It seems like there have been a lot of young families moving to Boone recently! I have been able to meet a few of them and thought it might help (from one person’s perspective anyway) to compile a list of useful information if you are …
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!
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)!
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.
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!
Our most recent camping trip was at the New River State Park the weekend of the New River Canoe Race. We have owned a canoe for the past two years and have enjoyed introducing the kids to moving water. We joined two other families at a group campsite at the New River State Park take-out and all got on the river the following day
Between our three families, there were 10 children all under the age of 13. The group site worked out great because it provided A LOT of room for the kids to play and run around. (Group camping reservation has a minimum of 14 people and a maximum of 45 people) Which is awesome. They slept HARD that night but Ellie still needed to catch up on her sleep during the canoe ride down the river the next day.
This was our first river trip in which our son, Caleb, would be paddling solo in his own kayak. He had attended roll clinics in a pool before but we knew the first time in moving water would be telling whether he would take a liking to the sport or not. The New River stretch from Zaloo’s to the New River State Park takeout is about a 5 mile stretch with nothing over class 1 rapids. It’s shallow clean water that is great for families. There are also other great stretches of the New River that are great for exploring too and outfitters that can provide all the gear and shuttle assistance you need.
Like anything else with young children, the key to success is a lot of snacks. There is a lot of relaxing and listening /watching wildlife and jumping in and out of the canoe for swim breaks. Caleb did great in his kayak but still needed to take breathers in the canoe and have snacks as well. In that case, we just used a line to attach the kayak to float behind the canoe.
On this stretch of river, we have found a great little lunch island just a bit up from the take-out.
The kids get obsessed with this island because they (sadly) find lots of broken glass pieces from bottles that have been sanded down by the water. They spend very little time eating and most time collecting their favorite glass pieces and convincing butterflies not to fly away from them. We used the glass pieces from this last trip to contribute to a Fathers Day craft project.
It was another great weekend spending time as a family! The next event we are looking forward is Riverfest being hosted in Valle Crucis from 11am-3pm this coming Saturday June 21st. Check out all the fun activities planned for this event on the HighCountryMom.com website!
Today we’re continuing our Summer Learning Series, lessons I previously taught, based on The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum. One of our trademark Boone weather patterns is a good ole summer rain storm. When these usually arrive after a “hot” day (hot being a relative term for …
As a former school counselor, one of my favorite things about my job was going into the classrooms and teaching a guidance curriculum. This included character education and I would love to share some fun little lessons that I have adapted from The Heartwood Ethics Curriculum, which is what I used at my first school. Today I would like to share the story of Ish and an easy lesson you can do at home.
- Book – Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (available through Watauga County Library)
- Crayons, paint, pens/pencils, colored pencils, or markers, etc.
- Any art materials you may have in your home
The Story: Ish is the story of Ramon and how he learns about having the courage to draw by being encouraged. Ramon loves to draw and is proud of his drawings until his brother makes fun of them. Ramon is discouraged until he learns how much his sister, Marisol, admires his artwork. Marisol encourages Ramon to continue drawing “ish-ly”, instead of worrying about making his drawings “perfect.” I won’t spoil the entire story for you. I still enjoy reading it, myself!
Character Trait: I used this book to teach COURAGE/ENCOURAGEMENT to my first grade classes.
Activity: Using your art materials, work with your children to create “ish” drawings or write “ish” poems. For example, in the story, Ramon draws a vase and when he says it’s not very good, Marisol tells him it’s “vase-ish”. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it can be whatever you like! Use this story to teach your children about doing their best with their work and play and having courage to express themselves with art. You can admire each other’s drawings and poems and have fun doing it. After you have collected a few “ish” drawings/poems, make a book for your family. Have each person present their “ish” creations to the family and share encouraging words with what you like about their drawing/poem. Have fun!
My Reflection: I loved this story because it allowed for creative expression in the classroom and practice with how to say encouraging words to one another. The story shows how a young child appreciates another child’s work and how each person can do their best with creative expression and it doesn’t have to be “just right”, according to someone else’s standards. Reading this story recently brought back a lot of great memories in the classroom! I hope you enjoy this little lesson, maybe on a rainy day or a sunny day in the backyard.