So all that discussion about investing in enough camping equipment for our family wasn't entirely theoretical. We needed it because we had planned a three night camping trip for this past week and it was quickly approaching. I'm happy to report that everything worked out extremely well.
We found a small, used trailer on Craig's List and it was just the ticket to carry all of our needed supplies.
Here is the large tent we bought. I love it because it has two rooms and I can stand up in it. It makes taking care of small people so much easier. We had G., L., K., and H. in the tent with us adults. Then we put the older boys in a second tent and the older girls in a third.
And since there were going to be so many of us anyway, we thought we'd invite a couple of other families to join us; the P family and the H-S family. (I've written about these two families a lot... we do many things together and watch each others children when one family is adopting.) Now, these are good friends of ours, and they just happen to have a few children themselves, so for this little camping adventure we had 28 people: 22 children (though a couple of those children were 18 and 19 years old) and 6 adults.
It made for a nice little tent city where the younger ones pitched their tents.
We were camping in Shawnee National Forest at the very bottom of Illinois. It was beautiful and because there were so many of us, we reserved the group campsite called Duck Bay on Lake Glendale. This was lovely because it was completely separate and we had ~6 acres all to ourselves. Plus we had this shelter complete with stone fireplace and several picnic tables.
Here is a larger view of the group campsite.
Here is the view from the other direction.
It rained all the way down on Monday and we kept hoping that it would let up so we could at least put the tents up. It did start to clear and we were able to set-up camp and eat dinner without getting too wet. That was the last of the rain and the rest of our trip had beautiful weather.
The other unique thing about the campsite was the presence of at least four different species of frogs and toads. (This pleased M. to no end.) Within five minutes of us arriving and getting out of the car, at least 5 or 6 frogs were caught. It became a major activity. Here is TM's collection that he caught one evening. It's difficult to tell, but there are probably 15-20 frogs in this picture.
One night, M. recruited most of the children and they went on a major frog hunt. They counted as they caught and gave up at about 200 frogs. I suppose I should have taken a picture of all 200+ frogs in the empty ice cream container, but one glance at them all was enough for me, and I didn't run to get my camera.
There were other less squirmy activities as well. Here are L. (on left) and G. posing for me before they went wandering again. (I really did wish I had brought the pen with me.)
We brought a badminton set and that received heavy use.
There was also at least one game going on inside the shelter.
And P18's hammock was always a hit. (G. is on the left) Can you tell these little girls are everyone's favorites?
And we went hiking. It takes a while to get this many children ready to go, so there was some waiting around before we departed.
For our first hike, we thought we'd keep it simple and hike around the lake we were camping next to. The obligatory pre-hike picture. (All the children who were camping are in this, but we are missing three children from the families' overall child totals.)
Our campsite from the other side of the lake. (It's that clearing in the trees across the water.)
The little girls started out under their own power, but got tired about a third of the way and we stopped and put them in the backpacks. A. and B. were great about toting them around... not an easy job. (And they both volunteered; we didn't force them.)
Days two and three will follow.
And some are probably wondering what H. made of the whole experience since it was her first time camping. She was very excited about the tent when J. and B. set it up in our yard after it arrived. She thought the 6+ hour car ride was a bit long and has probably used up her allotment of the "Are we there yet?" question. She did great sleeping in a sleeping bag and the primitive conditions, but you probably won't be surprised to hear that hiking was not her favorite activity. I felt we definitely had moments again where she had ended up with the insane family. More on that later as well.