Sunday, November 17, 2013

Camping With Kids

I know it's technically not winter, but in NW Oregon, we have two seasons: Rain, and Going to Rain Soon.  When the rains come, it's officially winter in my book.  And what does a parent with two young children do during the 6-8 months of rain?  Pack them up in the car and head to the coast for some camping, that's what!

I know you just blinked your eyes, swallowed hard and said "What the what?"  in your head.  But "winter" camping on the Oregon coast is nothing like "winter" camping anywhere else.  For one thing, it rarely gets below freezing out here, and for another, we don't use tents.  We use yurts.  According to Wikipedia, "A yurt is a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia."  The state park system of Oregon realized the benefits of having such in their campgrounds, and we discovered them many years ago.  They're cheaper than a hotel, and warmer than a tent.  Once we had kids, we realized it was the best way to camp.  It's kind of like RV camping but without the RV (or the satellite dish).  It's so freaking awesome.  If you have kids and live in Oregon, I highly recommend you look into it.

This past weekend we stayed at Ft. Stevens State Park.  We've never been to this particular park before.  I imagine it's insane in the summertime.  The campground part of the park is gigantic, with loops running the entire range of the alphabet.  The nice part about camping in the off season is that half the campground is empty, so you can let the kids run around with wild abandon.  Our yurt was on a hill, and the kids had a great time running up and down.

We packed in a hurry Friday night, and kind of forgot a few things.  Some things, like my camera and E's headlamp weren't terribly important.  Others, like our dutch oven and L's pants, were.  So Saturday morning, we drove into Astoria to get some breakfast and do some thrift-store shopping.

We found a quaint restaurant with views of the bridge.  The kids ate french toast with two kinds of syrup.  They thought they had died and gone to heaven.  We visited two different thrift stores.  The first, just around the corner from the restaurant, was a bust.  The second, located between Astoria and Ft. Stevens, was un-fucking-believable.  If I had realized I would be writing a blog about it, I would have taken a picture of it.  I would have taken TEN pictures of it.  It's called Penny-Wise Thrift Store, and it's amazing.  It's like everyone in the Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside area of Oregon cleaned out their garages and brought the stuff to Pennywise.  There is sooo much stuff!  You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a toddler ride-on toy, and when I couldn't find any kid clothing, the guy told me "That's next door."  I was confused, and then he explained that they had a second building where they keep women's & children's clothing and toys.  He gave us a key and we walked over.  The other building was a house.  The entire downstairs was filled with clothing and toys.  So many toys.  E wanted everything.  We had to remind her that we were there for pants for L.  But we ended up at the cash register with some pots and pans, pants, a musical jewelery box, a puzzle and alphabet stamps.  Nothing had price tags on them.  When we asked the woman about it, she said in a very cute New Zealand accent (I only recognize it as a New Zealand accent because she sounded exactly like my neighbors when I was growing up, who just happened to be from New Zealand), "That's because we have so much stuff and we're all volunteers, dear.  We can't put prices on everything.  All this benefits mental health, dear.  It looks like you have about $15 worth."  Paul looked in his wallet.  He had eleven.  I had conveniently left my purse in the yurt for the day, but remembered that we had a bunch of quarters in the car from when we were without a dryer for 6 months.  Paul really didn't want to do that, but the woman was excited, because "the fishermen are always looking for quarters to do their laundry.  They wipe us out all the time."  She offered us Dum Dum lollipops (which E insisted are "suckers" and definitely NOT "lollipops"), and was impressed when L took two, offered one to Daddy, and when Daddy said "Thanks, but no thanks," he put one back.  "You're doing a great job!" she said.  Thanks, lovely lady at the thrift shop, because I'm pretty sure I was doing a terrible job the night before when we realized we had nothing to feed them.  And I probably yelled at them about something stupid that morning.  I always yell in the morning.

After our trip, we decided to take a walk.  The sky was blue, and we figured we had a very short window of time to do much.  Within two minutes of leaving the yurt, the skies opened and down came the hail.  The kids didn't seem to mind.  They happily ran through it, tried to catch it on their tongues, jumped in puddles, examined leaves on the ground, and simply enjoyed the simplicity of being outside, in the rain, in the clouds, in the hail, in the wind.
Catching raindrops
Simple Pleasures

We roasted marshmallows after dinner, in the 30 minute rain reprieve before bedtime.

This morning, after packing up the car, we checked out the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale.  It ran aground in 1906, and the skeleton of its hull still stands at the beach, a constant reminder of the power of the sea.  Even though I grew up on the ocean, the Pacific still scares me.  The rocky beaches, freezing cold water, "sneaker waves," and this...
The Atlantic's got nothing on the Pacific
Please note that this photo was taken from quite a long distance away.  The wind was really whipping and I didn't want to get any closer.  Some day when we return and I have my good camera, I hope to go down there during low tide and get some awesome shots.  For now, you'll have to settle for crappy cell phone photos from 1000 feet.

We also took some photos to commemorate dragging the kids out in the whipping cold wind and rain.  This is what makes the memories, kids.

 Next, we went to the fort.  L fell asleep in the car in the five minutes to get there, so E & I walked into the museum together.  There was a gigantic diorama of the fort during WWII, and with the push of a button, a little train chugged down the line.  It was a hit with E.  After L woke up, we walked around the old fort, and found a lookout tower that offered some cover for our lunch.
I swear, my family is not homeless
We returned to the museum, played with the diorama again, and looked at the displays.  One of my favorites was of a letter a woman had written about the attack of Ft. Stevens by a Japanese submarine.  Not only was it amazing to read the first-hand account of what it was like to be attacked, it was amazing to read it in her handwriting.  I felt a closeness to her in reading the words that she penned, in trying to decipher her script.  How amazing and frightening that time must have been.
The Jetty & Mouth of the Columbia in the distance
West Battery
Climbing down the stairs from the watch tower

Google does this really cool thing when you upload photos.  If they're taken in quick succession, they get put together into an animated gif.  Well, here's one that was made today when my photos were uploaded from my phone.  It looks like the Jeep is moving!


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