Having just returned from our family beach vacation at Orange Beach Alabama, we had not planned taking the grandchildren on a summer camping trip as we had in the past. Given the kids busy summer schedules, we certainly hadn’t given any thought to taking all 5-grandchildren on a quick trip so soon. However, each of them expressed how much they wanted to go camping before school started and since we love taking them as much as they enjoy going, on Sunday, July 28 we woke up and decided on the spur of the moment “Let’s get everybody and go to Beavers Bend. Today, now, right now!” (https://www.travelok.com/state-parks/422) By the time we picked up the RV and collected everyone at our house, we ended up leaving about 4:30 pm and arrived just in time to set-up before dark. We were able to take 4-kids in the truck, although it was crowded in both the truck and RV sleeping arrangements was challenging. This was our first time taking four grandchildren at one time, and it was the last year that Blake will be able to fit sleeping across the recliners.
Our first day, Monday, was a rainy day, lite rain with no thunderstorms. We travel with our 2-bikes and Blake brought his bike, but this left the kids’ 1-bike short so we decided to make a Walmart run and purchased an inexpensive bike so all 4-kids would have one to ride. The kids had a blast riding their bikes and playing in the rain. Addison obviously had the most fun riding through mud-puddles as shown by the mud splattered all over the back of her hoodie jacket. It was an awesome first day at camp in our pull-through site (#A-13) where we had nice views of the river. Monday evening, just in time to set-up camp before dark, Brenda, Orval and Nicole (sister, brother-in-law and great-niece) joined us in the site next to ours (#A-15). (Papa was amazed at the number of shoes 6-people take camping, it’s the ones by door, plus the ones being worn!)
Tuesday’s weather was perfect for a kayak ride down the Mountain Fork River. It was 2-person kayaks for Parker and Blake, Addison and Lily, Papa and Nana, Brenda and Nicole. Orval was in a single. Addison and Lily were a little nervous about being able to handle their kayak but they did very well and even out-paddled us. There was about a half-hour wait for our turn in the kayaks so Papa and the kids took advantage of a short wooden pier located in the launch area. Papa, Orval and the kids had a great time jumping off the pier into the nice cool river while waiting our turn for the kayaks. After the kayak trip, the kids could not resist a few more jumps off the pier and an impromptu canon-ball competition took place to see who could make the biggest splash. A couple of by-standers volunteered to be the unbiased judges. Blake won, although Parker kept asking for a redo. On the way back to camp, we stopped at Beavers Bend Country Store because as PaPa always says, “it’s not a great day unless you have ice cream!”
Early evening we went fishing for an hour or so off the bridge near the fly-shop. Several of us got bites and Blake came the closest to catching a fish, but unfortunately, he lost it. We had a late, kid favorite, spaghetti dinner back at our camp and afterwards the kids played Uno. Another great day!
Wednesday began with me cooking breakfast for the whole gang and cooking outside just always seems to taste better. Today’s menu included the sweet smells of bacon frying, pancakes and scrambled eggs on our large electric griddle. It was a nice way to start our day with the kids riding bikes, a few out-door games and just hanging out at our campsite.
After lunch it was off to the horse-back trail rides. All the kids were old enough to ride a horse by themselves. Brenda had never ridden a horse so since Brenda was the adult riding in our group, Papa and Nana, who have ridden many times, decided not to ride. Just for fun, our group wore the ‘Family Reunion’ tee-shirts from our recent Orange Beach trip. The ride was a first for Brenda, but she was a real-trooper and did manage to get a few photos on the trail ride.
The horse-handlers tell each rider their particular horses’ name and ask the riders to remember them. Brenda rode Trigger, Nicole-Ranger, Addison-Roy, Lily-Rocky, Blake-Sackett and Parker-Zach. Zach is coincidentally the same name as Parker’s former pet dog. After the ride, there was an ice-cream break and gift-shop perusing. The gift shop lady is also the niece of the owner of the horses and she collects the worn horse shoes in individual name-labeled baskets. Then the gift shop cleans, paints and inscribes the horse’s name on the worn shoes so they can be sold as souvenirs for $5.00. Brenda and Nicole purchased a horse-shoe for each kid in a thoughtful, kind and much appreciated gesture. Thanks Aunt Brenda and Cousin Nicole.
At the end of the ride, Nana had taken a photo of each rider on their horse so now each kid will be able to display their shoe along with the picture. After the ride, back at the RV we changed into swim suits and off to the swimming area we all went. After a long, busy, hot day, the group decided to go out to eat at “Grateful Head Pizza” https://gratefulheadpizza.com/, a restaurant we have enjoyed on many of our Beaver Bend trips. Their unique pizzas put whole ingredients like cherry tomatoes and olives and sometimes it’s a little difficult to eat without the vegetables rolling off, but the taste is good.
Thursday was our last full-day as we were scheduled to leave on Friday, August 2. Papa wanted early morning fishing and convinced those that wanted to fish to get up early on Thursday morning before it got too hot and hopefully when the fish were biting. Another group wanted to hike one or two of the many Beavers Bend trails. The alarms were set for a 6 am wake-up and we split up into two groups, the “fishermen and the hikers.” Everyone got up without hesitation, the fishermen (Papa, Blake, Brenda and Nicole) left the campground by 6:30 am hoping to beat the heat and hopefully get some bites. It was still a little dark for hiking so the hikers (Nana, Addi, Lily and Parker), waited until after pancakes (7:45 am) before heading off to the trails. The temps were pleasant, the trails were uncrowded and in good condition with many of the signs new. After hiking the Forest Heritage Tree trail, we drove around the various fishing spots and found the “fishermen” at the new bridge spot, our once favorite fishing hole. Blake was the only one who caught a fish! Papa, Brenda, and Nicole said they had not even had a bite.
It was back to camp for lunch then we headed out for an afternoon of go-kart rides. Hochatown Amusements (located across the park entrance off of US-259) has a nicely designed go-kart track so we started there with 1 ride each. Next headed to the other nearby go-kart track, Bigfoot Speedway (at Stephens Gap Rd). The kids really liked racing around the 2 different tracks and by unanimous kid-vote all agreed that they liked Hochatown Amusements over Bigfoot Speedway. Nana agreed too since it was Bigfoot Speedway’s parking lot where she backed Papa’s truck into a steel-poled railing around the parking lot, augh! It bent the tailgate but Papa was able to get in the truck bed and kick it open enough such that it was operational enough to connect the 5th wheel trailer and get home.
Our last night, we grilled out having surf & turn (steaks, shrimp, salmon, corn-on-the-cob, rice-a-roni and salad, all yummy!) Later, all the kids enjoyed the traditional campfire roasted marshmallows and messy-sticky s’mores. Then, as is our tradition, after s’mores, we take turns telling campfire stories. Papa started with his usual off-the-cuff, made-up version of a Rasta Mouse story then all the kids jumped in with each telling their story. Addi, Lily, and Nicole told their stories, each a version of a TV episode or favorite part from a movie they had seen. The kids all recognized each other’s stories but it was funny because all of the adults were totally lost. Blake was exhausted from getting up at 6 am to fish, and his eyes were heavy as he dosed at times during the story-telling. Regretfully, Parker didn’t get his chance before we decided to call it a night, take showers and hit the sack.
The kids started out at the beginning of the week, begging that we stay through Sunday. But that wasn’t possible since Lily and Addison both had to be home Saturday morning for a pre-school event and by Wednesday Blake was missing his parents. Parker still tried convincing us to leave the RV at Beavers Bend, take all the other kids home—and then the three of us drive back and stay through Sunday. Turns out Parker had Baseball practice Friday.
Friday morning was cleaning up the campsite, packing up and heading home. It takes a little longer with 6 of us (4 kids 7 to 13 years) than with just the 2 of us. We all started at the same time but Brenda, Orval and Nicole were gone a good 2-hours before us. Hoping to be out by noon and home by 4 pm, we ended up pulling out of the park around 2 pm, stopping for lunch to-go and didn’t get home until close to 6 pm.
Blake shortly after leaving the campground, on the way home after 5-days at Beavers Bend!
We truly are blessed in many ways, one blessing is being able to take our grandchildren on camping trips. Every day is a good day with the Lord and most every day spent with the grandchildren is good. Patience does run thin occasionally. At times, you are a referee consoling hurt feelings or admonishing a kid for an anger-outburst. Other times it’s just be exhaustion from cooking, cleaning and entertaining. But at the end of the day, there is so much love shared and good times had that those few unhappy moments are long forgotten and it is the joyful moments that live on as childhood (and Grand Parenthood) wonderful memories.
James 1:19-20: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”