I just found out that my brother’s family maintain a blog as well. As usual with things that pertain to my brother, we found out by accident — he hasn’t mentioned it to anyone for the three months since it’s inception.
FYI, their blog overloads the Alpha and Beta identifier for their kids, who are known as Eta and Mu on this blog.
Our southern friends from Connecticut invited us to go camping at Hammonasset Beach State Park with them. They go every year as a big party, with family and friends.
I only recently found out that this is a thing; our neighbors/friends from across the street go up to a campsite in New Hampshire every year to meet with other friends, some of whom they only know from camping.
Our tent [click to see more of our campsite]
This was our first time going camping as a family, ever. I’ve gone deep-woods camping by myself. (No facilities, no roads, no people, no nothing — I’ve never smelled worse than three nights of that.) Meghan had been camping at Pennsic and Gulf Wars during college. (She has stories that amaze.) Beta has been overnight camping (in cabins) as part of Girl Scouts. We’ve all been “camping” in the backyard. This trip was a first for being away from home and trucking everything we would need.
We arrived mid-afternoon and immediately set to pitching our tent, figuring that there could be nothing worse than setting up a tent in the dark when you’re exhausted. Though the tent was new and this was our first time, it went up pretty quickly and cleanly.
Jones’s and Gaileys. The Gailey’s custom campaign tent is in the background; behind are a couple of Hobie Cats that we sailed the next day.
Our friends provided dinner: our traditional Friday night get-together victuals, spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread, only on a Monday. Being experienced campers with a lot more room to pack stuff, they graciously offered to provide dinner for the two nights we were there. After dinner there were s’mores around a communal campfire, where we got to meet the rest of the party — more Gaileys and some family friends.
There were kids of all ages, including a few that were right around Alpha and Beta’s ages. They played boffer swords until dark, then convinced a couple of us adults to play manhunt.
We didn’t tuck into bed until about 10 pm. As the kids washed up some of us gathered around to chat and stargaze, and we were able to point out some satellites going by. The other adults hadn’t known that you could see them so easily. Schwing!
Sleep, for a variety of reasons, was somewhat elusive the first night, except for Alpha who can sleep through pretty much anything.
We started the day with pancakes, eggs, and bacon. The Gaileys possess a propane-fired flattop grill which made cooking a breeze.
Quinn and Sam, sailing to Tahiti
Sam wanted to get the two Hobie Cats they brought along into the water. We got to the beach and set to rigging them, then took ourselves and the kids out for some sails.
We were at the beach for about four hours, and as a group we only got slightly burned — I had planned ahead and coaxed the girls into going to the beach with me for a week leading up to the trip. Meghan got a bit burned across the shoulders, and oddly enough Mu (the junior Gailey) got sunburned on the tops of his feet.
After packing the boats back onto their trailer, we headed back to camp (with a detour into town to get aloe) in order to make dinner. Second night was a communal pot luck, with hot dogs, hamburgers, and a bunch of sides. We got to know the other campers in the party and found that we have a lot in common.
A passing shower gave us a rainbow… over the campsite bathrooms.
The rain, which had been holding off all day, finally came in the form of a few brief showers and a rumble of thunder. I checked the weather radar back home and, wouldn’t you know it, heavy storms were moving through our town. (I love thunderstorms but seem to have a repelling effect on them. Even the strongest storms peter out as they reach our area.)
We took the opportunity to coax the girls into bed a bit earlier, though sleep was still hard to find the second night. Besides possibly being over-tired, the temperature dropped to nearly 50° F so everyone (except me) was cold despite blankets.
We all got up early to a beautiful morning. Meghan and Joanne took a walk back out to the beach to look for some bald eagles we had noticed the day before.
Checkout is 12 pm, and we planned to swing through Noank on the way home to see the folks, so we packed up the campsite right after breakfast (more bacon, eggs, and pancakes, plus sausages) and hung out with the Gaileys until it was time to go.
We bid adieu and headed out right at noon, spent a few hours having lunch and visiting with Mom and Dad Jones, plus Katie Jones and Eta (my niece). We made it home just in time to get Butter out of doggie daycare.
We spent the day with our very good friends Sam and Joanne, and their child who will be identified in this blog as Mu. The kids all grew up together so they enjoy meeting up too.
Alpha didn’t even pause before striding out onto the beam. It swayed but she stuck to it like a gecko.
In our absence, something new sprouted up in Storrs that Sam and Joanne wanted to show us: The Adventure Park. It’s an aerial park – meaning that you spend your time up in the trees. There are several courses of varying difficulty to choose from.
In order to climb, you’re strapped into a harness similar to a rock climber’s, with a couple of integrated carabiners and a zipline pulley. The carabiners can be locked-closed, and are linked via cable. In order to unlock one, you must lock the other, and the mechanism to unlock is built into the safety lines that guide you through the course – so you must always be clipped in. Once you start the course, you cannot get into a situation where you’re not clipped to a guideline or tether until you reach the end — very safe and difficult to screw up accidentally or intentionally.
Alpha looking down for her photograph. I estimates that she was about 40 feet up.
The courses include a mixture of obstacles, ziplines, and lengths of high-wire dare-devilry. The staff is watchful and makes sure everyone is conducting themselves appropriately, as some bits can be a bit challenging. There is one course that, we are told, active-duty Marines have trouble with.
Sadly, I did not bring appropriate footwear. Flip-flops are verboten so I could not climb. The girls scrambled up without a second thought, however, and left me to take photos. I’m very proud of them! They handled themselves with grace, and without fear — even when they were forty or fifty feet off the ground and traversing a span like a tight-rope walker.
Both girls working their way over back-to-back obstacles
The park itself is remarkable. The trees are carefully trussed to hold up platforms and guide-wires with minimal damage — nothing is nailed in, instead the cables are wrapped and tied, and the platforms are help up with wedges to provide friction fits. Their business model works best when people feel comfortable that the space will not be damaged, so nature preserves and landowners will allow them to set up installations confident that the impact will be minimal.
Both girls ran into a bit of trouble right at the very end on some obstacles that were wreaking havoc with everyone else, too — a staff member was already up in the trees, having just helped extract the previous victim, and was on-hand to help. The obstacles were upright-‘L’ shaped logs that didn’t behave well when stepped on. The girls made me proud by keeping their heads, trying to extricate themselves before asking for help, and actively assisted in their rescue (rather than some other people, who just glumly hung there while getting pulled to the next platform).
We stayed and let the kids weave through the courses for a couple of hours, until the shadows started getting long and we had to start planning for dinner on the road. All in all, it was expensive ($70 for the two kids) but well worth it.