Sunday, July 14, 2013

Family Camping

After we said goodbye to John and Don it was time to start prepping for our family camping adventure!  This is the second year our book club has taken a family trip and by the law of averages and how we voted on the location, we ended up in Big Timber, MT.  I qualify this because Big Timber was no one's first choice but was not anyone's last choice either, which is probably this KOA's slogan.  Down in Big Timber, it is a gateway to some of the state's best fishing and hunting, along with some amazing mountains.  From the Interstate however, it is best known for its seemingly defunct waterpark that sits spitting distance from I-90.  However, with a diverse group of people it allowed for cabins, "camping", a pool, a playground and was on the cheap end which is pretty much all you can ask for with a large group of kiddos.  Oh yeah, and there was this "jumping pillow" which was like a wall-less bouncy house, that we had to drag the kids off of each day.
 And some of the adults:
 Some friends had organized some shirt tie-dying.  I took it as an opportunity to play with my new yet so far neglected lens I got for my birthday.  It wasn't the ideal activity but I'm learning!  Matthew was very serious:
 Meanwhile Catherine was very serious about decorating with the fabric markers.  She also (much like every other day of camping) started out the day with hot cocoa spilled down her front and around her mouth:
She also helped with quality control of the photos (though I should clarify that about half of these photos were taken by my friends who were not playing with their camera settings and got more decent photos!):
 My kiddos are the babies of the group so it's fun to watch them spend all weekend keeping up with the big kids and fun to watch the big kids help out, like with face painting:
 My fierce puppies:


The first day there it was cold, overcast and a bit rainy so we postponed our paid trip to the waterslides next door.  The campground however had a solar heated pool that the kids all got in:
 And quickly got out of as another storm rolled in, this time with hail.  This was the second rain storm and first hail storm our camper (and its "new" roof) survived.  While I hope we bounce back and forth between tent camping and using our camper to access new and different areas, the camper wins hands-down as a place to wait out a hail storm!

Later that evening the campground had arranged to do a "hay ride" for us to the local Prairie Dog State Park, which as its name suggests is a preserved prairie dog town, not so different from pretty much all of North Bozeman in rodent occupants, but the scenery was pretty spectacular for being spitting distance from the interstate.
 And we saw a lot of these guys, though only from a distance when 20+ of us piled off the hay wagon.
 Which was okay as we took a picture with one when we got back to camp:
And of course it was time for a campfire, where Matthew bummed a crazy big marshmallow from a friend:

 Which expectedly turned him into a sticky monster:

When we were in Wyoming I picked up a dutch oven at a charity auction and then when we got back to Bozeman a friend offered to do a dutch oven cooking demo at my house.  I figured this trip was as good a time as any to test it out with a chocolate cherry dump cake.  It turned out pretty good so I'm scheming up ideas for things to make on some of our future trips.
 The next day we headed to the waterpark next door.  Matthew started out the day eager to keep up with the big kids:
 Unfortunately he let his eagerness overshadow his normal cautiousness and necessary adjustment-to-new-things time and did not particularly enjoy either of the slides he went on.  However, it could also have been because the pools were freezing!  Much of the park was shaded and in general the water just hadn't warmed up for the season.  However, he and Catherine took to the shallow kiddie pool and its various floating animals and had a blast in it:
 And this slide was just about right for Matthew:
 After the waterpark we headed into Big Timber with hopes to catch up with some friends for a hike and hit their vintage soda fountain.  Unfortunately, most of the town was closed (it was Sunday afterall) but I'm glad we stuck around to check out Montana's natural bridge (which has actually collapsed but is still impressive.  Here is what the stream looked like above the falls:
 Headed into the falls where the water disappears:
 And then where it reemerges:

Impressively, this was not actually "high water" though my ears and sense of impending doom with 5 little ones around begged to differ.  Apparently in "high" water the falls come over the rocks and through the rocks at another point.  

I totally undersold this hike because it was more of an interpretive trail than "hike" and only one other family was willing to disrupt their kiddos' car naps to join us but I'm super glad we checked it out.
 On the hike back Catherine got a little help:
 And we stopped to enjoy some wildflowers:
 (Please pardon all the mediocre wildflower pics that I will be forcing upon the blog.  It has been a crazy season for flowers and I'm mildly obsessed with them.)  Outside some little town halfway between the falls and Big Timber we stopped at Holly's Roadkill Cafe and Saloon for a bit of ice cream.  Though it was tempting to dine with her majesty:
 We opted to eat on the porch and enjoy the scenery.  Catherine became a pro at the wooden spoon and would proudly announce "big spoon" each time she got a good sized bite.
 One of the benefits of our little camper is that provided you are on a somewhat level, non-muddy surface it is easy to push around by hand.  This generally means that James and I get lazy about backing it into places by just getting it close enough then pushing.  However, with some tips from John and Don, when we got home I got it backed into place in one go.
 Meanwhile the kids' shirts turned out super cool:
 And they are super proud to wear them (please don't ask why it looks like Matthew is trying to strangle Catherine in all our pics, I have no idea either, but I promise his intent was cuteness/adoration!):

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