Into the WILD.

One thing that Kev and I have learned to do during the course of our 16 years of camping together is the art of packing light for a three day adventure:

Nailed it.

In my home, I am a minimalist.
On a camping just never knows what one might need.
Throw in four children and a chance of rain, and we are McGyver times two.  Ready for anything.
Every possible thing we could ever need is on that trailer.  Bam.
All the makings for a cozy Home away from Home.
End of School, Start of Summer, Birthday Camping Tradition.
Boys off by themselves in their own tent, included.
Rain also included.  Always part of the tradition.  Without freaking fail.
The weather likes to mock me on these vacations.
I've learned to see the humor.
For at least about seven years now, we have always had our yearly family camping adventure at our local Peaks Kenny State Park.  We call it gourmet camping.  It's pristine and lovely.  There's electricity in the bathrooms.  And showers.  It's fairly well populated -- except for the weekends that we have always chosen to camp, because we like to go during torrential rain storms.  The one perk of these weekend adventures, is that we tend to have the entire campground to ourselves.  Most people have enough good sense to cancel their expeditions when they watch their local forecast for the weekend.  

Not my boys.  
They think it adds to the fun.

This year, because of my Daddy-O's expressed interest in the place, and because he rarely voices an opinion about something he'd like to do, we decided to mix things up a bit and head up North - seven miles straight into the woods - to this truly wilderness park campground owned by the wee town of Mattawamkeag.  And in the true spirit of "The County," instead of uniformed campground officials waiting for us at the gate to give us our campsite ticket to put on the window of our car and receive payment from us, this is what greeted us upon our arrival:
All righty, then.

For some reason, I just found this to be highly awesome and hilarious compared to what I'm so very used to from past camping experiences.  The campground is under new ownership this year, and needless to say, the new manager of the place is very "chill."
The bugs were a wee bit atrocious, but this was to be expected seeing as how we were literally camping out in the middle of nowhere.  Dad brought both of his four-wheelers, the kids had their bikes, the river was within walking distance, and we barely saw one other living soul during our entire visit, so we pretty much conquered the campground in our explorations and adventuring.  It was very Swiss Family Robinson-ish.
I love this sign, too.

The river really was a little wild.  No roped off swimming area with a lifeguard, here.
Only one large uncle to rescue two wild hoolie boys who kept threatening to float downstream.
The other Littles stayed pretty close to shore, and Aunty Julie and I stayed on high alert.
There was a gorgeous breeze at the river, so there were really no bugs down here.  The big kids took turns trying to float away and catch a few fish.  The Littles threw rocks to their heart's content.  And Grampy and Grammy brought down lawn chairs to just take in the sights and the sounds of sweet, happy chaos.
 My boys informed me they could live here...
We always do some form of celebrating on this one weekend tenting trip that we have each year with both sets of Grandparents and whatever Aunty's and Uncle's can get the time away to come along for the ride.   Typically, it's the two biggest boy's birthdays that we are celebrating.  This year, my little nephew Wyatt had a birthday, as well, so we just make it one big ole' celebration.

Kaden, Jesse, and Wyatt's birthdays!  Woot!
School's out!  Yippy!
Father's Day!  Yahoo!
Family together in the WILD!  Good times!
So, we always get a pinata.
It's tradition.
I like tradition.  And candy...
And we always make super fun and yummy and unhealthy and delicious and super bad for you food to snack on all the live long day and night every hour of every day that we are there.

Exhibit A:
Camp fudge.
Behold, my crack.
I'm pretty sure it's the only thing in the world that I am absolutely addicted to when it's made.
But only when it's brown sugar fudge.  And only when Dad makes it.
I especially love it made over an open fire.
I think I ate ten pieces only a piece or two because I have super awesome willpower.

Exhibit B for fun camp food that is also tradition:
Campfire eclairs.
Find a chubby stick and wrap aluminum foil around the end.
Take a crescent roll and wrap that baby around the foil.
Cook it over an open fire like you would a marshmallow until it's golden brown.
Ease it off the stick and fill that hole as full as you can with vanilla pudding.
Slather some nutella on top for garnish and you have yourself one rockin' party in your mouth.

You're welcome for this.
Move over, S'mores.  Mama's gone gourmet.
And finally, last but not least of course, Exhibit C:
Camp coffee.
To be enjoyed at all hours of the day, as many cups as one wants to have, because we're camping, and on a camping trip there seems to be zero moderation....and I'm supremely okay with that for four days.

Until I go home and try to run a few miles.
Then for some reason, my body rebels and betrays our friendship...
 Some wildlife.

Fun fact:  When luna moths hatch, they only live for two weeks.  They have no mouths, so they do not eat.  Their sole purpose is to reproduce.  Kind of crazy.

And a sweet little snakey with a chubby belly full of.....something.
Overall, a lovely time was had by all.

It rained one night and and one full morning, but by midday the weather cleared off pretty decently.
And in the meantime, there was this super funky, kind of old, "recreation building" that was full of fun games and books, and air hockey we all went and hung out there until the rain stopped.
The kids played with some birthday presents.
Julie and I beat Aaron and Kev in some beanbag toss game that was super fun.
We had snacks, the littles ran around, my brother had a crank was really kind of cozy and fun.
The overall verdict is that we all loved this new place.
It was a fun change from our normal tradition of Peaks Kenny.
(Although, we really really missed our "Darrah Day" that always came with that tradition.)

It's a little farther away and far more "rustic."
The bugs were significantly worse, and the campsites were wild and wilderness-y.
But, they really had a sweet charm, with rustic lean-to's everywhere, to boot.
The river was a fun change, and the four-wheeling trails were amazing.
It was very quiet and private...we practically owned the place.
And other than the outhouse doors being locked for the first few hours of our stay, I give it a rousing two thumbs up....for anyone who likes going into the WILD.

For anyone who doesn't, I might stick with the state parks...
It was happy.
It was fun.
Love tanks filled.  Up to the tippy top brim.

Another year in the books.

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