Prince William Forest Park

We went car camping with the kids last weekend. It was a birthday present for one of our birthdays. The desire for such an experience had been expressed on many an occasion in the past. We happen to be inexperienced in this kind of an activity. Our own memories of camping come from our childhood. I once had to lead a group of kids from our high school on an NCC camping trip – in the 8th or 9th grade. (The trauma from the experience has been successfully relegated to the most distant recesses of my memories.)

It was a unique experience. An added element to our adventure was the fact that the weather in our part of the world at this time of the year, when Winter fades into Spring, is not completely predictable. Part of the thought process in the organization of this kind of event was the determination that the weather was not going to get in our way – except in the most extreme of cases.

The kids managed all the elements of the activity – from making sure we bought in all the necessities, to setting up camp, to making sure we were all comfortable, to cooking, to tearing down the campsite in the end. This being a car camping experience, we had a common toilet facility with lighting and running water not too far away from where we had set up camp. It was a decent walk to get to the facility, and it did not help that we lost power on the second night. (Other options had to be explored when one had to deal with nature’s call in the middle of the night.)

We arrived on Friday evening to set up camp. This was the setting for the campsite.

The sleeping arrangements were made early. We had to determine if the use of the smaller tent was necessary for this purpose.

This picture was taken after we completed the initial setup and started working on dinner.

Dinner was a meal of a lentil based Sloppy Joes prepared by our chef.Libations had also been accounted for when packing the matériel for the event, and these were partaken of with dinner. The fire was also lit prior to dinner, and an after-dinner dessert of S’mores was also made and consumed.

(The s’mores activity reminded me of my failed attempts at the same during our Shenandoah trip.)

All the loose items sitting around the campsite were put away for the night before we retreated to our tent, where we chatted for a while before beginning to gradually drift away into the world of sleep. We were packed into the small place quite cozily.

We had to get used to the sounds of the woods. We could hear the distant roar of the wild and unruly gusts of wind occasionally as they approached our campsite – making their way towards us through the swaying boughs and small branches of the tall and still leafless trees. The tent was surprisingly stable and protected us from all the elements – thanks to the aerodynamic design and the support system, and the great job done in setting the whole structure up. Once the windows were closed up, we were fully isolated from the impact of the winds. (And it was really not too bad even when the mesh windows were left open.) The sleeping bags some of us were enclosed in were rated to 15° F. It was warm in spite of the low temperatures outside the tent. It was surprising how bright the inside of the tent seemed to be even in the middle of the night. Our eyes must have adjusted to our surroundings well.

I woke up just before daybreak.

It was beginning to rain by Saturday morning. We could hear the pitter-patter of the raindrops on the protective covering over the tent. The sound of the falling rain inside the tent was quite loud, and made the rainfall seem to be heavier than it really was. Breakfast activities were shifted to the inside of the tent because of the rain.Plans for cooking were postponed till later and we settled for some packaged food items along with coffee made with water heated on the stove within the tent.

Pretty soon the rain was coming down heavily all around the campsite. Water was collecting outside the tent as the ground got soaked. Again, the tent provided a protected environment for us to relax in. We played card games,while listening to the sound of the falling rain through the open awning of the tent.It felt really nice to be sitting in the tent and chilling out to the sound of the rain. We were there that weekend just to relax in Nature, and the rain was really not getting in the way. In fact, the rain was an integral part of the whole experience.

The rain subsided by lunch time. The breakfast of eggs and sausage that had been previously planned for breakfast became our lunch. Things began to dry out quite quickly and the cooking was done outside the tent. By this time it was becoming warm – shorts and T-shirt weather. The ground had dried up by now and Barnaby chilled out in the dry leaves.

We were able to go for a short hike in the area close to the campsite. We followed the Farms to Forest Trail (including the extension).

We had Pad Thai cooked over the stove top for dinner.It started getting cold once again as the sun began to set. The wind was also beginning to pick up once again. The night was beautiful!

Since the power (and hence the lights) had gone out in the restrooms, more of us resorted to cleaning up for the night in the area around the campsite. Teeth were brushed in the brush. Then it was back into the safety of the tents for the night for another session of card games – as the temperatures began to drop further and the winds began to intensify. The winds this night were in fact fiercer than the previous night’s. There were a couple of gusts that actually shook the tent a little bit. I lay in my sleeping bag marveling at how stable and wind-free the inside of the tent was. I did have to answer nature’s call a little after midnight. It was super-cool being outside by myself in the dark. The wind had died down a little bit while I was outside. There was enough natural light that I did not even turn my headlamp on!

We woke up to the day slowly the next morning. It was was still cold outside and we were in no rush. Apparently, the temperature felt like 38° around us because of the continuing wind. But we felt quite comfortable within the tent, especially with the sleeping bags.Breakfast was partaken of within the tent once again. We had oatmeal with berries. Some of us had coffee.The coffee tasted better than on the first morning because the potable water from the pump had been passed through the filter this time.I took Barnaby out for his morning walk while others started taking apart the campsite and putting away things in the cars.We departed our campsite at almost exactly at 11am, the latest checkout time allowed. This is the last picture I took.

After returning to Woodbridge, we went to a taco place for lunch before departing for home. The consumption of a glass of draft beer with lunch felt appropriate.

We enjoyed the weekend experience fully. There are thoughts about making this an ongoing event.

Published by

Kuriacose Joseph

I am an engineer by training. I am exploring new horizons after having spent many years in the Industry. My interests are varied and I tend to write about what is on my mind at any particular moment in time.

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