We’ve never taken our kids camping. To me, the idea of camping with someone still in diapers or learning to navigate a potty properly just seemed, well, eww. But really, that cannot be my excuse for the past 4 years, since my kids have long gotten that part figured out, and so the really real reason is probably that, ultimately, I’m not much of a camper. I love being outside, hiking, bonfires, exploring the woods, but I also really appreciate a good shower. Also, not sleeping on the ground in a chilly, moist, nylon and zippered house. I am much more of a cabin in the woods, remote lodge, even potentially a vintage RV type. Here is an example of roughing it that’s more my speed.
But my girls, they wanted to camp! For real, tent and all. And if we’re going to camp, we’re going to do it somewhere good. Which meant a weekend trip to discover western North Carolina, something we’ve been meaning to do for over a year now. Off we set Saturday after swimming lessons, headed west with no idea where exactly we would end up. I googled campsites and checked for availability as we drove (I wasn’t the one driving, fyi). This was a bit of a gamble, perhaps, as October is indeed peak camping season, but as our expectations were not exceptionally high- 1. bathroom facilities, 2. mountain scenery, 3. not too expensive- I figured we would find something. And we did. We reserved a night of tent camping at Blue Bear Mountain. There was only 1 spot left, so lucky us. Off to a good start. And so, off we drove towards Todd, NC.
(Sidebar: for all you planners out there, I completely get it. I myself used to be a master trip architect, with flagged pages in my travel guide, schedules replete with train times, museum opening hours, and nearby recommended restaurants. But my regular life at present is wholly over-scheduled, and so nowadays I’ve adopted a “wing it” approach to my recreational activities. It’s pretty spectacular, once you get the hang of it.)
Todd, NC is really lovely. Rural, and if you blink twice you miss it, and if you ever do drive through, head to the Todd Mercantile. This is a quaint country store/bakery, and the evening we arrived we witnessed a wedding transpiring across the street, with the employees of the mercantile hurriedly toting freshly iced cinnamon rolls by the trayful to the party. If we could have stolen a few, would gladly would have done. I insisted on driving back through Todd on our way home just so I could take pictures of the area.
We also had to ask for directions at the mercantile, since both our phones had lost their signals, and the young woman working was very kind and knowledgeable. We had no trouble finding our campsite from her directions.
Blue Bear Mountain campground is terrific- friendly and helpful in getting us set up, and when the gentleman who helped me asked if we camp a lot, he hid any sarcasm or irony quite well, despite my insulated corduroy vest, fuzzy hat, and Ugg boots (isn’t this how one dresses when camping?). I however, laughed out loud. Because, well, obviously.
The campgrounds at Blue Bear Mountain are well-maintained, the showering and toilet facilities are clean, and you can camp in a number of different ways- tent, cabin, RV, remote tent (where they drive you in and out of your site), and even in a teepee! If we go back I, for one, vote teepee.
And camping. First things first,
- Tent set up, check!
- Fire started, check!
- Cooking hot dogs and roasting s’mores over the campfire, check!
- Nighttime chess, check!
- Now sleeping… hmmm
Sleeping was, I say, tricky. The girls went to sleep right off, or rather, once the classical music Pandora station serenaded them from my phone inside the tent. I slept in the tent too. Sort of. I tossed, I turned, my back ached, my body froze.
(Note to self, probably one worthwhile investment when deciding to camp is, in fact, a sleeping bag. You know, as opposed to a pile of blankets.)
Even if I had had a sleeping bag, it would not have sufficed. My lower back just cannot accommodate the rock hard ground all night. Investment #2 will be a camping cot. I spent the remainder of my night in the backseat of our car. Three hours of sleep curled up in a car is, although less than ideal, better than no hours of sleep in a tent.
In the morning we got ourselves dressed as we shivered- it was about 50 F and chilly and crisp, but really pretty perfect as far as camping goes. And we headed into Boone for breakfast. Boone, is so, so great. A cute town, with cute shops, and cute restaurants, and if you need a descriptive word other than cute you can also say adorable. I did not take pictures, which means you should just go see it for yourself.
Following breakfast, it was time to explore. Since I hate cliffs and also love to give myself heart attacks, we headed to the Blowing Rock. This place is super cool. It is called the Blowing Rock because the “walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects cast over the void”- essentially, if you throw something down, it will come back up to you. We tried this with some leaves and it was really delightful to see.
However, this only works for light objects, and likely not children, so as my girls ventured out onto the cliffs I fretted and internally (and a little externally) panicked, making absurd exclamations such as, “Now stop there! Don’t move! That’s far enough! Come down now!”, as other tourists eyed the crazy screeching lady in front of them.
After viewing the Blowing Rock, we ventured into the town of Blowing Rock, and, from there, to the Glen Burney Trail. This is a great hike, strenuous enough to be adventurous for kids, but altogether manageable. You see 3 waterfalls throughout the hike, and, taking our time, we completed it (out and back) in 2 hours.
On the trail my littles and I did some fairy hunting. And I think it’s pretty obvious that these woods are a bit enchanted, as you can see from our pictures, below.
As we drove out of town, the early evening light was just marvelous. I couldn’t pass up a few last photos to end our trip.