Thursday, November 3, 2016

Birthday with Black Bears in Shenandoah

So after our first two iterations of plans for Thomas's birthday fell through, we decided we would go ahead and take him on his first camping trip before he officially turned 1.  Since it has been such a hot August, Brian insisted we head up to the mountains where it would be cooler.  We left without reservations, but were able to snag a "first come, first serve" campsite at Loft Mountain Campground.  Located around mile 79.5, it is in the southern part of the Shenandoah National Park.  We picked up trail maps when we got there, but I think I'll start printing them from the website next time.

We finally upgraded the little pup tent that Brian bought in college, and got a tent large enough for all five of us (plus the dog).  The boys were pretty excited about setting it up, especially with it's windows and "porch".

 After we were settled in (and some campers told us they had just saw a black bear near our site), we headed out on a nearby trail.  Some other hikers pointed out a bear up in a tree just minutes into the hike.  Doyles River Falls trail was all downhill, until finally hitting the first set of falls.  Due to time, we went ahead and turned back after these falls, though we heard the second set were a lot higher.  The walk back up was a little strenuous, but Elijah completed the hike all on his own two feet and Brian only had to hold the baby (in his new, garage-sale-find carrier).  I encouraged Eli with the promise of a "hiking badge", and the boys saw another bear walking behind when we were separated.  The < 3 miles of trail took us about 2.5 hours.

We then headed back and had some delicious grilled chicken, steamed red potatoes and corn on the cob.  Elijah is a huge, HUGE fan of s'mores so we made those as well.

The boys slept like champs that night, though Brian and I were both restless.  Theo was terrified of the bears we'd already seen and heard of earlier in the day, so perhaps that kept me up.  But we all woke up excited to celebrate Thomas's first birthday!

After breakfast we then headed for the Frazier Discover Trail.  We weren't sure to turn left or right upon entering the loop, but we chose left.  It was quite the uphill hike until we finally reached the fabulous views the rangers had told us about.  This one was about an hour and half or less, and 1.2 miles.

We walked out and found the Mobile visitor's center, and the boys got to see some nature artifacts up close.

 Don't tell my third-born, but not only did I not have any gifts for him on his birthday (I finally thought of one the next day), I also forgot his cake so we ended up not having it at the campground but enjoyed it later when we got home.  Poor guy.  He didn't mind though, and he was all about getting as much cake into his mouth as possible.  He loved it, and his brothers were excited to celebrate with him (as long as we all kept our party hats on, and they could blast Kids Bop).

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