Thursday, April 10, 2008

Last fall, my parents told me that they’d like to take our boys on their First Ever Camping Trip over Spring Break. Fredbird and I decided we wanted to be present at this momentous event and invited ourselves along. After lots of planning, including a trip by Grandma and Grandpa to Stone Mountain to pick out the perfect campsites, the trip was upon us.

Fredbird went to work on Thursday morning (he’d leave a little early, finish his packing, then join us), and I proceeded with packing. Yes, very last minute, but I’m an admitted procrastinator, and I’ve chosen to embrace this particular shortcoming. I had a nice packing list (I’ve learned the hard way to always use a packing list), and besides, I’d been busy the night before compiling letterboxing clues for Stone Mountain. There are over 125 letterboxes inside Stone Mountain Park…that I know of! I copied and pasted dozens of them into a Word document, leaving out many of the cryptic clues, knowing we’d have our hands full even without them on this trip. I’d rather save the problem solving for a trip without the kids; they’re not quite old enough to find that interesting.

Anyway, back to Thursday morning. The laundry was going, and I was packing. The kids were – er – helping. No, really, they did great. Mom picked us up at 1:30, and we drove to SMP to meet my dad, who we found with (surprise, surprise!) a book in his hands. I was hoping for many hours of that particular activity myself over the course of the weekend.

Somehow, we got the tent, canopy (over the picnic table – we knew storms were coming the next night), and other gear set up, all without losing one of the children. Mom and I had both thought to bring bubbles, and I’d brought coloring books as well. Even better, Mom had individual bags of chips…Cheetos and Doritos work magic on little boys. As the traditional First Night of Camping Stew was heating on the camp stove, I got a call from Fredbird. He was just leaving work. He ended up arriving shortly after the rest of us finished our roasted marshmallows, much later than he’d originally intended.

That night was interesting. Mom and Dad were supposed to sleep in the tent with the boys, while Fredbird and I slept on air mattresses in the back of their van. One had deflated, however, and since Dad had a commitment that night and wouldn’t be back until the morning, Mom took the van, and Fredbird and I slept on their double air mattress in the tent. The next morning, Mom informed us that the van was obviously never meant to be slept in. This did not bode well for our next two nights of slumber.

Friday, April 11

Friday morning, Dad arrived early and started the coffee (YAY, DADDY!!!!), and the boys amused themselves with the lightsabers Fredbird had brought. (Stroke of genius, that.) Mom and I made pancakes and fried up some ham. We always did eat well on camping trips…Mom has the camping thing down pat, even though we hadn’t been since our trip to Edinborough in ’92. And then….it was finally off to do some boxing!

After looking through the clues I’d amassed, I recommended to Fredbird that we try the Songbird Trail Series planted by Gardening Granny and Paw Paw. It had the perfect combination of what looked to be a pleasant, shortish walk and a large number of boxes (six!). There were also two additional boxes planted by other boxers along the same trail. What a great choice! The Songbird Trail is a preserve for (any guesses?) songbirds on the site of the cycling and archery venues for the 1996 Olympic Games. What was formerly an empty space at the back of the park now ranks as one of my favorites. The exquisitely-planned and maintained walk meanders through a meadow and a wooded area, and the stamps we found are amazing! The boys did amazingly well, with Little Turtle lasting quite a long while before the whining started. (He is only 4, after all.) Blue Giraffe caught the letterboxing bug anew on this little hike and is now as keen as his Mommy to do as much as possible!

Having spent the entire morning (plus some) on the Songbird Trail, we headed back to the campsite for a late lunch. Mom and Dad had agreed to take the boys for the afternoon while Fredbird and I spent the afternoon in pursuit of more difficult boxing prey…namely some of those available along the famed Walk-Up Trail.

I was a bit nervous about attempting the walk-up. The last time I did it, I was 14 years younger, and a good 75 pounds lighter. However, I was willing to give it a go for letterboxing’s sake. I’m glad I did, because I can say I did it, and I’m never doing it again!! LOL The letterboxing portion was a bit of a bust, unfortunately. Some of the clues take more time searching than we had available (severe thunderstorms were expected, and we had to get back to camp, cook, eat, and get settled for the night before they hit). We ended up only finding box #4 of drgdlg’s Real Easter series. We found the obvious hidey-hole for Yankee Girl’s The Mayflower, but it looks like it may have gone missing. I hope we were mistaken, but I don’t think so.

Anyway, we did eventually reach the top of Stone Mountain. It’s always very, very windy up there, but with the storms approaching, it was even worse than usual. As we approached the top, and I was downing my third bottle of water, Fredbird suggested taking the gondola back down the mountain, and walking around to the parking lot. I thought this was a brilliant plan, seeing as the steep decline might wreak havoc on already-tired ankles and knees…and considering my extreme state of fatigue. I rethought the plan’s brilliance later on, however, as we walked a constant, albeit slight, uphill grade for over a mile to get back to the car. We made it, though, walking past several more letterboxes whose clues were safely in the car’s glove box. Oops. No matter, we needed to get back for dinner. (The ever-popular hot dogs roasting on an open fire followed by S’mores!)

The storms did come. The van was uncomfortable. It was humid, but I do love falling asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm. I promised the disappointed boys we’d do the Laser Show Saturday evening if the weather had improved. All in all, it was a very satisfying day.

Our family F-count for the day: 9.