Saturday, October 26, 2013

Camping at Ft. Ebey (Whidbey Island, WA)

With the less than desirable events of our Cape Lookout overnighter the middle of July, Jared and I were trying to figure out what we could do to improve our situation for our family camping trip to Whidbey Island just six weeks later...a solution that didn't involve purchasing or borrowing a camper or hauling trailer!

It was Jared who came up with the new sleeping arrangements. Jake and Cooper would still sleep in their two man tent. We would need to take out the car seats from the third row so we could lift and fold the seats up creating more cargo space and we would put Karcyn and Calvin in the back of the suburban. They're tiny. They would totally fit. That would free up room for us to put the pack 'n play in our tent for JJ to sleep in. Jared theorized that perhaps JJ didn't sleep well at Cape Lookout this year because he didn't have the security of his crib.

The only problem is that we are already packed to the gills on an overnight camp out, let alone a three nighter and forget finding space for the pack 'n play. Jared mulled it over and found some smaller mummy sleeping bags for Cooper, Karcyn and Calvin. They were much more compact than our old ones and while I was extremely skeptical that they would free up "that much space" to allow room for the pack 'n play in our car topper....we indeed had the room! Amazingly, we did really well on space everywhere.

Although, as we stood back and assessed our packing job, I believe Jared's description was something along the lines of it being "like a bad game of Tetris" trying to get it all in and make sure we didn't forget anything. But we did it! We had already planned to purchase wood when we arrived since that was an easy enough thing to do. This was also running under the assumption there wasn't a "fire ban" at the camp site as there had been a couple weeks prior. That would be bad...we've camped like that before and we decided that camping without a camp fire isn't really camping (or much fun)!

Our day of departure was on Monday, August 26th. We would be up there for three nights and drive back Thursday morning. We had originally scheduled the trip for the previous week going up on Wednesday and coming back on Saturday. BUT...the one class that Cooper wanted to take again this summer (acting on stage) was that very week. So we pushed it back. [Here's Cooper--the only male class participant--with his acting teacher--British actor/singer Steven Beckingham. Steven is a graduate of Pacific University where Jared studied and has also made a cameo appearance on NBC's "GRIMM" and TNT's "Leverage" both of which are filmed here in Portland among other impressive theater experiences in New York City and London.]

We're grateful we followed our parental senses and rearranged our schedule because a week before our trip Jake was invited to join the high school marching band (as an 8th grader) and band camp was being held the exact same week we were originally going to go. Yay for scheduling miracles! As it turned out, Jake did have band practice the Tuesday night that we were gone, but we (including the band director) could live with that since we'd be back in time for him to go to his Thursday night practice from 6-9pm.

I did not realize until it was too late, that leaving for a trip (and a camping trip no less) on a MONDAY, was a big mistake. Because we observe Sunday as the Sabbath day and don't do anything but attend church and other Sabbath appropriate activities, there were things I couldn't do until super early Monday morning because they couldn't be done Sunday and Saturday would have been too early (like making lunches and packing the car, for example). So I made a mental note. No leaving on Mondays!

Jared and I were up at 5am to fill up the car with gas, return the on-call phone to the office, pack lunches, pack the cooler, make a waffle breakfast, tidy up the house, load the car, etc. We had a goal to be out of the house by 9am and it was 9:07. Not too shabby!!

I decided to use the blogging pattern my friend Kelly does with many of her family posts. She lists the "things that worked" and then the "things that didn't work." And in this case, I think it will totally work!

DAY 1:
*Listening to "Peter and the Star Catchers" on CD. I was reading the book to the kids, but thought we'd make better progress listening to it instead. Everyone LOVED this. Jim Dale's narration was amazing! I highly recommend it.
*Taking Highway 30 and avoiding morning traffic through Portland.
*Eating sack lunches on the way up.
*The beautiful weather!
*The ferry ride to Whidbey Island!

*Arriving at Ft. Ebey campground at the exact time we could check in.
*Hearing from the Park Service Ranger that campsite #38 was a great campsite.
*Finding that our campsite was a "corner lot" with an amazing "backyard" and a huge "driveway"!! In addition, it was level, super clean and well groomed.

(All those trees=our backyard!!)

*Being right next to the path leading to the Ft. Ebey gun battery and that the gun battery was a hop, skip and a jump from our campsite (and even closer if you cut through our "backyard").

(Fort Ebey State Park, a 645-acre camping park on Whidbey Island, was originally built as a coastal defense fort in World War II.)

*This view of the inlet when we came out of the gun battery! It was so serene and quiet...well, at least until we showed up!

*The nice man who took a family picture of us sitting in one of the concrete platforms where a gun used to be.

*More views and exploring.


*Finding a "beach" nearby--for a very quick visit! 

*JJ's sippy cup and milk :) 

*Our new expandable, vinyl garbage can with zip top lid (inspired from Scout Camp :)
*The kids making friends with neighbors down the way, Iver and Thora, visiting from Canada.
*Hawaiian Haystacks for dinner!
*Karcyn earning the "Camper of the Day" award (a pink flashlight) for being super helpful, positive and a peacemaker all day long. 
*Having Family Home Evening and reflecting on our 2012-2013 school year scripture theme and then introducing the new one for the upcoming school year...all around the campfire.

*Karcyn and Calvin sleeping in the back of the suburban :)
*JJ's pack 'n play. He fussed, but he couldn't go anywhere so that helped. He slept much better that night...we all did!
*Thinking we lost JJ at the rest stop south of Olympia, when he was just on the sidewalk in front of the burb, out of sight. Holy heart attack!
*Having to pay $10 extra for an over height charge on the ferry because our suburban had a topper.
*Having the area dumpster right by the front of our campsite....until I changed one of JJ's poopy diapers and then this moved to the "things that worked" list!
DAY 2:
*Waking up to warm air and a dry campsite! It was supposed to rain and the weather held!
*Scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast.
*Driving to Anacortes and listening to more of "Peter and the Star Catchers".
*Only being charged one way for the ferry ride.
*Taking the 55 minute ferry ride to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands.



* The "frog game" I purchased from the Dollar Tree to play while on the Ferry. BEST buck I've EVER spent. Jared and Calvin turned out to be quite the froggers! 

*Driving virtually the full length of Orcas Island from one tip to the other to Obstruction Pass State Park and surprised to see how populated it was!

*Hiking .7 miles in to yet another "beach" (more like a small shore) to eat our lunch.

*Calvin spotting a deer a few feet away as we were climbing back into the burb after our hike.

*Making it back to the ferry terminal by the hair of our chinny chin chins (two minutes before boarding) for the return trip. If we had missed that departure, we would have had to wait another three hours for the next ferry!
*Jake, Coop and Calvin having a "frog off" on the ferry and Karcyn coloring quietly.
*Walking along the super high bridge at Deception Pass with the four older kids. Wooo doggie! Don't look down and pray an 18-wheeler doesn't come barreling past you! (There's a reason Jared remained in the car and it wasn't to stay with a sleeping JJ :)

*Playing Frisbee in the "backyard".
*Spaghetti dinner!
*Cooper earning "Camper of the Day."
*JJ actually sleeping again through the night (for the most part...he was a little restless).
*Being swarmed, most literally, by hornets when we sat down to eat our lunch at Obstruction Pass. There were no hornets anywhere and as soon as we started eating, they were everywhere. It's like they materialized out of the air. They were in our hair, around our heads, on our sandwiches, chip bags and juice boxes. The only child under 12 NOT screaming and running around hysterically from the hornets, was Karcyn. I think she started naming them, actually. We were on that "beach" for all of about 4 minutes. Just long enough to find a place to sit, get out our lunches and pack it all up again.
*Calvin tripping on the hike back and screaming and crying the whole time. Concurrently...someone musing that this will make a such a great memory some day.
*Losing a red frog piece on the ferry, only to find it 20 minutes later sitting in the hood of JJ's red jacket!
*Finding out from other campers that there had been a pod of whales out in the inlet the week before...the week we were originally going to be there.
*Feeling raindrops after dinner. It was just spitting so we stashed our camp chairs and rubber tubs under the picnic table, secured the rest in the burb and sent everyone to bed around 8pm.
*Hearing the rain on the tent all.night.long (but still grateful it held until after our trip to the San Juan Islands).
DAY 3:
*Jared and I both feeling that we needed to pack up and go home that morning. Obviously, living in the northwest, you can't let a little rain deter you. And we didn't. The weather forecast had indicated it would rain all three days we were camping. But we went anyway. That being said, the only shelter we have is our car, really. Our tent was too cramped for everyone and was taking on water. Our picnic table was too wet to sit on. Just about all the other campers in the campground either had a big waterproof canopy shelter OR a camper/trailer and if we did too, we would have certainly stayed.
*Instant oatmeal and muffins for breakfast.
*Jake being a huge help getting tents down and taking the little kids for a walk while we loaded.

*The kids being supportive of our decision to leave early.
*Sharing our firewood with other campers.
*Telling Iver and Thora that they could use our campsite and backyard to play in because we had already paid for another day.
*The quick ferry ride back to mainland Washington.
*Finishing "Peter and the Shadow Thieves"!
*Jake drawing the characters from "Blues Clues" for JJ in the car (and earning the "Camper of the Day" award).
*Getting home SAFELY and in time for Jake to make the boating/tubing activity on Hagg Lake that he thought he was going to miss.
*French toast for dinner because we couldn't do it for breakfast.
*Realizing that if we left on Thursday morning like we had planned, Jake would have been late for his band practice that got moved from 6pm to 4pm. (Every minute counts in the beginning!)
*Having a recovery day before Jared went back to work on Friday.
*Our unwanted "water bed" in the tent.
*Having the sun come out 20 minutes south of our campground while on the ferry.
*Spending $40 at McDonalds for lunch. Good grief!
Our family is so blessed. The camping trips we've gone on "sight unseen" have been so amazing and fun. Everywhere we go is the perfect spot and this year it was the Ft. Ebey campground on Whidbey Island. We would go there again in a heartbeat and get that exact same camp site! It was such a thrill to see a beautiful part of the northwest that many don't get to experience. Next time we'll have to visit another one of the San Juan Islands and hopefully...without the hornets!