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Bucket List Item #6: Go Tent Camping

We live in such a naturally diverse and beautiful part of the country, I am a little embarrassed that this is only my third time camping since living in Idaho for the past 6 years. Idaho has so much beautiful mountain land, we could easily find new camping spots here for the rest of our lives, depending on how adventurous we are! For this trip, we chose a camping site that was a little less remote because we would be tenting it with a four-month old baby and I still appreciate the modern convenience of an actual toilet 😁

Two weeks before Father’s Day, we confirmed with my parents that we would do a tent camping trip to celebrate Father’s Day weekend. It would be my husband’s first Father’s Day since becoming a dad, and he and my dad both enjoy fishing and the mountains. My mom and I wanted to reserve an actual campsite, as opposed to driving through the Idaho wilderness looking for a remote spot to call home. Idaho is getting so crowded with new residents since the pandemic started, so hidden gems aren’t so hidden anymore and it seems like a competition to snag a great camping spot without a reservation.

I scored the last remaining camp site along Lake Cascade, a fifteen mile-long lake two hours north of Boise. We assumed since it was the single remaining spot, it must be the least desirable….right next to a dumpster or something. But we were determined to make the most of our three day/two night excursion no matter what! You can imagine how pleasantly surprised we were when we pulled up to the waterfront corner lot gorgeous space with plenty of room for Zeb to dock his fishing boat on. We learned that our fellow campers reserved their sites 9 months in advanced because that’s how fast this campsite books up. It turned out that I had make the luckiest timing, booking someone else’s last minute cancellation of this prized spot!

I reviewed my camping packing list the entire week before we left. You would be surprised how much gear you need to pack along to care for an infant in the outdoors! We woke up at 7am on Friday morning and spent all of Brynnley’s nap time packing the truck. While I packed the last minute perishables into the cooler, Zeb made one last run for ice, firewood, and sandwiches for us for the road. His truck was packed to the brim with all of our supplies, so as soon as Brynnley was fed and changed around 11am we hit the road. We stopped for gas for the truck and boat – $120 gone in 5 minutes!

Brynnley slept the majority of the 2 hour drive; we had to stop about 15 miles from camp so that I could feed and change her in the truck. When we arrived at our campsite, it was a little tricky to juggle occupying a four month old baby while trying to help Zeb set up the tarp, tent, shade cover, and cooking station. Brynnley needs lots of attention, feeding, and help getting to sleep which took up most of my afternoon while Zeb put his boat in the water and started fishing.

For dinner the first night, we kept it easy with campfire hot dogs, cherries and storebought potato salad. We also used the Dutch oven to cook popcorn kernels over the fire pit, and it actually worked! The sun doesn’t set here until about 10pm this time of year, so I let Brynnley stay up past her actual bedtime to enjoy some camping cuddles next to the fire while I read a little bit of my book and enjoyed a couple of White Claws. I primarily breastfeed her, but I brought my battery-powered breast pump to supply her some extra bottles while we enjoyed a few evening beverages :)

Our tent is super spacious, roomie enough for 6 people. There was plenty of space inside for our full air mattress, plus the pack n’ play and all of our bags. I bought a blackout cover for the pack n’ play since I knew Brynnley would have a hard time sleeping in the full sunlight. It was fantastic! She slept even better than she does at home. I laid her down when we went to bed around 10pm, and she slept straight through to 7am. I woke up many times throughout the night to check on her and make sure she was warm enough, but she was just fine. My mom had also bought us some baby-friendly mosquito repellent stickers that we used to combat any potential bug bites and they seemed to work great.

We woke up around 7am Saturday morning FREEZING because we didn’t have a sleeping bag, just a couple of blankets on our air mattress. I immediately texted my parents who were getting ready to head up and meet us from Boise, and asked them to bring us a couple more blankets for the next night. Thankfully with her fleece jammies and sleep sack, Brynnley was plenty snug and warm. I fed her in our tent while Zeb made us a morning fire and brewed coffee in the percolator. DELICIOUS! Coffee tastes better out of a cute tin mug in the mountains next to lake water at sunrise :)

We also experimented with another Dutch oven concoction that will now become a STAPLE in our camp cooking repertoire. Cinnamon Apple Coffee Cake! The texture was unbelievably perfect for whipping up without a kitchen and cooking over a fire. My parents had gotten my husband Zeb a campfire Dutch oven and corresponding cookbook for Christmas a couple of years ago, so the recipe came from that cookbook. I put together the dry base at home before we left our house – some flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sugar and dried milk powder. Once we got to the campground, we diced a green apple and butter, which was mixed with brown sugar and some of the flour mixture for a crumb topping.

As the coffee cake sat on our morning campfire, my parents arrived! They set up their tent and air mattress for their FIRST camping trip in Idaho since moving here six years ago. My mom was pleasantly surprised by not only our great campsite but also the proximity to actual restrooms. We aren’t pee-in-the-bushes type of people ;)

After we all enjoyed our breakfast cake and coffee, Zeb took my dad out onto Lake Cascade for some fishing. My mom hung at camp with Brynnley and I. We put her in her stroller and walked the campground with only one minor hiccup when we got her stroller tire stuck in a cattle guard, prompting a concerned passerby to hop out of his truck to offer help lifting her out of the grate :D

The boys returned sans fish, but ready for lunches. My mom had premade us all meat and cheese sandwiches which we ate with some fruit and sun chips. Right next to our campground is a beautiful ski resort called Tamarack Resort that has been under construction since we moved here. We decided to pop over to explore the new grounds and grab a drink. It’s a popular spot for mountain bikers this time of year!

When we returned to camp, Brynnley hung out with my mom and dad while Zeb took me out on the boat. We both fished the entire time but also came up empty handed. There were hardly any other boaters on the water though, and with the 360 degree view of pine tree forest and water, it was a gorgeous and relaxing ride.

Our family campfire dinner was “hobo packs” – foil packs with delicious potatoes, yams, bell peppers, zucchini, onions and mushrooms with chicken sausages and delicious seasoning. We set them on hot coals and it smelled HEAVENLY. We played a game of Uno on the picnic table while munching on some pretzels and sipping white claws.

Zeb wanted to impress my parents with his popcorn popping skills, but that didn’t stop us from also indulging in smores. You can’t NOT make smores when we go on our very first family camping trip!

Brynnley fell asleep in my arms at the campfire, so we kept her up with us until about 10pm when we all headed to bed. The second night in our tent was considerably warmer than the first, and we all slept straight through to 7am – baby included. We nursed in our tent again while Zeb started the morning fire and brewed coffee. I think this morning time with coffee and morning sunlight is my favorite part of camping. I really enjoy that taste of coffee in a fun camping mug right next to the lake water while everyone is still in their comfy clothes, baby is still in her fleece jammies, and the whole campgroung is quiet with that hint of bacon in the air. :)

This Sunday morning was also Father’s Day! So while we all needed to tear down our tents and pack back up – it seemed like we JUST got here! – we also got to celebrate my dad and Zeb with a brunch and some gifts and cards.

Overall, tent camping at Lake Cascade was such a great experience and confidence-builder for more future camping trips with our baby! All of the things I was so worried about, like her getting a mosquito bite, being too cold, crying at night and waking up fellow campers……none of them came true! I am looking forward to more family camping trips in the future, though I don’t know we’ll get quite so lucky with the perfect camping site on such last minute notice again. :)

Running Scared

Once we left Bozeman, MT we took the scenic route to Yellowstone National Park. I have never been to the park, didn’t even really know much about it so I was quite surprised and amazed to see that there were hundreds of miles within the park. Who knew?!

Part of the appeal of this summer vacation was a road trip with lots of scenic sights and hiking some trails. I’m sad to say that today I learned that I like the idea of hiking more than actual leave-civilization-and-walk-among-the-wild-creatures hiking. The “Caution: Wildlife is Dangerous” signs didn’t scare me. Seeing this entire herd of buffalo next to the two-lane highway didn’t scare me. But walking along the boardwalk to view the Mud Volcano and happening upon two wild Bison had me panicked and squeezing my mom’s shoulder, begging to get out. That’s the moment when I realized I was way closer to nature than I wanted to be.

scary bison herd (stronglikemycoffee.com)The first night in Yellowstone I asked the ranger in the visitor’s center for recommendations of running trails. So many things wrong with her answer; she said I shouldn’t run. That if I did encounter a bear, my running would trigger their predator instinct and I would become their “prey.” She also said that I should never run on trails, but that running on the road is dangerous too because the road is narrow and people suck at driving. Oh and don’t run with an ipod. Don’t run by yourself. Don’t run early in the morning. Basically: there is no safe way to get in your run. BUZZ KILL.

We were on the half-mile loop that encompassed Mud Volcano, Dragon’s Mouth and some other mud pots when we saw a lone Bison in the center of the loop. The boardwalk did not have hand rails separating the humans from the animals, and he was getting awfully close to the walkway. At one point, it looked like he was going to walk along with boardwalk with us. I was a little leary of being so close to something so wild, but the full on panic didn’t set in yet. That wasn’t until we saw the second bull, a few yards away sitting idly. Until he wasn’t sitting anymore. He stood up and made a huge cloud of dust as he pawed at the ground, then faced the first bison. The first bison started walking towards him, grunting, a woman in front of him. All I was thinking was “Oh snap, they are going to fight and I’m glad I’m not that poor woman sandwiched between them.”

A few moments before they faced each other....by then I was pre-occupied with getting the heck out of there.

A few moments before they faced each other….by then I was a little too preoccupied trying to SAVE MY LIFE to snap pictures (melodramatic much…?) ;)

I watch Planet Earth; I see what those things do for survival. Mad dash to the car, please!

My goals for the day went from “Get in a 10-mile run” to “Run a few miles but get in at least 10 miles of hiking” all the way to “Get me out of here alive.” Dramatic? Probably. But seeing a 2,000-pound animal literally ten feet away and coming closer, making suspicious grunting sounds and kicking up dust with its legs doesn’t exactly scream “take pictures of me, I won’t bite.” I wanted out of there and quickly nixed the 6-mile hike we had next on the agenda. I wish I was a little more fearless but I can’t help the fact that the possibility of getting closer to a wild animal than a zoo exhibit sends my heart into a panic. I got my cardio exercise today from bison sighting’s alone!

scary bison yellowstone (stronglikemycoffee.com)

This ain’t no petting zoo.

Hiking along the coast line in Southern California is a tad different than in the pre-historic lands of Yellowstone.

I was hoping to see a Moose though. I’m sure they’re no less dangerous than a herd of buffalo but a moose just looks so chill, like “Let’s just hang out and watch the river flow, guys.”  Whereas a buffalo says “Mess with me and I’ll head-butt you into a coma.”

The way people would pull off to the side of the road, get out of their cars and start approaching the animals for photos reminded me of Jurassic Park. We just needed some super cool Jeeps to tour around in. When two bison crossed the street in front of us, cars backed up for a mile. My dad goes, “Welcome to Nature. It’s a traffic jam.”

not so scary bison (stronglikemycoffee.com)

The lodge we stayed in was super cozy, back to the good ole’ days of no TV, internet, microwaves & cell phone service. We actually played cards, read, drank instant coffee…. and watched movies on our laptops ;) Can’t stay completely out of this century.  Yellowstone is a place that everyone should get to see, to appreciate the beauty. Nature can do some freaky stuff! But next vacation I would like to do something a little less rustic and woodsy. Preferably somewhere I can run without seeing Warning/Danger/Caution signs along my route ;)

If you think my fear is exaggerated and bison look as casual as cattle, just Youtube “Bison attack at Yellowstone”! Probably not the night before entering the park though…

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