Saturday, June 8, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend at the D. A. R. State Forest

If you were in New England over Memorial Day Weekend you know it was horribly rainy.  Like cats and dogs.  So what do we do?  Go camping of course!  There's nothing like camping in the rain with a 15 month old who is precariously close to walking and a big white fluffy dog.

We went with a group of friends out to the D. A. R. State Forest in Goshen, MA for the three day weekend. There was a brief stop in at my younger brother's house to see my newest nephew and to let Lil Dude play with my older nephew.  During the this visit our lovely dog found their muddy puddle that once was a koi fish pond. The silly beast had mud all the way up his legs and under his belly.  We had to hose him off before he could even get back into the car.

My favorite dog friend.
We managed to get there in between storms on Friday. We quickly ditched the Lil Dude with our friends who were out there earlier (benefit of camping with others!) and while he was wailing, we went off and set up our tent and screen house.

Last year we bought a new tent because our family expanded to beyond our two person backpacking tents and the 6-person tent that we inherited from my brother-in-law was in very rough shape. It was really non-repairable. We would have needed tons of patches and new zippers. So we bought the REI Kingdom 6 and all of it's accessories.  Seriously if you're going to buy a huge tent, do it all the way. We've been out in it twice and so far it's been great. Of course, when you're trying to beat the rain it pays to remember how to put it together. We put it together incorrectly the first time and managed to bend a pole a bit too much. 

Last year we also bought a screen house to go over picnic tables. I had found a Coleman on sale at Target. It's pretty easy to put up. However, we managed to break one of the joints on this trip. Seriously we were starting to have some really bad luck!

We rescued our son from the terrors of being dumped in the woods with strangers and made supper while waiting for some of our friends to arrive. Team Ruffy (our friends) already had a vegetarian chili going. I was trying out some gourmet grilled cheeses and mozzarella appetizers. We finished up as the thunderstorms rolled in. 

Saturday, it poured all day! We had already decided that hanging out at camp was a bad idea for the babies and for the adults. As our remaining friends rolled in, we helped them set up their camps and then made plans for what to do. Some went up to the Element Brewery. Some went to a indoor playspace in Holyoke. We went to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It was great for the toddler set (and we enjoyed it too!). 

From there we went to meet up with our friends at Yankee Candle Village. This flagship store can be just plain overwhelming. The boys are generally not to keen on it but most of us ladies purchased one or two scents (I may have come home with 6 or so candles). We wandered of to our designated dinner out for the trip at The Brewmaster's Tavern. We had called ahead so that they would be cool with 10 adults and 4 children. In fact, they gave us a private room!

The weather was starting to clear up some but we weren't quite there. We knew there would be one more day of of dampness. Sunday, we had cold and windy weather. We ate breakfast and while the weather was clear Big Dude, Lil Dude and I went for a hike around the D. A. R. with our pup.      

The D. A. R. has 51 campsites, so it's not a jam packed campground. The site were actually quite roomy and seemed to be mainly populated with tenters. There are quite a few trails leading from the campground. We walked down the road to the Wildlife Observatory which is a blind with cut outs so you can watch the animals (didn't see any) with out being noticed. 

From there we wandered down the Highland Lake Trail along the edge of Upper Highland Lake. It is a wooded trail that leads back to the check in. It is handicapped accessible and would have been fine for our stroller but we were testing out our new baby carrier. By we, I mean the Big and Lil Dudes were testing it out. 
Upper Highland Lake 
Friendly postings at the head of the trail
Easy grade of the trail
Sit and watch the water
View of the campground beach from the Highland Lake Trail
Big and Lil Dudes checking out the dock

The wind was starting to pick up and the waves were choppy on the water. We hiked along until we got to the end of the trail. There we found the boat launch and the day use beach. Then it started to sprinkle a bit. We hurried along and walked back by way of the road into the campground.  
Boat Launch

The D.A.R. gave the state 1020 acres in 1929. The park now has over 1700 acres of land with 15 miles of hiking trails. Given my genealogy, I know that I could be a member of the DAR. I thought camping here was fitting since Memorial Day is a time dedicated to honor those who have died serving in the armed forces.

After our hike, we went back to the campsite to see what everyone was up to. We were all quite chilly and made various plans. Big, Lil and I drove around to find various roadside Americana. Just down the road from us was this....
Arch made of Bikes
The Tin Man 

While Lil Dude napped in the car we saw Dinosaurs, larger than life baseball bats, and giant milk jugs. We wound our way back to meet up with friends in Northampton and stopped to picnic in a park. It would have been lovely if it was sunny! There were flowers and pools. We wandered around some and took a few photos and then the rain came back. We packed on up and drove back to the campground. That evening the weather truly did clear and we had a lovely campfire with s'mores and songs.

Monday, Memorial Day, was clear, sunny skies. Before we packed up we wandered back down to the Wildlife Observatory. It was early so we were hoping to see something but we only caught a glimpse of a pair of wood ducks. 

What a difference a day makes! We packed up in the sunshine and went for breakfast in Northampton. With the sun on our faces, I think most of us forgot how cold and raw the weekend had been. I'm proud of my friends and my husband for sticking it out in the nasty weather. I didn't sleep much because I was worried about the Lil Dude getting too cold. He was fine and I think he enjoyed himself. He was bundled up and slept fine in his tent until mornings when he decided to sleep on my head. This was a much better experience than last fall when he cried each time he heard a zipper!

We stopped in to see my sister-in-law and her boyfriend on the way home who live out in the foothills of the Berkshires. After a nice chat, we hit the road back to home. The following week was a 90 degree heatwave with humidity and nasty storms. I don't know if that would have been worse or better to camp in!
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