Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rocky Gap State Park

With Columbus Day weekend apparently being the traditional bye week for the soccer clubs around here, we planned our almost-annual fall camping trip for that weekend.  Of course the weekend before we went the temps were almost 90 degrees, and the weekend after shaped up to be in the mid 60s.  The weekend we went camping was full of rain!  But, Theo's enthusiasm for the whole trip kept away any blues and we had a great time.

It seemed most of the campsites around us were totally booked up, and the Shenandoah National Park where I really wanted to camp was closed with the government shut down, so we had to go about 150 miles northeast to find an open site that allowed pets.  We found Rocky Gap State Park open, and ended up booking a campsite there.  We often go near here when driving home, and even spent some extra time in the area which is near Cumberland back on our 5th anniversary, and it always seems to be a charming area in the rolling hills.

The state park itself includes a campground, trails, golf course, a resort and casino surrounding a large lake.  This would be a nice place to come in the summer with it's beautiful lakeside beaches.  In the fall, the park, and the hills around it are beautiful with fall foliage.
 On the way there, we got to discuss fog quite a bit.  We have been talking about the water cycle lately, so I loved that we got some real life experience with the elusive fog.  When we got to the campsite and checked in (buying wood for $6 a bundle), it was drizzling and pretty much kept sprinkling for most of the night.  We got there right after sunset.  We ate the chili we had brought, put on layers, and went to bed.

Theo of course slept like a rock, despite getting quite wet on the edge of the tent.  Eli and I were completely dry, so I felt pretty bad Theo's sleeping bag was soaked, but he never said a word and it didn't seem to bother him.  We decided to head out and get a screen tent, which we put over the tent the next night.  We stayed completely dry the next night.

On Saturday, we took a chance and started hiking in the afternoon.  We stayed dry the whole time (a few hours) as we traipsed through the woods, partly up the mountain, and then around the lake.  We started from our loop in Dogwood onto the Rocky Trail.

Of course there was lots of rock climbing...
 plant and tree identification...
 and discussing the difference between moss...

and algae.
And between coniferous and deciduous trees.
 We sang several (probably 20) verses of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" based on whatever obstacles we ran into.  This was actually quite fun.
 And Theo kept busy looking for all the green triangles that marked the path.
 We all had a great time!

 Then we found the shortcut to the Lakeside Loop, and started back toward the campsites.  Little Eli took a nice long nap during this part of the hike.

 But he woke up when dada and brother were working on skipping rocks in the lake.

 These were daddy's ripples.
 These were Theo's.
 Our pup loves hiking more than just about anything else she gets to do.  We figured we haven't taken any photos of just her since before Theo was born, so we snapped a few portraits of her.
 And then some of mama and the boys.

 We were so surprised to find a whole family of beavers out for a swim in the lake.  There were about six of them just out swimming in the lake.  We watched them for at least ten minutes.  Another hiker let their dog swim with them, and the beavers would slap their large, strong tails against the water to warn him when he was too close.  This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.
 We also saw one of my favorite birds, mallards (and also lots of deer).

When we got back to the campsite Theo finally got to help dada build a fire.  It took awhile, even for my Eagle scout hubby, due to the dampness, but eventually he got it going.  And we enjoyed our night around the campfire (though Theo did end up with a recurring nightmare about starting marshmallows on fire).

Our tent is just about too small for us.  We're going to need to invest in a larger one pretty soon.  This was the last photo before we packed up camp.  In the rain.  And then found out when we were ready to leave that our car battery was dead!  (Apparently, we had the lift gate up too much.)  Luckily, we called a ranger and they were able to jump us right away.  In addition to the great staff on hand, the bathrooms were also great with family bathrooms and hot, free showers.  And large sinks for washing dishes (my least favorite part of camping- cold water and maple syrup don't work well!)
We had left some activities for Sunday that would be okay in the rain.  First we headed to the aviary to check out the birds.  Theo found a bald eagle for his grandpa E.  And I learned that barred owls are my favorite types of owls.  They are SOOOO adorable.
 There is also a small activity course set up beside the aviary.  It was perfect for our preschooler to learn a little more about birds in a fun way.
 We then headed over to the nature center to let the boys do some more hands-on exploring. 
 The center was open for a few hours in the middle of the day, and is located right next to the gift shop.  The gift shop was pretty emptied out since it is the end of the season.
 There were several animals inside for Theo to watch. He's really into snakes lately.
 Eli got to get hands on with some animals too.
 Touch boxes are always one of my favorite things!  I loved these when I was a kid.
 Eli loved the rain stick.  He's our musical boy for sure.
 Afterward we drove over to the other side of the park, and went on the two easy hikes overlooking the canyon and lake.
 We couldn't take the stroller on this one, but it was just a short trek back to a great view.

 And we ended by taking a short hike back the Touch of Nature trail, with umbrellas in hand.
We would definitely recommend this park as a great place to visit and camp.  After we left, we headed to an ice creamery in Cumberland before heading back home.


Shannon E said...

I forgot to mention every time we stopped to take a photo of a trail sign, T just had to trace and name every letter. In every word. I think it was his way of getting to take more breaks.

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