Thursday, April 28, 2011

Camping at Arches, 2011

I don't think you've really experienced Utah until you've been to her vast and diverse wilderness. I am blown away every time we take a drive out beyond the valleys and cities of which we live in, and reach places that exceed our expectations of what a desert should be like. The Utah desert isn't the harsh image of cactus and sage brush, like it's often portrayed to outsiders; it's a place brimming with wildlife, filled with amazing red rock, and sandstone structures, lush desert greenery, great, big, volcanic mountains, and waterfalls where you'd least expect them. I really love it here, and am so excited for the times we get to travel and explore this amazing state. And that's just the desert! The mountains, lakes, and forests to the North have so much more to offer, as well.

In the past seven years Micah and I have been to Zions National Park, Capitol Reef NP, Goblin Valley, Kodachrome Basin, Canyonlands, Coyote Gulch, Bryce Canyon, countless back-country areas, and now Arches National Park, where our family camped (again) this past Spring break.
To be honest, I didn't want to leave Arches! I think I could live out there amongst the lizards and slick-rock, and be happy as a...clam? Well, maybe a fossilized one.

Here's a little peak into our adventure:

We scored the perfect campsight (#20) at Devil's Garden campgrounds. It was more isolated than the others, and dropped down into a large area with lots of climbing rocks, which the kids loved.

As I was walking back from the bathrooms I spied this sweet, sight of my little family at our campground. It made my heart all melty.

The boys established themselves as resident lizards as soon as we arrived, scrambling over rocks and building nests in the sand. No, seriously, they were real lizards, for reals.

Last time we were here, in 2009, Zadok found these certain rocks to climb on at the Devil's garden picnic area, where he was pretending to be a giant Lizard from Star wars. (episode II, the one where Obi-wan fights General Grievous) We had to come back here and play some more, as Ob-wan's lizards, of course:

Micah and I made a point to do a couple big (3-5 mile) hikes each while out here. We took turns doing mini-hikes with the kids while each of us took off and hiked alone to the destination of our choice. This is one of my favorite things to do because it gives us parents a chance to really exert ourselves, challenge our hiking abilities, refresh our minds, and think freely.

The first day I literally sprinted up to the Delicate Arch. As I was feeling the wind in my hair, and the earth at my feet, I nearly cried. It feels really good to be all alone, hiking with my Mother Earth. (and the lady from S. Dakota who took this picture.)

One of my favorite dinners, which has become tradition for us; the infamous tinfoil dinner. Chopped potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, turkey meat and cream of mushroom soup. Cook it over hot coals for 30 mins and it tastes like heaven. (well, only while camping, for some reason)

And of course after dinner comes everyone's favorite part; CAMPFIRE and S'MORES!!!!

Baby didn't have any s'mores, but he got real used to getting smoke in his eyes.

Another thing I love about camping is sleeping in a tent. The boys wake up so happy and excited to greet the world. Here's some morning giggles in our big, blue tent:

To sum it all up, we just had a really, really cool camping vacation! I kept thinking the whole time we were out there that, families need vacations together! If you can spare even a couple days, getting away from the house and experiencing new climates,environments, and situations, creates lasting memories! Also, we are being offered new challenges that bring us closer together as a family, and building memories that we can look back on and cherish....

Like when little Odin fell into a patch of cactus, and I had to pull barbed spines out of his bum. Or when Zadok was too scared to use the public bathroom, so he held it in for 3 days before he finally went into a hole in the ground. Or when we had an Easter egg hunt at our campsight, and Micah hid eggs in the pokey Yucca.

Or when Jonah found a tool and started digging in the sand for the first time. Or when it rained heavily one morning so we sat in the tent and listened to Micah read us a story. Or when we hiked as a family through the sandy canyons, marveling at how beautiful it all was. Or when Micah and I got to put the kids to sleep early one night, and cuddle in the tent together.

We packed up and left on Easter morning. It was pouring rain by the time we got out of there. I could hear Odin saying as we drove away, "Goodbye balancing rock, I will miss you."

Camping with baby:

Several people have asked me to share tips on camping with an infant.
We've taken all of our babies camping with us, and it's never been as hard as it sounds. I suggest camping in the warmer months, though, because there's nothing worse than having a cold baby! Bbbbbrrrrrrrrrr.
However, even if it's a little chilly out, it's doable. Just bring warm layers of clothing and a heavy jacket to make sure baby is warm at all times.

During the day our baby played on the ground and picked up sticks and rocks. He's at an age (8/9months) where every object he finds goes straight into his mouth, so we had to watch him carefully. If that's something you're worried about, then bring a playpen or chair for him to sit in. I found, though, that after putting rocks in his mouth several times, he finally realized they weren't that tasty and started spitting them out. He mostly hung out on the ground, and really liked digging in the sand with sticks he found.

When we went hiking (or for around camp), I carried him in the mei-tai. I actually prefer the Mei-tai to the hiking backpack because I can nurse and hike at the same time. It's also snugglier, warmer on cold mornings, and really better for smaller babies. I prefer using the hiker for toddler-sized kids, although I used it once this trip to walk to the bathrooms. :)
The Mei-Tai, a more comfortable fit:

At night, when it was time to snuggle up in the tent, I shared a sleeping bag with baby. I zipped the sleeping bag open at the top, so we could both fit, and then covered us up with warm blankets, including my down-comforter. We were toasty warm all night long!
Since I breastfeed, it's just like at home; I hear a little peeping sound coming from next to me, roll over, and feed the open mouth. Easy peasy.
If you bottle-feed, perhaps having a warmed bottle ready next to you would be helpful, so you don't have to get up into the cold.

Lastly, babies take a lot of dedication in general, and demand so much of our loving attention. I found it most helpful that Micah and I have an understanding, in which cooking dinner, washing dishes, making fires, collecting fire-wood, putting up tent, and doing other needed camping chores aren't always expected of me. Taking care of our Jonah baby always came first, and that job was delegated to me this time,(the one with the boobs.)

Last of all, most babies LOVE being outside, so going camping with babies gives us a chance to see a happy, contented baby for several days in a row!


Da Denninghoff's said...

That's so wonderful that you all got to take a family vacation. So needed at times. Mark has been begging me to go camping, i'm sure we'll be going sometime soon. Thank you for all the tips:)

chelsea mckell said...

"Micah and I put the kids to bed early and cuddled in the tent together."


Great post. I felt like I was there with ya'll. Now camping in HAWAII... that will be another amazing adventure!

Tami H. said...

Great pics and stories! Looks like you gys had a great time. I wold LOVE to camp at the arches! Wahoo for getting out with your boys!