Family Camping

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We had my family camping reunion in Damascus, VA this past weekend. We got a double unit campsite at Beartree Campground which is up the road from the Virginia Creeper Trail. We have stayed at this campground many times and really love it. The campsites are super spacious, clean, and staff is friendly. The forecast was calling for several days of rain during the stay so we were thankful for our check-in day of sunshine so we could get as much tarp coverage underway before the rain set in. Clearly being over-prepared runs in the family!

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There is A LOT to do in Damascus. The priority this trip was having quality family time. If we were able to get good weather, we had hopes to get some climbing done here. Due to a lot of rain, we narrowed our activities down to the last leg of the Creeper Trail, and Smokey the Bear’s birthday party (he turned 70 this year)!

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The Creeper Trail is VERY popular and can sometimes be really crowded. It is 17 miles of downhill beauty and perfect for kids.  We’ve found that the best way to take advantage of the Creeper Trail, while traveling with young children, is to put on about 5 miles up from Downtown Damascus at the Straight Branch parking area off of Hwy. 58. We put on early in the morning while the commercial shuttles are taking their first groups up to Whitetop Station to begin their 17 mile decent back to Damascus. By the time we are finishing the trail, at the downtown park, we have out-paced the first group from the top and practically have the trail to ourselves. And it’s the perfect distance for our 3 year old to ride at just under 5 miles. The choo-choo train and playground at the end of the ride are great incentives for her to finish as well. Since it is only ~5 miles, my husband just bikes back UP the trail to get the truck back (so we don’t have to pay for a shuttle) to pick us up. We didn’t think of it this time, but my 5 year old will be biking back up the trail with him on the next trip to really burn off some that energy. If you are needing a shuttle though, I suggest JC’s Outdoors. It is right off the Creeper trail at the end just as you enter Damascus.

We have been camping as a family since Ellie was in a playpen. We have developed our own little “bag of tricks” when it comes to camping with kids:

  •  Baby Wipes, and lots of them. (Nothing ground breaking here, but a real tragedy if you forget them)
  • Peanuts in the shell. Kids love them and it keeps their little hands busy while you are setting up the tent.
  • Chem Lights. I grew up with them as my Dad was in the military and we always had them on hand. They are great for kids at night and they don’t use batteries. They also make great lanterns that have to be “wound up” to be operable. Any light without batteries is great for kids.
  • Earthworms: You can buy them here in Boone in several places including Walmart. They will last for a few days in the tub if they stay cold. Great for fishing, worm races, measuring, wiggling. So on and so on.
  • GORP: An essential piece to all our adventures. This became a staple for my husband and I going through Outdoor Programs at ASU. Granola, Oats, Raisins, Peanuts. Extra bonus: M&M’s.
  • Ropes, and Bungee Cords: This keeps our 5 year old busy for FOREVER. You can make a swing, a bear trap, a zipline for stuffed animals, practice knot tying, etc. The possibilities are endless.

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Our favorite time of year for camping is right around the corner… FALL. I will post some more entries on a camping packing list, meal ideas, etc. with our trips to come!

 Have any tips or tricks of your own for camping with little ones? I would LOVE to hear them! Post a comment below!

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