driving by, just a little spot off of a gravel road in the mountains, and the sounds of a crackling campfire, rushing river and singing frogs. There was one such spot down on the Smith River that my husband had in mind, so we packed it up after a busy Saturday around the farm and headed up into the hills. We didn't even leave until 5 o'clock, but we were just happy to be going out camping.
With the Spring runoff, the water level was much higher than we had seen it in this spot before. We watched the churning, swift river for a while, and decided that it looked like quite a force to be reckoned with, so the kids agreed to stay back from the edges, and play on the big flat sandstone rock just below the campsite.
My daughter occupied herself with the doll family she brought along, setting them up with a little campsite and building a tiny campfire.
We found several of these orange bellied newts by the riverside and many hours were spent building a newt habitat for them in a little tributary stream.
We burned up all our firewood in the evening fire, forgetting that we planned on open-fire cooking for breakfast, which provided an excellent opportunity to call on our collective fire building survival skills. Our kids have been in this great after school program called Coyote Kids, where they learn all about nature awareness, survival skills, lost proofing, wildlife tracking and all sorts of useful things. Even though the woods were wet from the previous days rain, we were not deterred. My husband went out and snapped off some low branches at the bottom of trees with dense canopies and my son talked him through how to set up the charred remnants of the nighttime fire with the dry twigs. I remembered a good friend's advice to look for standing dead alder trees, and after knocking a couple of them over, we had dry firewood and a roaring morning fire.
It was great to spend a night out in the woods and wake up in the morning to all the green leaves unfolding and woodland flowers blooming. Aside from a light sprinkling in the night, the weather held out beautifully and temperatures were comfortable. After breakfast and coffee cooked over our campfire, we spent some time scouting for other campsites along the river. We found a few good future possibilities and at one we encountered a huge Barred Owl. It flew out across the road and landed up in a tree where it sat looking at us for a long time. Having only run across owls in the woods a couple of times, this was a real treat.
We headed for home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and glad that camping season has come around again. I have no doubt that it will be another busy season around our little farm, with much to do on the weekends, but we will just do our best to get out in the wilds as much as possible. Those nights spent off-pavement are where it's at.