A last minute, impromptu trip to the mountains for sure. We had planned on taking the weekend, but leaving right after church on Wednesday night....Well, that didn't happen. I had promised that I would help a church member before church on that Wednesday to install a new garbage disposal and kitchen faucet, and that took precedent over my packing up. I did get it done, but that meant packing up after church instead of before. Now I will say that she did send home a very good meal for the whole family to enjoy!
So, after church was over, we all headed to the house to gather those things we would need for the camping trip, and the kids were running around gathering those items essential to our enjoyment of the outdoors: Food. Clothing. S'mores. All whilst grasping a chicken leg in one hand and a cob of corn in the other....
We pulled out of the driveway a little after 10, and headed to our destination, planning on stopping by and getting a couple of things from our friendly neighborhood Wal-mart... Which we discovered was closed. Thanks COVID! We continued on, brokenhearted for some, because we did not have the required bike tire tube in order for one specific-not-happy-camper. Where we would be wouldn't be too far from another Wal-mart, so I promised we'd go the next day.
We arrived at the camp site around 12:30 AM, two out of three kids rudely awakened by the sway of the Adventure Machine navigating the ever narrowing 4WD trail to our destination. The place that we wanted to go had been scouted out by Corey and I on his birthday trip, but even on this Wednesday night, already had an empty camper and two empty tents on it indicating that someone would soon be there, so we continued on up the trail, where we had not been before...Did I mention the ever narrowing trail?
We finally came to a clearing, so I made the command decision that "We're Here!" and promptly threw the Adventure Machine in park to investigate the area. We found a nice flat spot (mostly) and I yanked the tent out of the truck bed and reached for the lantern. That had no mantles. Oops. Grabbed the wrong one in our haste to get out of town quickly! With flashlights, I had the kids help me set it up quickly (it's the instant up kind). After staking it down, and tightening the guy ropes, we emptied the tubs of air pads, mattresses, cots, and sleeping bags, and then setup beds. It was quite chilly that night, in the low 40's (in July!) But we are at nearly 10k feet, so the temps were expected. We quickly got it all setup, then retired for the night. As we went to bed, we did our nightly routine of prayers, a story, and then a song. This particular night, we all took turns telling a part of the story. Oh the places that leads....Ask the kids about "Mr. Fatty Pants" and the "kind little girl" who eventually fell in love with him.
Or is it Day two? I don't really know. We got up and had breakfast, tooled around for a bit then went to Wal-mart to get a bike tube and some other things we meant to pick up the night before. On our way back, I stopped to let the kids play in the little creek we had to cross over to get to the site, and they had a blast. We goofed off for a bit and then took a trip up past Bishop's Castle, a homemade...well, home,, built by a guy from scratch over the past 5 decades from scraps, recycled materials and whatnot. Pretty impressive. We were there to check out the other nearby camp sites, so we went to Davenport and Ophir campgrounds. Our site was better than any site they had at either campground! We left, went back and relaxed for the remainder of the day, cooking hot dogs and having S'Mores that night. So, what do you do when your chocolate melts? Cut the corner and squeeze it out like a pastry bag! It was actually better that way than the normal blocks! I had bought some mantles for the lantern and put them on as it was getting towards the end of the day. We settled down for the night and lights were out by dark...Well, we really didn't use any lights, even though we had a lantern we didn't use it. (Note: We didn't use it for the whole trip!)
I was awakened before at about 3 AM by voices. LOUD voices, and flashlights, pointed right at our tent, lighting up the interior like it was daylight. I promptly jumped up and grabbed the .45. It was at that point that I realized that the slightly inebriated voices I heard were not happy that we had "squatted in our spot". Sorry boys, shoulda planned ahead like the fellas down the road. I came out of the tent with the .45 on the hip and attitudes softened. Suddenly we weren't squatters anymore, and they were "happy to move on do the next spot we scouted out last weekend. Have a good night!" Yep. With one eye open now....
At 7AM, a vehicle drove by, and I peeked out the window to see a very loaded down 2WD Toyota T100 headed up the trail. I had no idea how he got this far, but he kept going. We got up shortly thereafter, and about an hour, A fellow walked into the camp and introduced himself, said he was stuck and need to borrow a jack. I offered my stock jack and asked him if he needed help, to which either his pride or embarrassment would not allow him to accept. About 45 minutes later, I decided to jump in the Adventure Machine with the kids and go see what had happened to them, because they didn't come back down. As we went about a half mile up the trail, we met them coming down. I discovered that he had started backing up and had it a rock that rolled and uplifted the entire back differential on his truck, so he was using the jack to lift the truck, move the rock by hand, the let it down and get another run at it. He ended up with the rock on the leaf spring and couldn't move it any more.
I have a winch on the Adventure Machine for two reasons: 1) To help my stupid self when I get in trouble (which has only happened once so far, in DEEP snow, in DEEP winter, and I actually did it on purpose knowing that I had the winch to pull me out so that the kids could have a little bit of excitement in "helping Dad out of a jam") and 2) to help others who need it. This was definitely a person who needed it. We chocked the vehicle, and then used both my jack and his on the differential to lift the truck as high as we could, placing as big a rock as we could under his tires, then letting the jacks down, putting rocks under the jacks, and repeating the process until we had rock ramps pretty much under his tires. I then put a snatch strap around the rock, around a tree up off of the side of the truck, then redirected it to the winch cable. With the truck safely on the rock piles, I pulled the rock from under the vehicle and with that out of the way, he simply drove forward off of the rock piles. An adventure for sure! They were looking for a place for their entire family, and we told them we were leaving the next day and that they were welcome to camp with us since we had such a big area, but they declined and found another spot down the road.
We decided to go exploring and see if what we could find, and so off we went, eventually heading into Silver Cliff / Westcliffe where we hit the local Dollar General for some Honey Peanut butter, a delicatessen epicurean delight for the peanut butter lovers that we are. Anytime we see a Dollar General we just have to stop and get a jar! We also ended up stopping at the Stage Stop ice cream shop, and the kids enjoyed a very LARGE ice cream cone. For lunch. Well, kind of. We had a cone there and then headed back towards camp and had lunch on the tailgate of the truck while playing in the little creek again. Claire slipped on a rock and got dunked into the shallow pool that she was in and and just had a blast! I cut the pant legs off of the oldest two's very ripped-out-at-the-knees pants and made shorts out of them, much to their relief. They all enjoyed playing in the creek. We headed back to camp, then went climbing up the mountain on a very short, and very steep hike. The kids rode their bikes, played in the creek, climbed the hill, played with sticks, you know, the kind of stuff you do when you are camping!
After a long day, we settled down and had dinner, I made chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans, and as we were cooking, it started to rain. It wasn't much, just enough to get the kids in the tent to goof of and have some fun, then right back out. They came back out as the rain went away and we all ate and had S'mores again, this time without melted chocolate. I think I like the melted chocolate better!
We then got cleaned up with the wet wipes we got from Dollar General, and headed off to bed. Another trip around the sun, another round of prayers, another funny story, and a song. Tonight's song was by a lady in our church, I recorded it for her in my makeshift studio at home, it was titled "My God Will Always be Enough". How true. I think the kids drifted off to sleep before it was over, but I played it again because it is just a great song, sung by an excellent vocalist.
I woke up and looked around. Three out of four kids still out like a light. Kaye was staring at me as if to say, "Ok, you're up. LET'S GO. PLEASE!" I woke the kids up and we had breakfast. I got milk out of the cooler......and it was frozen. I use salt water ice blocks in our cooler because the keep things colder for longer. If anything is close to it, it will freeze without a doubt. Our salt water blocks kept our bacon frozen on our Grand Canyon trip from Sunday night to Friday morning. It wasn't block frozen, but it was still frozen in places meaning that it was in much colder temperature than it would have been if we had used just ice. Read the science about why on the salt water ice blocks page. Anyway, our milk was a slushie after I shook it up, and we enjoyed it anyway! I made coffee and the kids ran around playing with sticks, bikes, rocks, dirt, bugs, pine cones, more dirt, etc. We broke camp and I got everything packed up and ready for the drive home. Bikes on the racks. Everything properly arranged so the tailgate would close. We all then said goodbye to our most excellent camp site.
On the drive home, three out of the four fell right asleep. We arrived home without incident...Well, almost. Claire's tiny little bike just wasn't made for the full size racks I had, and we had to stop twice to tie it back down! We eventually made it home, unpacked, SHOWERED, and started our clothes in the washer to get them cleaned as well. As they all got showered, I unpacked the cooler. I was curious as to the temperature of the salt water blocks, which were now melting, but still had a considerable amount of ice slush in them. After being in the cooler for two and a half days (10PM Wednesday Night to 1PM Saturday afternoon), I read the temperature gauge, and my jaw dropped when the temperature gauge read...... THIRTY THREE DEGREES. Just more proof to me that our system of salt water blocks is much better at cooling!
We got all cleaned up, then realized it was the first Saturday of the month, which meant monthly grocery shopping. We only go once a month to get the things we need, and on that day the grocery chain we visit (Safeway) also gives an additional 10% discount for Veterans and military. When you shop for the month, that is a tremendous discount! We got groceries and headed back to the house to put them up, relaxed for a few hours, and since it was also Independence Day, joined up with our Pastor's family by happenstance and enjoyed the fireworks. A really good ending to a really good week!
Praise the LORD for his mercy and grace!