Thursday, May 12, 2016

Springtime Travels

Last week our family went on vacation.

Now, of course, moms don't go on vacation. Not when they take their children with them. (And dads might leave their job but find they are busy every waking moment too.) But for a week I had no distractions of weedy flower beds, dirty windows, or even email.

But that was all here when I came back. Which is why we've been home a whole week before I even looked at the trip photos.

And because I like to hear of other's adventures and get new ideas of vistas (and meals-on-the-road) here is the short version of our week.

This was our family's first trip in the camper and the children were giddy when we headed out on Friday.

We stopped at Ohiopyle State Park for lunch and some exercise. The river was running high and, as we would say many times in the next week, the spring-green of the trees was perfect.

We enjoyed the brand-new visitor's center and took a short hike over the railroad bridges on the rail trail.

Throughout the trip, the two-year-old taught me how to slow down and notice things like bugs, flowers, and cracks in the sidewalk.

Our few hours in Ohiopyle convinced us that we need to make plans to spend a couple days there.

Back on the road, most of us napped while Ed drove to Ohio Wilderness Boys Camp. We arrived in time to enjoy some wood-fired pizza with the camp staff - including my brother Todd. The children played games and looked at a buzzard nest while the parents planned the next day and enjoyed conversation.

We started Saturday morning with a breakfast casserole to fuel our bodies for the Red Bud Trail Challenge held each spring at camp. The above picture shows the runners from my family in the early morning sunshine before the run. My parents are on the left, my brother Todd is on the right, Ed is center back and the rest are my children, siblings, niece, or nephews. Most of this crowd completed the 5K but my youngest brother did 20K, a feat that makes me tired just thinking of it. I stayed at the finish line with my youngest two daughters to cheer the runners.

Ed and our seven-year-old cross the finish line. 

Our children had been training for this run for the last number of weeks and it paid off. I was impressed by their time - just over a half an hour. The challenging part of this run is the steep trail. Most of Ohio is flat but this corner of Ohio is all mountains and the trail appeared to see how many times it could go up and down those mountains.

After enjoying a great lunch of burgers with all the toppings and I had my own chance to walk the mountains. Ed kept our two younger girls while I walked back with Todd to see his campsite. Just a glimpse of those steep trails gave me more admiration for those who completed the whole trail. With Todd as a tour guide I could learn more about his life at Ohio Wilderness Boys Camp helping troubled boys conquer their problems.

We planned to have a cookout by the lake in the evening but rain curtailed that activity. We quickly roasted hot dogs and fled to the porch. But the children didn't mind getting wet and we had a batch of muddy clothes to hit the washing machine that night.

On Sunday we had breakfast burritoes before joining the camp staff in the dedication service for their little church. A highlight for me was the rare opportunity to hear my dad preach. Immediately after the service we were back on the road, eating hot pockets in the camper for lunch and arriving at our campground on Sunday evening.

We took a walk around the campground and watched the baby ducks but another rainstorm ended our hot dog roast and drove us inside again. This wouldn't be the last time. I had several opportunities to listen to rain on the roof and be thankful we had not chosen to tent this week.

 Monday morning Ed fried french toast for us before heading over to the Creation Museum.

The Creation Museum was even better than we expected. The displays were high quality and the programs were informative and held even our children's attention (at least the older ones.) It was good to be reminded of the dependability of God's Word.

We took a lunch break of subs and enjoyed the gardens before heading back into the museum.

The swinging bridges were the favorite. We even ran into Ken Ham himself at the petting zoo while observing the zorse and zonkey (a zebra/horse and a zebra/donkey).

(By the way, if you want to visit the Creation Museum, right now, until the end of June, they are giving four free children's tickets with the purchase of two adult tickets.)

In the late afternoon we were back on the road with another batch of tired children. We drove to Hocking Hills State Park where we enjoyed a supper of poppy seed chicken. The children took a walk before bed and found a puddle with spring peepers. I couldn't believe such tiny frogs could make such an ear-splitting noise.

Hocking Hills has many rock formations and great hiking trails and after a pancake breakfast on Tuesday morning, our children were eager to hit the trail.

This area was called Rock House and had a large cave. My boys would have enjoyed spending hours exploring but I didn't handle it well. I always thought I was a reasonably calm mom but walking on trails with huge drop-offs with children scrambling on ahead, made me panic. Behind the boys in this picture is at least a 100 foot drop. For the sake of my blood pressure, Ed decided we should moved on to a less stressful trails. If that was possible at this park.

We had a selection of lovely spots for our taco salad lunch and, at this time of year, we had much of the park to ourselves. Perfect for crowd-haters like us.

In the afternoon we hiked at Cantwell Cliffs, another part of Hocking Hills State Park. 

I think Ed and I should get extra points for the extra pounds we were packing.

Ed usually does a good job at choosing campsites. This one was at the very end of the campground, as far as possible from the main road, pool, and shower house. A perfect spot with huge pines - and all to ourselves at this time of year.

This was the first night that the weather cooperated. It seems that during the day we would have good weather but most evenings/nights it rained.

Real camping: Sitting around the campfire eating s'mores.

But the children were so tired, we were finding our bunks before it was even dark outside.

Wednesday we had a quick breakfast of cereal and head out to discover more areas of Hocking Hills. Old Man's Cave was our first stop.

The abundant rains recently made all the waterfalls even prettier.

Conkles Hollow was our next stop. The trail led into a gorge which became increasingly narrow.

Until it ended in a waterfall.

But one hiker had seen enough waterfalls for one day. We escaped to the camper to wait out another rain shower and enjoy our lunch of chicken quesadillas. Then headed up the trail to Cedar Falls. Hocking Hills consists of numerous areas and many short trails that lead to scenic views.

Our last hike was to Ash Cave. I thought I had seen enough rocks and water for one day but this was another hike that was worth the walk. 

But we were all tired and the rain was beginning again so Ed turned the camper toward home. We took an impromptu break at North Bend State Park and ate our supper of wraps. A friendly camp host told Ed about the North Bend rail-trail so Ed and the children unloaded their bikes and loosened up their legs with a two-mile bike ride through a couple tunnels and discovered another place to return tosome day.

We decided that we were close enough to home that it wasn't worth camping again. The children got comfortable in their sleeping bags and, besides stops for gas and ice cream, we didn't stop until we found our own driveway soon after midnight. Some of the children decided to finish the night in the camper but I was glad to find my own bed again.

Sometimes the best part of a trip is coming home.


  1. Sounds lovely! We camped with our 5 youngsters at Ohiopyle State Park. It's a lovely place, but our youngest was 18 months old and it was a bit stressful to keep her safe. There are so many slippery rocks by the river that I was thankful she napped most of the time my husband and other children went to the natural water slide, which is a place where the water runs over the rocks down a hill and you sit on the rocks and ride the water down. We decided we would have enjoyed it more if she'd have been a little older.

    1. The natural water slide sounded neat but we didn't have enough time (and the weather was too cold) to take it in.

  2. Sounds just like our vacations. :) I have 5 kids and a camper. I think the camper (besides my husband) was one of the best decisions we ever made. I also related to the trails with huge drop offs. Deffinantly have been in the same situation several times! I always wondered why it didn't terrify my husband like it did me. :)

  3. It looks like you all had a wonderful time, my family loved the creation museum too. Great fun and lots of information, thank you for reminding me of a lovely memory.

    shelley p
    from over the pond

  4. Hello Gina,

    I'm just taking a few moments to catch up on some of your recent posts. Your vacation photos are lovely and makes me want to visit Ohio someday.
    Thanks for sharing the yummy sounding recipes and inspiring post about serving.

    Blessings to you and yours,

  5. Loved reading all about your adventures, especially because the places you visited are familiar! Our family spent several days in Hocking Hills three years ago and the Boy's Camp is close to home - families from there have attended our church frequently and now our church has committed to sending 2 couples over every Sunday for 6 months to help with their new church! Looked like a fun trip :)

    1. Bethany
      I had no idea you lived so close to camp. We should have found a way to connect while we were out there.

  6. Hi Gina,

    Thanks for sharing! It looks like you had a wonderful trip with your lovely family!

  7. Hi Gina! I just found your blog while looking for sourdough recipes and quickly fell in love with it. Charming family, loving mommy, and tasty recipes! As I am working in the yard and garden now, I look forward to exploring your gardening posts! I live in the high desert of Idaho..a long way from Ohio. Nice to see your country 😊

  8. Love reading about your camping adventures! You make camping with 6 children look so easy and stress free. We recently bought a class C motor home too and are looking forward to using it this summer. Makes it a lot easier than having to set up tents!

  9. What a nice trip! We didn't camp much when our kids were little..with farm chores and lack of money, it just didn't work. We did a lot of day trips,which we enjoyed! Cherish these times..they fly by!!

  10. Thanks for the post. We are planning to go to the creation museum and the Ark with our own 6 children this summer. We are also planning to camp, so the tips on good camping spots are just what we needed. Sorry about the rainy weather; however, some of my most vivid childhood camping memories are from bad weather camping. So I guess, as in all of life, the sunny days when everything goes according to plan are not what the ones we remember. Blessings!

  11. Wow everything looks so green!!! We don't have anything in leaf yet (which is normal, should be a few more weeks). That's great you got to go to the Creation Museum! I have always wanted to go there but its really far for us (we live in Canada). Someday! I'm so glad you got to enjoy it.

  12. What lovely photos. What a lovely trip together.Some of my favorite memories are of family vacations...your children will have some great ones.

  13. Hello Gina,
    I think it is wonderful that you and Ed take the time.
    to enjoy your children and explore our beautiful country that God has made for us. Marlene, Hood River, Oregon


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