This past weekend was our I've-lost-track annual camping trip with our like-family friends. My attempt to find a campground in between the usual RV-packed parks and the nearly-undeveloped spot we went to last year was finally successful. We went to Shades State Park, which was supposed to have hiking as nice as the trails at Turkey Run State Park which we love but none of the crowding. Its reputation was well-deserved -- we had three nice spots on a secluded loop, screened from each other by patches of trees. According to the park ranger who stopped by Friday night, we had the entire park to ourselves. This was camping the way I always imagine camping will be -- peaceful, secluded, pretty. At night there were so many stars visible that I had trouble picking out even the most familiar constellations. Only the distant lowing of cows and an occasional airplane overhead reminded us that civilization existed around us.
The hike we took Saturday was great as promised. We hiked through the Pine Hills Nature Preserve within the park, a 470-acre tract of old-growth forest set aside to be conserved. The woods were lovely and golden, like walking through a huge cathedral. I wondered what it looked like to Elliott in his carrier, too little to have a concept of trees, suddenly immersed in a world of soft brilliant yellow and strong dark lines. We went straight for the ominous-sounding Devil's Backbone, which delivered on the promise of a crossing six feet wide above drop-offs of about a hundred feet. There really wasn't a good way to get a picture of either of the two backbones of sandstone that we hiked across, but they were awesome. The trail description on the preserve map warned against taking children onto the trail, but we decided to judge for ourselves as we went along and Nico did just fine. He was mindful and careful and a real trooper even on the difficult parts. Elliott rode along in the Beco and also was good, though my legs are pretty sore today from hauling his plump little behind up and down the slopes and stairs.
The kids were great overall, I think, other than Elliott peeing through three of his four layers of jammies at 6 AM and then telling me about it at the top of his lungs while everyone else was trying to sleep. We fled to the car to finish our rest with the heat turned on, which almost worked out - he slept for another hour, but awoke cheerfully with a vastly blown-out diaper. I suppose it was my fault for putting him in a brand-new almost-all-white onesie and then letting him sit in his carseat in a place without convenient diaper-changing options. So far I think his record is spotless for achieving poo blowouts under those conditions. Good thing he's cute, I guess.
Overall it was a fantastic weekend. It was so great to see our friends and we parted ways already looking forward to our next trip.