More from my journal:
September 18, 2013 12:58 am
We were only 2 ½ hours from Mount Rushmore, so we had decided that we ought to go visit. So the plan was to camp that night—first time for the kids—and then drive up the extra hour and see Rushmore in the morning, then drive home.
Two hours of driving got us to Wind Cave National Park—the first state or national campground we found—just as the sun was setting. So we quickly found a campsite as far from everyone else as we could and set up camp. Why so far? We're noisy. We didn't want to bother anyone.
We made a fire (had to borrow matches from the next campsite down for that) and roasted marshmallows, and hot dogs, and frozen burritos (that worked well, actually), and potatoes, and a yam (that was super yummy). I experienced my first properly roasted marshmallow (oh! That's why people do that!). The kids were in heaven.
Truly, we are not properly equipped for camping. We have 9 people and we own 4 sleeping bags. Well, five if you count that cheap one that is colder than wrapping up in a quilt. We actually put that one under Caleb as ground insulation. Tim bought 3 tarps before we left on our trip. And we ended up with 4 marshmallow roasting sticks and whatever food and supplies we had left over from the hotel stay plus what Tim grabbed at WalMart while he was getting the atlas (and, to his credit, he did really really well at supplying us with the necessities). I did manage to remember to bring woobies for everyone, but only Tim had a coat, and nobody had hats or gloves. And we had half a dozen pairs of Tim's socks, but no others for the kids (so even Jack wore Tim's socks). I forgot any kind of warm clothing for the baby (but I did have blankets and extra large woobies, so he stayed warm enough). Tim got a handful of cheap flashlights at WalMart on our way out. But we had no tent, no mosquito repellant, no camp stove, no lantern, no padding for sleeping on...
But Tim and I have camped before, and we figured we could make it work. So we roasted dinner and dessert over the fire. Then, while the kids played, running around the campground stocking-footed, mostly, even though we asked them to keep their shoes on, Tim fed the kids, supervised potty trips, and held the baby and I laid out beds for the kids. I put Benji, Nathanael, Elijah, Jack, and me spots in the van, so I could sleep on a bench instead of on the ground, which I knew would never work. I put down two tarps on the ground outside, and layered a few blankets on the tarps and then lay the four sleeping bags out there, each with a blanket tucked inside to keep the big kids and Tim warm. Even just standing around outside had left everything wet from condensation, so I laid out their pillows and special stuffed animals and then put another tarp over everything to keep them dry. Poor Tim was left with the sleeping bag that doesn't zip at all. Anda's only zipped half way. We really were not equipped.
Then the kids all went to bed. They saw a deer wander through the campground as they were getting into bed, and were thrilled to hear owls hooting and screeching.
And Tim and I sat up talking until 1:00 am or so. The moon was nearly full, but dark clouds kept racing across it, making it look very Halloweenish and spooky. To make things even more eerie, there was an owl hooting in the woods (Dan cried when he realized that, with a congested head, his ears were too stuffy to let him hear it!). And then a different owl started shrieking in a different part of the woods. Sounded like a child screaming. It was really, really spooky and super cool. Really fun.
At around 1:30, I got tired and it got cold, so Tim braced the top tarp over everyone with clips and bungie cords (it was windy and kept blowing off), and then it was weird to have to say good night and good bye to him as he went to sleep on the ground and I went to sleep on the van bench--almost like we'd been on a date and he had to go home now.
Neither of us slept much, as you can imagine.