We decided to go camping for the week of Thanksgiving this year. This is our story.
We left with the van loaded down to the hilt bound for Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The van was too full for the kids bikes, as we had a surplus of clothes for the impending cold weather. The forecast didn’t show a high for the week over 42 degrees. There wasn’t anything too exciting about the drive other than the destination. We arrived at the fort and called Hayden to meet us at the gate. Because we were pulling a pop up camper, Hayden was a bit concerned about getting through the gate. He rode with me and put his ID on top of the stack to help get us through while Danelle rode with Jennifer and family.
Instead of going directly to their house, we went to the Post Exchange (PX) for lunch. We ate at your standard mall fast food joints. After eating the kids walked around the PX for a bit and had to look at Game Stop. With the obligatory browsing out of the way, we headed to Hayden and Jennifer’s house. We were spending the night in a spare bedroom. While the kids got settled playing with their cousins, Hayden and I took a small tour of the base. He showed me the area that he worked and some of the interesting things on the base. I got to sit inside of a Humvee and other large equipment with crazy armor on it.
Back at the house, there was a turkey baking in the oven. They had decided to move Thanksgiving up a few days to celebrate with us. We had an amazing full dinner with both families with leftovers to spare!
I knew that our time in Fort Campbell would come and go too fast. We had a simple breakfast and the kids played. By around 10 am, Hayden took my whole family plus his kids around the base for an abbreviated tour from the previous day. The kids had a blast looking at equipment on the base!
We finally had to say goodbye and head out on the road. We had a 3 hour drive ahead of us to Fall Creek Falls state park. We needed to get to the campsite and set up our camper before it got too dark. Setting up in the dark is not fun as its colder and hard to see! We arrived at the campsite just before dusk and had the camper set up with about 20 minutes of light to spare. It was time to settle in before a fun week of cold camping!
We had a day trip planned. We didn’t have much food for the trip as we planned to shop for it once we got to the campsite. We opted for a Huddle House for breakfast. It was a few miles in the wrong direction, but worth it for a sure thing during breakfast. There were a few notable things about breakfast. First the food was amazing! Second, when we ordered drinks, the waitress asked if we wanted lids for the kids. I said no, they are big enough and don’t spill anymore. About half way through the meal, Sonora spilled her ice water… And it came across the table and into my lap! It was a cold day for quite some time after that. Lastly, the liked me so much, they monogrammed my waffle!
Back on the road south for our day trip, I had the heat on full blast pointed at me in an attempt to dry my pants before a cold weather hike. I was mostly dry when we got out for the hike. Sonora wasn’t having a good time, and we didn’t even make it 2 miles before she wanted to stop hiking. That isn’t to say the scenery wasn’t amazing, she just doesn’t like hiking that much 🙁
After the short hike, we drove around trying to see more of the town. We ended up in Chattanooga and then a bit further south to Lookout Mountain in Georgia. Being up high again gave us some great views.
Later that night, we did our food shopping at Wal-Mart for the rest of the trip and drove back in the dark. The forecast was calling for rain, and it rained the whole drive back to the campsite. We stayed dry in the camper, but the water hitting the hard roof was a hard sound to ignore!
We went to bed to rain and we woke up to it. The forecast called for a day in the city and that is just what we had planned. We drove to Oak Ridge, TN. There, we started at the International Friendship Bell. It commemorates the relationship between the United States and Japan during the time around World War 2.
After visiting the bell, we went to the American Museum of Science and Energy. The exhibits focused around the creation of the American atomic program during WW2 and the effects of Atomic energy to the world afterwords. There was too much to read with kids that didn’t want to stand still, so we spent equal parts in the intensive reading section as we did in the more interactive parts of the museum. It was a perfect mix with kids. Even reading about the accomplishment, its hard to believe what was done in a short amount of time!
Finally, after the museum, we found a pizza buffet for the kids. This may have been the best part of the trip for them. On the way back to the campsite, we drove slow due to the continuing rain and freezing temperatures with a minor stop at a winery to get some souvenirs.
It was time to explore the wonders of the park that we were camped at. Today was to be a day to explore without leaving the park. As I pulled aside the window covering on the camper, I was faced with a light dusting of snow and more coming down. This was preferable to rain, but it was the coldest day we have faced on the trip!
Or destination was the bottom of a nearly 300 foot waterfall. Lucky for us, the recent rain meant that there would be plenty of water going over the top for us to look at. All we had to do was brave the cold and hike down. This is a look from the top with the snow falling.
As cold as we were, once we started hiking, we warmed up fast. It probably helped that the scenery was so amazing that we didn’t notice much else. I also realized later that we had the snow and cold to thank for having the place to ourselves. We would see later in the week that the park was busy even on Thanksgiving day.
I would guess we spent at least 30 minutes at the bottom exploring and looking back up at what we had just hiked down. On the way back up, the kids found some creative ways to go that made it more exciting for them. I followed to ensure their safety and I’m glad I did as they tried to choose some very risky routes. Back at the top, we took the trail the other direction and got to hike over the streams that were the top of the waterfall. The copper color of the stream gives the bottom of the falls its distinct color.
Thursday 11/27 (Thanksgiving)
This day was meant to hang out in the park as well. We saw the rest of the waterfalls in the park along with several swinging bridges over the falls. It was warmer and sunny. The kids wanted to cut firewood more than anything and this was the day to do it. The kids and I took the van around till we found a spot and located a large log. Before I knew it we were chopping away. It took quite a while of the saw and hatchet, but we got through the log. After carrying the water logged piece of wood back to the van with several other pieces, I decided that it wasn’t enough. I took the rest of the log we were chopping and flipped it end over end about 30 times to the back of the van. Once it was flipped with part of it in the van, I was able to scoot the rest into the van.
We drove back to the campsite with the rear hatch open because wood was sticking out. The rest of the day was spent chopping on the log to get it fire ready.
Keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition, we had Turkey chili for dinner with a large fire and cobbler.
This was our last full day of camping as we would be leaving early Saturday morning for home. We started by going back to Huddle House for breakfast. They remembered us and the kids got lids on their cups… Then we were on to Rock Island State Park nearby. It wasn’t a far drive and it turned out to be amazing for the kids. We started off near a cotton mill that had interesting old buildings for the kids to look at.
When we got into the park, there were places to scramble on the rocks that the kids enjoyed, and ice cycle waterfalls for Danelle to photograph
We found a very strange contraption attached to the wall. It was like a video game because it took money, but it didn’t have a screen. The gun on it was shaped strange too!
The only drawback to the whole day was that I fell. In the process, I seriously sprained my pointer finger. I’m writing this 5 months later and it is still painful.
This family photo sums up how amazing the week of camping has been for all of us!
As much as we didn’t want to go, we were ready to leave. We were packed and on the road before 9am head back for St. Louis. We stopped for lunch in Nashville at a McDonalds for the kids to go nuts on the play-land. Then another few hours before we made a detour in Metropolis, IL. There, we went to the tourist trap err Superman museum. Its worth a stop for fun, but it is quite a ways into the city before getting to it.