The purpose for this camp-a-thon was two-fold …
1. We spent an exorbitant amount of money on hotels and adventure parks while on the first part of our trip in southern California, so in an effort to offset the expense on the second part of our vacation, we camped because camping is virtually free.
2. More importantly: camping is our absolute favorite past-time and I know of no better way to connect with nature, your family, and your own soul than by spending time - and sleeping - in the great outdoors.
(Moreover, Charlie and I splurged for the National Park Annual pass and passport book, and I love to justify an expense by getting my money's worth - and then some.)
Our first stop was Yosemite, National Park because we are on a quest to take our children to as many National Parks as possible.
It's been 25 years since Charlie and I have visited this park, and we never recall it being quite so crowded.
It stunned us that the crowds to get in to this park actually surpassed the crowds at Legoland and SeaWorld. There were cars lined up along the roads and people everywhere.
As an interesting aside - the vast majority of the lovely people that we met in each of the National Parks were from countries other than the US. Which begs the observation / question, visitors travel in from around the globe to see these magnificent attractions - why aren't more Americans out enjoying these parks in our own country?!
(Thus begins my public service announcement: PLEASE MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO GO VISIT A NATIONAL PARK! OR TEN! These parks are absolute treasures!)
It was so crowded that we discovered, unless you made camping reservations a year in advance, or got lucky in a raffle - your chance of securing a campsite were slim to non. So we didn't actually camp in Yosemite National Park, but we enjoyed an amazing day there.
We found a nice spot in the Merced River where the kids got completely soaked and had a fun time moving rocks - pushing tree limbs and splashing…
We hiked all over the smooth granitic faces that were worn down by glacial events.
And contemplated the people who were brave (crazy?) enough to climb Half Dome and El Capitan.
We trekked through picturesque meadows.
Where, according to the kids, I took way too many pictures. But it was breathtakingly beautiful everywhere I looked.
The view from our sunroof. (Oh my gosh … THIS IS AMAZING! Charlie! Don't LOOK!)
BUT LOOK AT THIS!
We gazed at the waterfalls and quivered at the idea of taking a misstep on a slippery rock.
And pondered the meaning of life - and how many fish lived here - while sitting alongside kettle lakes.
We marveled at the engineering feats that allowed for the construction of tunnels carved through the solid mountains of granite.
And before we left the park, we placed a small message - written on a biodegradable material (a leaf!) beneath a volcanic rock in the middle of a field by a downed tree limb.
A rock that looks like it has no business being here…name that movie!
We made a note of it's exact location and sent it to some of our Virginia friends, who would be visiting Yosemite precisely one week later.
Their quest, should they chose to accept it, was to FIND the rock and the message. (A week later, they sent us a picture - holding the rock and the message!)
It was an epic day, and as we left the park at sunset and began our descent out of the Sierra Mountains, down the steep Tioga Pass …
We discussed where we would sleep that night. We had absolutely no plans nor any concrete idea where we would end up … so as we often do, we just started driving.
Oddly enough, no one was worried - least of all the kids. Whether they're learning to embrace a sense of adventure - or have simply succumbed to the reality that their mother will never be an extraordinary vacation planner - they certainly have seen firsthand that when you just take off and go - things always tend to come together, just so.
Perhaps the more you just go for it - the more confidence you have that everything will be all right.
(At least, that's what we keep telling ourselves!)