Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Summer Blog Series - "Labor Day Camping Trip"


Labor Day Camping Trip - Nightmare or Not? The Verdict is In!

Although the actual season of summer is not officially over until close to the end of September, the Labor Day weekend marked the end of summer for me as the kids have already gone back to school and things are finally beginning to return to some sort of 'normal' around the house. I have quiet time again! Yay!! Since my summer has officially ended, this post will be my final post in my "Summer Series." I have definitely enjoyed blogging about my adventures with my kids over the summer, but now it's time for me to get back into the "book world." But before I dive back into books, I'll tell you about my Labor Day camping weekend experience with family and friends.

Well, I had a lot of anxiety about the Labor Day weekend because we had decided to go camping. Now I have been camping before. I grew up camping with my parents and siblings. Growing up in my family we started out tent camping (what you call, "REAL CAMPING"), then it progressed to a mini-camper, then a pop-up tent trailer, and finally to a 40 ft. RV. Although I hadn't been camping in years, at least I can say that I have been camping. Unlike my husband, he had NEVER been camping before, not even when he was a cub scout years ago as a child. He comes from a family that has never been camping. My anxiety levels were high because I was dealing with a person that had never been camping before, did NOT want to go camping, couldn't understand the point of camping (i.e. in his words, "why would anyone want to leave their house to live as if they're homeless..?"). The camping trip was my idea because I can remember the days when I was young and my parents took us camping, we had such a fun time. I wanted our kids to experience that same type of fun and outdoor adventure that I had experienced growing up. Out of my 3 kids, only my son had been camping when he was a cub scout years ago. My other 2 kids had never been before. Unlike my husband, all 3 kids were super excited to go. I too was excited to go, however, I was also a little nervous as I knew that if this trip was not successful, we would never go camping again as a family.

The Labor Day camping trip would also mark our third attempt at going camping this year. Our first attempt was during the kids' Spring Break back in March earlier this year, but we had to cancel that trip because of severe thunderstorms and flooding. Our second attempt was during the Memorial Day weekend, but lack of communication between all the attendees caused us to postpone yet again. So our final attempt for this year was Labor Day.

After much preparation, hours of shopping and packing, we finally headed out on the Friday of Labor Day weekend at 4:00p.m. in the afternoon. Not a smart choice considering traffic. We tried to head out earlier, the plan was to leave no later than 2:00p.m., but that didn't work out obviously. So the first part of our trip was met with a lot of traffic and disagreement between my husband and I over which direction to travel to avoid the traffic. My husband allowed me to win that argument, but as the traffic was just as thick in the direction I wanted to travel, I was left to hear my husband's snarky remarks and expression on his face as if to say, "I told you so!" LOL. So our trip didn't exactly start off on the right foot. We finally got through the traffic, however, my anxiety only doubled when halfway to our destination we encountered severe thunderstorms, with the Weather Channel predicting the city we were traveling to was also under a thunderstorm watch. Ugh!! To make matters worse, my father had severely miscalculated the distance to the campground. My parents (who were also joining us on this camping trip) had stated that in their estimation, the campground was only about 1-1/2 hours away. Well we discovered it was more like 3 hours away and with traffic and the stormy weather we encountered, it took over 4 hours to arrive at the campground!!! Double Ugh!!  At 8:30p.m., we were the first of our group to arrive at the campground. It was dark (more like "pitch-black") and drizzling, with the only thing we could see from our headlights were swarms of bugs flying around our car. We made our way in the dark and found the campground office...WHICH WAS CLOSED FOR THE EVENING!! Triple Ugh!!!!!!!!!!!!

So after driving over 4 hours, in stormy weather, and disagreements over which direction to travel, we couldn't camp anyway (or so we thought) because the office was closed and wouldn't re-open until 8:00a.m. the following morning. Definitely NOT a good way to start a camping trip. Oh, and I forgot to mention, we also had no cell phone service to inform the others who were also traveling there that day. We had to travel back down a dark road and find the nearest gas station for cell phone service. Thank the Lord for our cell phones because we also used our phones to find the nearest lodging. We settled on a La Quinta Inn about 11 miles further down the main highway.

And there you have it...our first night of camping was at the La Quinta Inn, LOL. Actually it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because there was no way that we could have pitched our tents and set up camp in the dark, with the not-so-great weather, and mystery bugs flying amongst us.

The following morning we were refreshed and renewed and ready to head back to the campground. We arrived once again at The Texas State Railroad Park & Campground in Rusk, Texas (a.k.a. Rusk Depot Campground) and were FINALLY able to check-in and set up our camping site! Yay!! I also need to add that the weather was beautiful the following morning!

Here are some pics from our Labor Day camping trip, I will let the images tell the rest of the story...

Loaded down and ready to go!

My youngest daughter lounging on the sofa at La Quinta after a LONG trip on the road.
Texas State Railroad Park & Campground check-in office in Rusk, Texas.

Texas State Railroad & Park.
Setting up camp.

We called our campsite, "Our Village," LOL. With family and friends.

Here's our tent.

Wait, is that a smile I see on my husband's face?? LOL

The Rusk Depot Station. We boarded the train at this station located at the campground.
My kids in front of the Texas State Railroad, getting ready to ride the train!

The Texas State Railroad.

We rode in the "open air" car.

Riding the train!

Arriving at the Palestine Depot Station in Palestine, Texas. Our pit-stop.

My sister and niece in line for the box lunches they serve during the pit-stop in Palestine, Texas.
This is where we ate lunch while on the train pit-stop in Palestine, Texas. Under the shady trees.

The kids enjoying their time during the train pit-stop.

"All aboard!"

Heading back to Rusk, Texas.

Back at camp, my son is building a fire.

Making S'mores.

Lounging and telling ghost stories...

One of the first to fall asleep.

Next day, the kids enjoyed the campground's splash pad.

My husband and daughter, "Let's go fly a kite!"

Family pic in front of our tent.

Capturing some of the beautiful sites of the park.
There was also this cute little church on the park grounds.

Very scenic!

All loaded up again.

On our way home.

All in all, we had a great camping experience, despite the original trouble we encountered. We were initially suppose to stay 2 nights (Actually 3 days, 2 nights) camping, but with the late start and arrival, we only were able to stay one night (with the other night being at the La Quinta Inn). Now to the verdict on my husband and his thoughts about the whole thing...DRUM ROLL PLEASE...

...He actually enjoyed it!!!!  He even commented that he would do it again next year!! WoooHoooo!!! Success!!!!!  Thank you Lord! ;-)

God Bless!
T Denise Clary

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials,
for we know that they help us develop endurance.
Romans 5:3 (NLT)