With Angel out of school and The Mr. home from work for a few days, we decided to take advantage of living in such a beautiful place and actually vacation in "vacationland"! If the rest of the East comes all the way up here every summer, we figured we would go see what all the fuss was about! :) (By the way, our camera is in the repair shop again - so enjoy my lovely cell phone shots!)
We decided to visit "Bradbury Mountain" (really, more of a hill, but it was still beautiful!) We went up Tuesday and found that the campsite we had reserved was INCREDIBLE! Most of the campsites were small and close together, right off the main road. Ours, however, was down a wooded trail and was so private and secluded that we honestly felt we were the only people for miles! It was amazing! (I wish I'd taken a picture....it was that great!)
We set up camp, made foil dinners and then, of course, roasted marshmallows for s'mores. I think the last time we went camping was before Wiggles was born, so at least 3 years ago. Which essentially means the kids had never really experienced s'mores (at least that they could remember). It was so precious to watch their eyes as they tasted the gooey goodness for the first time. They couldn't get enough! (By the way....behind the children is the path leading to the campground. Behind the Mr. and I was just forest. Can you appreciate how secluded we were? LOVE it!)
We told stories around the campfire and then cozied up in the tent. Angel had a hard time falling asleep, because she was worried someone would "come steal our stuff since it's just out in the open, and not locked up inside." But we finally convinced her to go to sleep when she realized we hadn't brought anything valuable anyway. :)
The next morning we had a tasty breakfast of eggs, french toast and "rocks". Really, I had decided to try some purple potatoes for the first time, and didn't realize that they were actually a very dark purple all the way through. When The Mr. was cooking them over the fire, Grins asked, astonished, "Dad! Why are you cooking rocks?! Do we HAVE to eat that?!" Fortunately, it was all delicious.
When we had finished breakfast, we decided to bike up the mountain. (Remember, it's really just a hill!) We went over to the State Park and looked at the various routes available - and decided on the "easy" biking trail. Unfortunately, in order to get to the "easy" trail, we had to bike for a mile on an "intermediate" trail - but we figured we could do anything for a mile! So, with each of us on our bikes (mine without brakes) and Wiggles on The Mr's back, we set off.
I knew we were in trouble when the trail started with multiple rubber 'hurdles' (for lack of a better word) in the path. (Apparently they are designed to prevent erosion - but they are quite difficult to get a bike over, particularly if you are a child!) There were also lots of steep inclines, large protruding roots and stones, and even some places in which we had to climb over large boulders! The kids kept pleading "We can't do this! Can we turn around and go home?" to which we would reassure them "Don't worry! This is the hard part! We're almost to the easier portion of the trail, and then we will have so much fun!" We continued up the rocky, difficult trail, which seemed to get increasingly steep and difficult as we progressed, just waiting for the blessed "Tote Road" - the 'easy' path.
Imagine our dismay when, upon arriving at the Tote Road, we realized it was not, in fact, 'easy' at all. For the Mr, a seasoned mountain biker, it was easy. For me, it was quite difficult and, at times, scary. For the children, most of it was impossible and terrifying. The Mr. and I did our best to cheer them on, helping carry their bikes over the most treacherous parts, and encouraging them to push their own bikes most of the way up.
Despite their repeated "Let's go back!" pleas, we kept reminding them that, because we were on a loop, we had actually come further than what lie ahead. Turning back would have been more difficult. And so we pushed on. For much of the way, the children were very brave, even getting on their bikes for the smaller inclines with smaller roots and stones. (There were no smooth or flat parts as we'd promised.) At other times, we would tell stories of pioneers who climbed mountains with bare feet in the snow...which seemed to offer little in the way of relief to the kids, but kept them somewhat occupied enough to stop complaining momentarily.
Poor Wiggles; though she was fortunate enough to be carried on the Mr.'s back, she had an incredible bumpy, "Scary!" ride for much of it, as the Mr. would often quickly ride ahead to check 'how much further' or ride back to get something we had dropped. "Bumpy, Daddy, Scary!" she would scream, the poor dear. The screaming must have worn her out, though, for she actually fell asleep towards the end! We eventually came up with the idea of earning a prize if we could make it to the top. The children suggested ice cream, and we thought that sounded like a marvelous idea! We vowed to get them each an ice cream cone as soon as possible! (Note: I didn't manage to get any pictures of us biking. I could have sworn I snapped a few, but looking back over the photos, I can't find any....apparently I was too preoccupied with just getting through the adventure to bother photographing it!)
Finally, after a seeming eternity (but in reality, nearly 3 hours), we reached the summit. We sat and enjoyed the breathtaking view. Incredible! And miraculously, once we reached the top, the crying and complaining immediately ceased. The children were mesmerized by the beauty of it, and the Mr. and I could sense their feeling of accomplishment; that they had made it to the top....carrying a bike, nonetheless! What troopers!
We stayed up at the summit as long as we possibly could, (well, until we ran out of food and water, and Wiggles needed a diaper change), not wanting to face the mountainous landscapes again. While there, we enjoyed the local wildlife (frogs and insects), and a few rounds of hide-and-seek, forest style! Then, already well past lunch time, and quite exhausted from the trip up, we decided to try a different route down. The Mr. rode our bikes, one at a time, down the 'black diamond' path (I can't even imagine what a 'difficult' trail was, if the "Tote Road" was easy!), and then ran back up the hill, first for my bike, then again for the kids'. The children and I hiked down a steep, but shorter, trail. (Note: despite her previous concerns about people stealing things, Angel was more than willing to leave her bike unattended at the top of the mountain to avoid carrying it back down!)
We reached the bottom, glad we'd all made it safely, but not looking forward to repeating the adventure any time soon! Surprisingly, the children had enough energy remaining to play at the playground while the Mr. and I took a moment to sit and recover. Whew!
We finally returned to our campsite and enjoyed lunch, some games, and some rest. After dinner we made it into our tent just in time to hear a storm roll in. What felt like small rain drops sounded like popcorn popping on our tent, and lasted all night long! We were so grateful for a tent to keep us safe and dry! The rain continued into the morning, but our eagle scout of a husband/father still managed to make us a nice, warm breakfast, despite the rain! What a man!
With the rain persisting, we decided to pack up before it got worse. The kids rode their bikes around the campground (flat, gravel roads! Delightful!) while the Mr. and I cleaned and packed. Though it was cold and rainy, and still before lunch, we stopped for ice cream on the way home!
All in all, a delightful family vacation, and one we will always remember with fondness, how, as a family, we overcame our obstacle, and climbed that mountain together!