We took the kids camping last weekend on Orcas Island. Let me start off by saying I hate camping. Seriously, I do. I have nightmare camping memories. When I was a kid in Denver I went to Camp St. Malo for a week one summer. One of the nights we camped outside it was POURING down rain, there were at least twenty kids plus counselors in a large tent (more like a big tarp tossed over some stakes) and not only were we trying really hard to stay dry, but so were the mice who kept coming into our tent. Twenty soggy, tired, cold girl campers, their counselors and mice. Enough said.
Slamming that camping experience out of the ballpark is the time Megan, Kevin, my dad and I were driving across the country from Denver, CO to Columbus, OH, to visit relatives. I think I was ten or eleven; Big Mare, being the smart, sneaky woman that she was had flown on ahead of us. It was summer; it was hot, I mean really hot, and as we left Kansas and headed on into Missouri it was like we fell into a sauna armpit of humidity. My dad, being the thrifty guy that he was, thought it would be a great idea to camp in Missouri one night on our road trip.
I’m pretty sure no one ever set out to deliberately camp in Missouri in the summer. And for good reason. If the humidity didn’t kill us, I thought the mosquitos would. To this day camping gives me the heebee jeebies! And having spent some part of one or more summer all over the U.S. I can say, hands down Missouri has the worst humidity ever.
When I met Greg and found out how much he loved camping, and that he wanted to share that love with me, I thought I’d give it a second chance. The first time Greg took me camping we went to the Boulder Creek trail on the Olympic Peninsula so we could go to the Olympic hot springs. Here’s how it went. We hiked in in the dark and part of the trail had been washed away by all the rains we’d been having so some of the path was more like river than dry ground. Lovely. But I made it! Greg set the tent up so quickly that it looked like magic to me. Next we had to hang the food in case of bears. Wait, say what!? It’s a good thing I was pretty ignorant about the whole bear thing because I might not have gone in the first place. The best part, however, was when we hiked up to the hot springs in the dark, I know I keep mentioning the dark, but for someone who hates camping and has really bad eyesight, the whole hiking-in-the-dark-through-the-woods-thing is a bit freaky. Once we arrived at the hot springs, I swear to God, Walt Whitman, or at least a very old, very scraggly, very naked man who looked like Walt’s twin was soaking his wrinkly, did I mention naked, body in the water.
I always have fun when I’m with Greg Ohlin, but there are so many other things I’d rather do than go camping!! But he loves camping and he wants the kids to love it, so we decided to make it an early Father’s Day gift this year. Greg is a great person and husband and such an awesome dad; we are sooooo lucky!! Camping seemed like a great way to celebrate him.
You’d think since we live here and travel around the area a lot, we would have been better planned, but we kind of went about things backwards.
Greg found a campsite at Moran State Park on Orcas Island and booked it. It looked great with campsites, a lake with a beach and play area for the kids, trails to hike. And it even had bathrooms!! Oh wait, but then we remembered we can’t just jump on the ferry to get there anymore; now you have to book a ferry reservation.
They open reservations in 1/3 blocks, two months, two weeks and two days before the date of travel so even if you’re like us and you not only do things backwards, but you also wait till the last minute, you might still be in luck. Greg was ready two days before at 7am online when the last 1/3 opened and luckily got a ferry spot before they were all booked within fifteen minutes.
The weather was completely awesome, the campground was better than I expected and aside from Jasper almost getting lost, his complete meltdown at the news that he had to help wash the breakfast dishes, and my encounter with a hungry raccoon in the middle of the night on my way to and from the bathroom, we had a great time.
Moran State Park is a super fun place to go with kids and would be a blast to take friends and family. It’s the kind of place I imagine going to every summer with the kids to create family traditions. The campsites have fire pits, logs to sit on and picnic tables. There is a peaceful nature hike through the old growth forest with signs teaching about things like stinging nettle, all the different types of fir trees, how new trees grow out from the decay of old stumps. We even saw one tree that had been on fire from the inside out. Crazy beautiful!
And the lake area was wonderful. It reminded me of something out of the past where families spent entire summers at camp. The dark blue-green serene lake is surrounded by the evergreen and willow covered hills of Orcas.
There is a long dock for fishing and an entire area dedicated to swimming with a small beach area and part of the lake sectioned off with buoys. You can rent paddle boats, kayaks and canoes, fly kites, picnic and play on the playground all in a stunningly beautiful setting. There’s even a small shack that sells ice cream snacks, toys for the water, bubbles, swimsuits and touristy shirts.
This is the first time the kids have been camping in a tent somewhere other than their house. I know, I feel like a failure as a parent admitting that. Our camp site was in the Northend camp area which was right across the road from the swimming/beach area. Perfect for us. The camp area had bathrooms and a pay-to-use shower. Lily was actually seriously upset that there were bathrooms as opposed to a hole in the ground. Sometimes I wonder where in the heck my children came from. Jasper spent a lot of the time with his backpack and purse on, and both kids went crazy over the tent. I think the tent was their favorite part.
My favorite part, the food, of course!! Mmm, it’s amazing how even simple food like hot dogs, bacon, eggs and pancakes can taste so delicious cooked over an open fire while camping. The roasted marshmallows were pretty awesome too.
Even cheap boxed wine is extra tasty. And the camp coffee Greg makes with his mini espresso maker. Divine!
If you’ve never been to Orcas Island, it’s gorgeous. I mean even after living here for almost fifteen years I’m still stunned by the natural beauty of places like the San Juan Islands. After we left our campsite we enjoyed the view from Mt. Constitution.
And before we came home we explored the little town. which is full of shops, art studios, restaurants and a beautiful bright bookstore, all in gorgeous cottage style buildings, giving the town a very charming, seaside, welcoming feel.
Okay, so I don’t actually hate camping anymore, but I still don’t love it. Sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag, even with a soft camping pad makes my back even angrier than it is normally, and I’m not afraid to admit I like having a bathroom just down the hall from me without having to worry about wildlife encounters. Modern conveniences, people! But Greg and the kids loved it and I have to admit I had a good time, and like I said, I’d love to make it a summer family tradition, (minus the raccoon stalking me on the way to the bathroom!)
Happy Fathers’ Day to Greg, to my dad, my brother, Kevin, and all the amazing dads out there!! We love you!