Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Reflections

Camping in Lassen Volcanic National Park with our children was a wonderful experience. However, when you finish with any sort of trip you are able to reflect on what wasn't done perfectly and what you have learned from the experience.


We really would like to be completely packed and have all of our dry camping needs loaded into our car/van the night before we are going to leave. We were really almost packed, but it is those last minute things that really add up, and before you know it you are almost an hour past when you want to leave. We strongly encourage everyone who wants to camp with their children to be ready to go after the kids have had their breakfast, and that means- being ready the night before.

Know a back up route. We had originally planned on driving one way to Lassen, however we needed to change that plan right after we got on the road, which resulted in us not being super clear on how we were going to enter the park. To avoid further delay, it is really best to have mapped out at least 2 routes to your destination. It is also a great idea to know where your best stops are on each path.

Get to know your park! Since our decision to camp at Lassen and our decision to start this blog really overlapped, we hadn't taken our usual time to fully research Lassen and what we would want to do when we got there. However- there is a lot to be said about going on a camping trip that simply acclimates you with the park. Since we didn't have a very structured itinerary, and new that our trip was only one night, we were happy with just driving around and learning what we could about the park. But, if you are going on a quick camping trip and want to have the full experience of the park, you will want to research more thoroughly of what to do when you are there (and this blog will be a wonderful tool for you!). We do recommend park acclimation though, by going to the Lassen for one short night we were hungry for me Lassen! We are excited to return, have a great plan in mind for how our camping experience will look when we are there, and even found a better campsite than where we stayed.

You have to breathe and you have to laugh. Because things are going to go slightly awry, and you must be ready to stop and give yourself a moment. Even when we had challenging moments on this trip the wonderful moments absolutely outweighed them. Waking up in our tent to our children dancing around the tent so thrilled to be outside, it was wonderful.

For the Future

We need to get the kids warmer pajamas. We brought a pack n play for little Mason, and Henry was in the sleeping bag with me (Mary) and Campbell was a big boy in his own sleeping bag, but not everyone stayed super warm. Campbell thrashed ALL over the tent, often out of his bag, and Mason also is a mover in her sleep, and her blankets came off of her. And to not miss out on the fun, Henry tried to wriggle out of my bag as well.
To have peace of mind that your children are warm at night, get a good long john pajama for them. I am planning on finding a fairly neutral color (probably green) that I know will be easy to share with all of our children.

Plan a little quiet time for the kids. We really push ours, and they can handle it, but we also need to make sure that we balance it with some book reading back in the tent, or a small little nature walk where we look for leaves and pine cones.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Pictures

our young explorers during the nature walk.

the view from Lassen while on the nature walk.
Momma and Campbell, with little Henry strapped on for his first nature walk.
taking a rest

just a cloud- not an erruption

running around at camp

learning how to set up the tent.

chair testing

our youngest camper

a little dirt never hurts

beautiful Lake Helen

creating memories.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Our Family: Lassen Volcanic National Park

We have decided that when we return from a trip... aka adventure, that we will collaboratively blog about our experience. My (Mary) interpretation of the trip will be seen here black ink, when Sam jumps in his words will be shown in

Our family outdoors is back from our trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park!

This little one night camping excursion was the perfect way for us to deep our feet into camping with 3 children (as this was our first time with all 3 in a tent) and it really left us longing for more camping.
Seeing that this was our first camping trip and it came about the same time as we decided to start Our Family Outdoors we kinda flew by the seat of out pants, the perfect test run. In the future we will be much more organized.
Not only was this our first time camping will all 3 kids, but this was our first visit to Lassen. It may not always be possible, but it is really helpful to go to a park with a short trip planned that way you are able to survey your surroundings, get acclimated, and being able to prepare for your next trip. This is an important point Mary made. In planning this trip I planned for a driving tour of most of the parks attractions via the main park road to really see what our evening and following day would look like. This was also a great way to show a lot of the park to the kids. "Look kids! Look at that big mountain!" "Hey Son, do you see that big rock? Could you climb that rock?"

Day 1:
Just before arriving at Lassen we swung into a rest stop in the town of Shingletown, just outside of the park. Even though we were really close to the park and could of made it the rest of the way, it was very smart of us (if I do say so myself) to stop. This allowed for all diapers to be changed, baby to be nursed, children to be fed, and for rest room breaks. So instead of entering the park needing to do all of the things, we were ready to simply enter the park and take in our surroundings.
Once we found our campsite, the kids explored the little bit of woods directly behind our campsite. I helped Sam unload the van, and Campbell helped Sam get the tent ready. Tent peg organizing is the best thing ever for a 3 year old child to be involved with! The easiest thing for getting the tent set up was for Sam to do it solo, without children scrambling around, so at this point I took the kids on a walk around the campground, and when we returned the tent was up!
After camp was up we jumped back into the van to do a little auto-touring of the park. Our first stop was over to the visitor center we where learned interesting facts about B.F. Loomis, who caught pictures of Lassen erupting in 1914.
Our auto-touring led us next to Devastated Area Interpretative Trail, which was a really simple loop that was stroller friendly. Throughout the loop were plaques that had were full of information telling the stories of the huge boulders that had been placed all over the area during the Lassen eruption.
We continued up to towards Lassen Trail Peak (about another 15 miles from Devastated Area) and enjoyed the beauty of the park around us. When we arrived at the trail head we got out and Campbell started to "climb" the mountain- he actually started getting pretty high (well high for a 3 year old) and Sam ran to get him.
A very nice park ranger named Russel was stationed up at the Trail Head (it was closed and he was there making sure people stayed off) who snapped a picture of all 5 of us (a rare thing, seeing one of us is usually behind the camera).
I was planning to climb Lassen Peak the following morning so we went to the trail head to plot out timing and some logistics of what to do with the kids while I was up there. It was closed due to a tragic accident. Please, as you embark on adventures, be safe.
Dinner was back at the campsite, and seeing that we arrived back about 7pm it was all the more wonderful that I had made our dinner the day before and all we needed to do was heat up our Tortilla Soup on the camp stove.
After dinner we cleaned the kids up (thanks to a zillion wipes), Sam made a fire, and we had animal crackers and hot chocolate around the fire (well Sam and I had Smores after the kids were down).
This was Campbell's first time in a sleeping bag- and he did FANTASTIC! No complaining, he just slid right in and went to sleep- although he slid throughout the night, often rolling half the distance of the tent- he would not stay on his sleeping pad.

Day 2:
Mason rises with the sun, but was happy enough to snuggle with Sam in the sleeping bag. The night did bring about some restless sleepers, but to watch Campbell and Mason dancing around in the tent in the morning, so excited to be camping, made any tiredness so worth it.
While camping we choose to keep our food quick and easy, but still yummy. Sam got us the greatest oatmeal from Starbucks, and Starbucks Via, which is really great instant coffee from Starbucks. Via will be hitting most markets this fall but it is available online. We fed and dressed the kids, and then headed out to our nature walk, which was led by a Ranger, a ranger named Angel- who was the spouse to the Ranger we had met the night before (this couple was too cute- and expecting twins,a boy and a girl, in November). We were told that the walk around Manzanita Lake wasn't stroller friendly, so against our better judgement we ditched it (however, we are really brave with our stroller and it could have handled this hike). Doing a Ranger led program was so much fun. We learned a little, saw a deer, and got to experience the beauty surrounding the lake.
We hiked back to our campsite, had a quick lunch and fed the kids. While they ate, Sam and I packed up our tent site, and got ready to head up to Bumpass Hell . The plan was to hike this together as a family, but little Mason fell asleep on the drive up. So I took a walk around (it was so beautiful up there) and Sam and Campbell started the trek. However, it wasn't stroller friendly, and our 3 year old's legs were a little tired, so this will be attempted next time. The hike to Bumpass Hell isn't incredibly difficult at all, Campbell would have made it just fine but we were attempting it a little later in the day and it would have been his usual resting time. He fell asleep in the car about 2 minutes after we got him back in the car.
That's right- next time! Leaving Lassen only solidified our desire to keep this blog and this dedication for being outdoors with our family. Sure there were some tough moments, but we were so excited to be together and outdoors that it surpassed anything else.

We will be posting more pictures of our camping trip, and starting a Flickr group for them. This trip taught as a lot about where we want to see our blog go, and stay tuned for a follow up post to this about what we have learned from this camping trip.

~ Sam and Mary

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting Ready

Today was spent getting packed and ready for our one night trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park. One thing is for sure, when you are camping with kids it doesn't really matter how long you are going you still need a TON of stuff.
For this one night excursion with our kids we have tried our very best to limit the amount of stuff we are bringing. I have especially focused on clothing, toys, and food.
My goals were:
1) To not bring extra clothes- to bring just what we needed, pajamas for each child, sweats and a sweatshirt, and shorts and tee-shirts. Doing this is keeping the packing light, however we will see if we run into issues.
2) To only bring books, stickers, and coloring books. I hoping these items will keep the kids entertained both in the van and at the campsite in between hikes and outdoors fun.
3) To not eat out on our trip. One of the great things about camping as a family is that is can be a really inexpensive way to have a fun family trip. However, when you start stopping at places for a quick bite, feeding a family of 5 can quickly become very expensive.
Below is a small taste of what we are bringing with us.

The food in the picture does not include dinner for Wednesday night (Tortilla Soup which I made today, and will be warmed over the camp stove), or the fixings for sandwiches, or string cheese. These items are all together in on one shelf in the refrigerator.
This may seem like a lot of food for 5 people (especially when one is a baby who won't be eating any of this) but the best thing to do with kids on a trip is make sure their blood sugar level never gets to low.

And now, here comes 2 of MANY important tips you will read about on this blog.

Tip #1: The day before you are leaving, it would be most beneficial to plan on eating leftovers for dinner that night. This helps keep you focused on packing and prepping food for camping, and not scrambling in the kitchen preparing and cleaning up a meal. I did not do this today and I am greatly regretting it. Don't have leftovers (that was our problem) it is best to do the quickest thing you have- such as sandwiches or macaroni and cheese, or even offering cold cereal for dinner. Just remind your kids that yummy camping food (SMORES) are coming their way.

Tip #2: Keep something quick and easy (and yummy) ready for dinner when you return home from your camping adventure. Most likely you won't be eating dinner at your campsite, and you will be tired from returning from your adventure. This may make it very tempting to want to grab a bite on the road or bring take out home with you. STOP! These little costs add up and make your inexpensive vacation: expensive. Instead, plan ahead. Keep a frozen pizza on hand. You can throw that in the oven while you work on unloading the camping gear. This is another thing I haven't done for this trip- and I wish I had. So, in order to avoid eating out on our way home, we will be eating a bigger lunch (mac and cheese with green beans and fruit) at our campsite before we load up, and then on the road we will eat lighter sandwiches. Most likely when we return I will pop a bag of popcorn and slice up some apples, that way everyone has some finger food while we get unpacked and ready for bed.

Getting ready for camping with kids can seem like the most exhausting part, often leaving you discouraged and tired before you even leave. Try and remember every thing doesn't need to be perfect (although the benefits of coming home to a clean kitchen are amazing) and that you can stop at a grocery store if you forget something vital.
Stay focused on the fun that's coming your way- and get some sleep!

Monday, July 27, 2009

First Destination: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park here we come!

We will be camping with kids in the beautiful Lassen Volcanic National Park. We are looking at roughly a 5 hour drive as we are taking the scenic route, and will be staying just one night.

Check out the National Parks website to read more about Lassen.

Today we are gathering and sorting through our camping gear, prepping ourselves to be organized and ready for camping at any time.

Check back tomorrow to learn what a family of 5 needs for camping one night (spoiler- you basically need the same for one night, as you need for 5 nights!)

Also, we are collaborating on how we will be entertaining the kids while in Lassen.... which is often the hardest part in camping with young kids.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Our Family Camping Adventure Begins

So here we are at the beginning of our new adventure. It's hard to put into exact words a description of this new adventure, but here we go:

one small, young family on a mission: to get out of the house, away from the distractions, seeing the world through camping.

We hope this blog serves those who read it as encouraging and helpful. Whether you are an experienced camping family looking for new tricks or tips or places to see, or if you are a couple with no kids who wonders how you can camp with young ones, or if you are in the same boat as us: you have young ones and you want to camp.

This blog is here to show how we do it: how we camp as a young family.

We are not by any means “experienced campers”, in fact I (Mary) have only camped a handful of times in my lifetime. But that’s not going to hold us back. We want to spend as much time with our family as possible, and we want to do it without all of the clutter and madness of our day to day lives that get in the way. We want to see the world, and watch as our children see new things for the first time.

So we welcome you to join us as we start to document our crazy new adventure, our family outdoors.

~Sam and Mary