Monday, December 2, 2013

Little House In the Woods-Part 1

    We did it. We went on vacation over Thanksgiving and guess what?? It was NORMAL! Nothing died, no one got hurt, no one did anything too weird. We actually have had our first family adventure without incident. No one is more surprised than us….believe me!
     Without a doubt we can be adventure seekers. We love to give our kids educational life experiences they can learn from….mature with, which they then carry with them into adulthood. Important. This year for Thanksgiving we were family 'light'. Our big kids and their kiddos were celebrating with the other 'sides' (we rotate every other year), so we decided to travel for this holiday…something we have never done because we are suckers for traditions too.
     About a year ago we booked campsites at one of Florida's most heralded state parks, Anastasia State Park. You have to book a site 11 months in advance to camp here as it's 4 miles of condo free, natural dune, island beachfront campground right on the Atlantic Ocean near St. Augustine. To date we had camped with the littles only at Disney's Ft. Wilderness several times….but had yet to venture out into 'real roughing it'. We are tent campers (none of that fancy, schmancy RV stuff for us…no sir…if we do this we're going all out and sleeping on the ground!) Our brother/sister in law and nephews would be joining us so it was sure to be a Thanksgiving remembered.
     We got ready for DAYS ahead…then discovered it was to be record breaking low temps AND almost gale force winds the 5 days we were there. Oh goody. No turning back for us….we went armed with down comforters, heaters and jackets taunting those 36 degree temps to try and break us. The activities we had planned to do (oh, you know….swimming, fishing, kayaking, sailing) had to be replaced and/or altered. No problem as you will see from the pics. Our girls have ginormous imaginations….it's awesome. They adapt easily and are superb travelers. Not doubt they would make Laura Ingalls proud with their pioneer spirit.
    This state park is divided naturally into 4 separate eco-systems. (This is the educational gotta-be-in-there part.) The ocean, the dunes, the salt marsh, and the maritime hammock. You actually set up camp in the maritime hammock (fancy name for woods close to the beach with plant life indigenous to the area.) The park is part of the Florida Birding trail which means it's home to dozens of types of Florida native birds. It also is home to an ancient coquina rock quarry where the Spaniards during the 1500's mined Florida limestone made from compressed shells and used it to build structures in and around St. Augustine….including the famous fort, The Castillio de San Marcos. Pretty amazing to walk the same ground as these did centuries ago.
     Our state park adventure even with limited bathrooms was a huge success. The only snafu we did hit was when another little camper decided to flush her jeans down the toilet rendering our bathrooms with broken pipes. The nearest bathrooms were then….ahem….a 1/2 mile hike away. Yep. We did that…..and laughed…..totally grateful our kid wasn't the flusher.
       We are planning on hitting more parks in the near future as we 'work our way through' the campgrounds of the Florida system learning the history, ecosystems and diversity of each area. Wish we had done this with our big kids! So much of lifelong learning has nothing to do with sitting down and doing worksheets. You gotta get out there and do education live and first hand transferring book knowledge to head knowledge. We love making vacation a learning experience…and we love pictures…if you haven't noticed. What you will notice in these pics is missing family members and nephews. Our sister in law is pregnant (eeeekkkkk! We are beyond excited for a new little one to play with!)….and she was still suffering from morning, day, night sickness. They had to stay behind this time but know they will be with us again as soon as she's feeling better.
The dunes of Anastasia Island…pretty much how the rest of  Florida would look…minus the condos.

Usually it's in the 80's around Thanksgiving. These temps were weird…..but we made it work!

This girl. She's unbelievably smart…..and in her element.

These boots were a smart decision. Mei Mei wears a toddler size 13 shoe….but the smallest boots I could find on almost no notice were Ladies size 5. She clomp, clomp, clomped in these things for 5 days….even riding her bike miles in them. Score!

Seriously. Beautiful.

Yea, that's me. Cold much?

This lighthouse is close to 14 stories tall. Some of us climbed to the tippy top. Breathtaking…..and scary.

A mommy and baby raccoon broke into our hardcore molded plastic bins with tamper proof (!!) lids. They dug to the bottom and only took out the marshmallows (and ate them….those are bite marks) and the entire collection of Hershey bars for s'more making. They left a trail of Hershey wrappers through the woods. All the other food they ignored.

The robbers stole our loot…..then left the trash.

Campfire sister chats. Probably talking about raccoon trapping strategy…..

More morning sister chats. "Hmmmmm, I think you should run over the raccoon with your bike then I will talk him to a slow and painful death." (Because she talks non-stop and those stupid raccoons ate our stash!)

See how all the trees are bent from the coastal winds? So cool. Those girls are pretty cute too!

She was cold….and I had a mile to walk… she and her clompers took a break.

They appeared at dusk nightly….ready for a handout. They didn't get one….they stole all my chocolate dang it!

Paw prints every morning.

Camp. Pioneer 2013 style. See that tent? It's home to a surge protector charging all kinds of electronic gadgets…..two queen-sized 18" air mattresses (better than most beds) , down comforters, and a heater.  I think Daniel Boone would be proud.

They spent hours like this.

Fishing in the Salt Marsh. That's a Southern Flounder. Apparently they don't mind wind….and cold….and being caught.

Wasn't it gorgeous? This is the hammock with miles of trails and beauty.

There are whales here. Who knew? We didn't see any….I think they were cold too.:)

Twirling. Lots and lots of Twirling.

Usually we host both Thanksgiving and Christmas which I LOVE to do. We debated wether or not to do a turkey with all the sides and tote it to camp…..or do take out. Our friends who live near the park suggested this place. It was FABULOUS and The Doc and I had NO clean up AND were not exhausted after. Wow. We may just do this 'going out' thing again!! Mei Mei had spaghetti for Thanksgiving……she's a noodle girl.

When it's freezing out….and your walls are literally made of nylon canvas… may just huddle by your space heater and watch movies in the dark. It's allowed. It's sister time. It was awesome family bonding wearing 2 pair of socks and your coats to bed. Smile.
     Stay tuned for adventures from around the island…...

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