Blogging three days in a row?!? Who am I?
I am excited to recap our little camping trip this summer, but first let me tell you how our family paid $10K to sleep in a tent. As you know, when quarantine started, Dan bought a camper. Even though I had previously been strongly against such a purchase, I was pleasantly surprised with how clean and functional it was and had to admit the times we spent in the camper were very fun and led to quality family bonding.
However, we had a problem. The truck we owned was capable of pulling the camper, but was a single cab and couldn't hold our family. With the anticipation of our upcoming camping trip, I loosened my tight grip on our savings account and gave Dan the clearance to purchase an old truck that would both pull our camper and hold our family.
I have to give it to Dan, because with what little budget he had, he went big. I don't know all of the details of the truck, but it was big, it would loud, and it looked too nice for the amount of money we paid for it. As it turned out, the deal was too good to be true, and after we drove the truck for about 70 miles, the check engine light came on. We took the truck to the shop and never saw it again because the mechanic called to say that it would no longer start and the money needed for repair was more than the original purchase price.
We were able to convince the dealer to buy it back from us, at a price significantly less than what we had paid a few days before, but with the shock of such a loss and our pride hurt, we bought some air mattresses and did a trial run of the tent set-up in the backyard.
We have been to Johnson Shut-Ins two years before. This time we we returned with three other families- The Champs, The Nybergs, and the Cartwrights. This trip was planned well before the pandemic started, but fit right in with social distancing requirements. I took the day off to pack and prep food, which surprisingly took most of the day, but when Dan pulled in the driveway loaded up the van, picked up the girls, and headed for southeast Missouri!
We gave the girls dramamine, stopped at two gas stations, and 5.5 hours later, we pulled up to the dark campsite where Chessa and Danielle had already set up our tent. I am sure you can understand how thankful we were to not have to set the tent up in the dark, however, a small storm had passed leaving everything inside a little moist.
The moisture combined with a cheap air mattress, Ina's sleep talking, Dan's snoring, and the coffee I purchased at the second gas station all led to me barely sleeping. This pattern continued the next night until I finally took Danielle up on her offer to sleep in their camper (see below).
No matter, we were ready to tackle the day!
You can never have too many axes at a campsite that sells pre-cut firewood.
Cora lived her best camping life by eating processed cheese for breakfast.
No amount of coffee could make my eyes any bigger.
After eating biscuits and gravy for breakfast (thanks to the Cartwrights!), we sunscreened the kids and loaded up the cars to head to one of the most beautiful places in Missouri - Johnson Shut-Ins.
The river flowing over the mostly smooth rocks creates a path of natural water slides, jumping rocks, and pools that are paradise for any adventure loving family.
While fun, I will admit that I could relax much easier once we were done climbing, slipping, and sliding through the rocks and found a little pool to swim in.
While I was of course a little worried about the girls, they all did great. With a lower center of gravity, they moved from rock to rock much easier than their mamma.
After a few hours at the shut-ins we drove back to the campsite for lunch and card playing and then spent the afternoon at a calmer part of the river where the moms could sit and chat, the dads could swim in deeper parts, and the kids could float back and forth.
Each family was in charge of dinner one evening and breakfast the next morning. We decided on Kaula pig, tropical slaw, and Hawaiian fried rice. This was surprisingly a very easy camping meal, as the pig cooked in the slow cooker all day and I had purchased pre-shredded cabbage and cooked the rice ahead of time. I also had made s'mores bars for dessert.
Breakfast consisted of canned corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and coffee cake. This was the fuel we needed for our next adventure - a 3 mile hike at Taum Sauk Mountain - the highest point in Missouri.
A few members of our group may have been a little surprised when they read the sign revealing the distance of the hike, but we pressed on.
We walked, climbed, and fell along the trails and saw truly beautiful views.
Once we reached the halfway point, I would say the majority of our party was ready to be done, but we kept on going. Ina surprised me by leading the pack most of the time. Cora walked on her own without complaint, until she saw me carrying Mira on my back and convinced Miss Hannah to carry her for 10 minutes.
Dan...well...Dan finished the hike and immediately laid down in the back of Brad's truck to take off his shoes and pop some ibuprofen.
Our timing was perfect, because as we were leaving the mountain a storm moved in and stayed for the majority of the day.
The adults set up underneath some easy-ups, playing cards and talking while the kids popped popcorn and watched a few movies in The Champs' camper.
We had walking tacos for dinner and headed back to the day use (calmer river) to squeeze out one more swim in the small span of time we had between the storm ceasing and the park closing. The rain had drenched our tent, so thankfully The Champs made room for us in their camper. I can report that the bottom bunk is particularly cozy.
The next morning we packed up and headed to Elephant Rocks, our third state park of the trip where we had yet another opportunity to hike, climb, and stand in awe of God's creation.
After lunch that afternoon we headed back to the shut-ins for the last time to water slide and jump off rocks. The parents and the kids both gained a little courage after experience from the first round, so many of the kids and adults (including Dan and I!) found a big rock to jump off and rushing water to slide down.