This past weekend, we had the amazing joy of going on an extended family camping trip to Itasca State Park. In all, there were 9 adults and 10 kids present -- our family of six, plus my parents, my sister's family of 7, my brother's family of 3 and my youngest brother.
The gorgeous Elk Lake Group Camp at Itasca State Park
It was an amazing time -- something we used to do multiple times per year before life threw us curveballs and stole away what should have been taking place over the past six years, but hadn't. To me, it was symbolic of a year of jubilee for our family; an event to mark the restoration and healing that has taken place in my family.
We left Thursday evening after work. From our home, it's about a 3.5 hour drive to Itasca State Park. By the time we arrived, the sun was down, and we humored ourselves by driving a little too fast down the windy, hilly, dark forest road that lead to the campsite. When we came over the top of a hill, it looked as though we were plunging into blackness (because our headlights weren't hitting the road beneath us yet), and the girls would all squeal with suspenseful delight. It was great.
Thankfully, the girls had begged and pleaded to camp in JP's $60 hunting camper rather than our $600 Springbar tent (go figure), so we didn't have to pitch a tent in the dark. And we woke up to this:
One of the most entertaining aspects of the trip was watching Silas play/bond with his cousin Isaac. We don't get to spend nearly the amount of time with them that we'd like, so it was fun to have three full days of play time! My other nephew, Christian, was there too, but we saw less of them because they were staying in the park cabins instead of at the campsite. When the three of them were together, it was extra fun to watch!
Isaac & Silas enjoyed playing on/in the shelter most of all
My dad with his sweet setup
Ruby in the glorious morning sunlight
JP and I were the early risers of the trip. On the very first morning, JP let Gideon (the dog) out of the camper while he got ready to sneak out without waking the kids. When he came out of the camper, he found Gideon with a nose full of porcupine quills! That poor dog! We did our best to get as many out as we could, but it was so painful for him -- and he is SO STRONG -- that even JP and I together couldn't hold him down to finish the job.
We ended up having to find a local vet who gave him some tranquilizers, removed the quills and gave him a shot of antibiotics. Then, because he was so "out of it," Gideon pooped in the car on the way home. What a morning! That poor, poor, dog...he was so scared and confused. It's hard to tell from this photo, but he was so dizzy and wobbly that he couldn't even hold his head upright. He was back to normal by later that afternoon.
Later the next morning, we took a walk down a nearby path to Itasca's record red pine. It was such a picturesque morning, and all of the kids were being such great little models for me. :)
Rosie & Ruby pose at my request in front of this breathtaking background
All four kids looking at the same time!
Isaac ponders whether we have lead him down the right path
Seriously? So beautiful.
Rae with the record red pine
Joe & Isaac with the record red pine
Silas...tree hugger! (My favorite picture from the trip!)
Back at the camp, there was another short path that lead down the hill where we were camping to Elk Lake. Mom and I hiked down there with Rosie & Ruby that afternoon.
Back at the camp...
Joe contemplates more ways to be awesome
Rosie, my silly girl
Silas leaf bombs Isaac
Rosie jumps into the leaf pile
The next day, we were headed to see the Mississippi headwaters when we were diverted by an accident in the one-way road. We detoured to the fire tower trail, which turned out to be a gorgeous hike, albeit a little long for small companions.
My brother, Nathan
The forest was absolutely on FIRE! Nate was serenading us on his harmonica during our hike.
Joe, Becky, Isaac & baby #2!
The 100 ft. fire tower
My love...we are still smiling because we haven't climbed the tower yet.
It was a long way up! Eh, Mom & Becky?
My sweetie girls at the top of the fire tower. What champs!
View from the top
Becky, Isaac & Joe at the top
My look-alikes. JP carried at least one child all the way to the tower, up the tower, and back.
My adorable mother, whom I love!
Just seeing my whole family together fills my heart to the top!
After the fire tower, we continued to the Mississippi headwaters only to find it PACKED with tourists. The rest of the family went all the way in, but JP and I opted to skip that part since it was so crowded and the kids were getting super hungry. We waited for them back at camp.
2 of my sister's girls, Chloe & Ruthie
Christian playing in the leaves
Ruthie, Rosie & Chloe