30 Oct

RVFTA #60: Fall Rally Roundup!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about the fun times had by all at the RVFTA 2015 Fall Rally.

We spent last weekend hanging at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA with an awesome group of podcast listeners.

Hayrides, fishing, canoeing, pumpkin painting, trick or treating…and plenty of yummy food! We will touch on all the highlights and get you excited for the 2016 Spring Rally just around the corner.

You will also hear Stephanie interview three fall rally attendees–Chris, Laura, and Phil–who share a few tricks for making your next camping trip a bit more special.

Plus, we will spend a bit of time discussing a recurring topic in our email from listeners. Should we be aiming for a more secluded campground experience? Is boondocking really better? Watch out folks, we are stepping up on the soapbox and opining away.

You might think you can wait until April to join our rally fun. But we here at RVFTA believe in booking campsites early and often. You are listening to Episode #60: RVFTA Fall Rally Roundup!

 

 

Play
15 Sep

6 Quick Tips for Enjoying America’s Largest RV Show in Hershey, PA

America’s Largest RV Show is rolling into Hershey, Pennsylvania this coming Wednesday through Sunday, September 16th-20th.  What should you expect to find there? Over 33 football fields of RV’s, many of which are brandy new 2016 models.  The PRVCA promises that “virtually every manufacturer and model” will be there. RV Family Travel Atlas will be there, too.

But more on that later.

First we wanted to give you six quick tips to help you get the most out of the show.

1. Know before you go…

With over a thousand RVs on display, shopping can get overwhelming. Do some advance research and narrow down your options.  Do you want a fifth wheel or a travel trailer? A Class A or a Class C? Brand X or Brand Y? Try to know before you go. Shoppers who show up clueless can end up with some seriously expensive buyer’s remorse.

2.  Search by manufacturer and talk to the manufacturers…

The good folks that run the Hershey show do shoppers a favor by grouping manufacturers together.  If you are looking for a rig made by brand X then they will all be in one place.  Sounds like common sense, right? Well, most RV shows place the various dealers of brand X all over the floor.

If you have important questions about a certain model we also strongly recommend that you ask a manufacturer’s representative for help instead of a salesman. They will be much more knowledgable and less pressuring. The manufacturers rep is an expert about his or her brand. The salesperson may be responsible for selling 10 different brands at his or her home dealership.

3. Don’t be pressured into making a major financial decision…

We are big believers in walking away from a purchase if you don’t think things are going your way. RV show prices are very good, but don’t think that you can only get “the show price” once a year at Hershey.  There are tons of shows throughout the winter, and if you know your stuff you should be able to get that show price at the dealership after the show is over.  Just remember that it is your money and you are in control.

4. Bring your own water, snacks, and maybe even lunch…

Food options at an RV show are going to be limited, somewhat expensive, and for the most part, unhealthy. Consider bringing your own favorite snacks and even packing lunch. You will also be doing lots of walking so bring your own water.  Put the money you save towards a shiny new rig.

5. Attend a great seminar (or two, or three)…

Your admission fee also includes free access to over 25 great seminars. RV Safety guru Walter Cannon is going to be at the show and everyone should be required to attend his seminars on “RV Weight and Tire Safety” and “Properly Matching Trucks to Fifth Wheels/Trailers.”  When it comes to RV safety, Walter is a master teacher.

Looking for travel inspiration from a tried and true road warrior whose been everywhere and seen everything?  Check out one of John Holod’s visually stunning seminars on Route 66, Alaska, or the Rocky Mountains.

6. Stop by the Progressive RV and say hello to RVFTA!

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We are thrilled to be special guests on “Flo’s Road Trip.”  We will be hanging out at the Progressive RV located right outside the entrance to the Giant Center. Why should you stop by and say hello? Because RV shopping at a show can get stressful…but “Flo’s Road Trip” is just plain fun.

We would also love to meet you and help you navigate the show! While you’re hanging with us, you can also win some cool prizes at Flo’s 19th Hole and have a “Floto” taken on a green screen with a scenic backdrop.

We love RV shows almost as much as we love our readers and podcast listeners. We couldn’t be more excited to be working for Progressive during the Hershey show–and we couldn’t be more excited to meet some of you!

Hope to see you at the show!

We’ve partnered with Progressive for America’s Largest RV Show, but these thoughts and ideas are our own. See you at the show!

25 Oct

RV Family Travel Atlas: 6 Epic Camping Fails

In this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we discuss the six worst things that have ever happened to us while we were traveling with our camper. We also share on the lessons learned, so maybe you can avoid the same mistakes.

Our campground review focuses on one of our family’s favorite places: Philadelphia/West Chester KOA in the beautiful Brandywine Valley. It was our first time enjoying a Halloween weekend at a campground, and we had a blast.

Plus, we announce our first podcast giveaway!!!!

All this and more, on Episode 6 of RV Family Travel Atlas…

Play
21 Oct

Happy Halloween, From the Philadelphia/ West Chester KOA

Our friends often ask us if we really think weekend RV trips are worth the work. We tell them that getting on the road on a Friday afternoon may require some extra effort, but it is worth it every time.  Why?  Because of magical weekends like the one we just spent at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA.  Weekends that are filled with action and adventure and relaxation.  Weekends that bring our family closer together, and leave us dreaming about our next trip.

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Over the last four years, the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA has become one of our family’s favorite places for a weekend getaway.  The campground is less than two hours from home, but it feels like it’s a world away.  It is nestled among gently rolling hills in the heart of southeastern Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley.  In the past we have always visited in the spring, when the countryside is bright green and in full bloom.  But this fall we decided to join owners Gary and Lori Levesque for one of their popular, activity-filled Halloween weekends.  Between the spectacular fall foliage and the campground Trick or Treating, we may have just discovered our next great family tradition.

The fun started right away on Friday night with a flashlight hayride.

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And continued all day Saturday with pumpkin painting in the Liberty Lodge.

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We really enjoyed watching the boys take their time and craft their individual pumpkin masterpieces. Even Wesley, our 18 month old, joined in on the action.  But the real magic happened when the pumpkins were placed together to dry for that evening’s festive Halloween party.

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The highlight of the weekend for our twin five year old boys, Max and Theo, was Trick or Treating around the campground. The cabins and RV’s were decorated with lights, pumpkins, cobwebs, ghosts, and skeletons, and it was so easy for the boys to collect their buckets of loot as we meandered through the campground at sunset during a perfect fall evening.

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After the boys filled their buckets with candy we all headed to the Liberty Lodge for pumpkin pie and spooktacular live music.  The band played ghoulish party hits like the Monster Mash and Werewolves of London, then a rousing version of the Hokey Pokey that had everyone on the dance floor.  When we returned to the camper the boys were exhausted and fell asleep the second their heads hit their pillows.  Then it was date night for mom and dad around the campfire.  For us, weekends don’t get much better than this.

But it wasn’t all Halloween all of the time. This KOA is located along the banks of the Brandywine River and it is a perfect place for families to fish, kayak, or canoe.  The campground rents canoes at a reasonable price, but this time we brought our own kayak and the adults took turns enjoying the quiet beauty of an autumn afternoon.

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Yes, the campground is beautiful, but one of the reasons we love this destination so much is its close proximity to wonderful, family-friendly attractions like Longwood Gardens and Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, two amazing trips guaranteed to delight no matter your age.

Longwood Gardens is the former home of Pierre S. DuPont, and is truly one of our country’s great horticultural treasures. Although the Flower Garden Walk is always spectacular, the highlight for us is the magical Indoor Children’s Garden.  Our boys love to get wet in one of the many whimsical fountains and then run through the bamboo maze and bang on the xylophones at the music station.  If you go, make sure to bring towels and extra clothes for the kids! Also bring a picnic lunch to eat while you watch the Open Air Theater Fountain Show just outside the Conservatory.

Longwood Gardens

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Winterthur was founded by Henry Francis du Pont and is filled with rolling meadows, sparkling green woodlands, and secret gardens that will surprise and delight your entire family.  No signs saying “keep off the grass” found here.  Only room to run free. Again, there is plenty of horticultural interest, but our boys spent most of their time in the Enchanted Woods where fairy houses, tea rooms, mushroom gardens, and giant birds’ nests kept them spellbound for hours. An added bonus is that the gourmet cafeteria is actually very kid-friendly and affordable, offering delicious comfort foods that will please everyone.

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So as you can see, we love our weekend adventures.  But are they worth it for your family?  We encourage you to hit the road and find out.

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To learn more about the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA tune in to the upcoming episode of our podcast RV FAMILY TRAVEL ATLAS, available here on the blog and on iTunes.

We are repeat customers of this campground, but this trip was sponsored by Kampgrounds of America.  As always, all opinions expressed are our own.

16 Jun

Celebrating Mom and Supporting KOA’s Care Camps

This article originally appeared in the Jayco Journal.

When you own an RV, planning your next family adventure is always part of the fun.  But should you go somewhere new or return to a place that you love? Our family has camped in eight different states, and we hope to travel to all fifty.  So whenever we hit the road with our White Hawk, we usually prefer exploring new destinations. However, there are certain campgrounds that call us back again and again.  The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is one of those special places.  It is the home of our family’s favorite camping tradition.  Here’s why:

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1. It is a perfect place to spend Mother’s Day weekend. This KOA, which is owned and operated by Gary and Lori Levesque, is a wonderful setting for spending quality time together while celebrating Mom.  They have a shady playground, an open field for sports, a gem mining station, and a miniature golf course.  But most importantly, the idyllic Brandywine River meanders across the southwest side of the property.  This river is perfect for fishing with little kids or for taking mom on a long Mother’s Day canoe ride.  The banks of this historic river are filled with red-winged blackbirds and American golden finches, and the water is usually crystal clear and perfect for a brisk swim.  The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is close enough for a weekend getaway–but once we dip our oars into the Brandywine we feel like we are a world away from home.

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2. We love supporting KOA’s Care Camps charity.  Mother’s Day weekend always coincides with KOA’s Care Camps weekend.  Four years ago we came for the free night of camping, but now we return to support this inspiring charity.  Each spring participating KOA campgrounds and their campers raise money to “send children with cancer to medically supervised camps where they have a great time in the great outdoors.”  Pretty easy to get behind that cause, right?  It was for us.  The Care Camps charity began in 1984 when donations for six camps totaled $7,100.  This year $800,000 was raised to support 52 different camps across the country.  The Levesques helped raise money by, among other things, selling Care Camps t-shirts and throwing an ice cream social with live music at their Liberty Lodge.  We did our part by polishing off some of that tasty ice cream and leaving with a bag full of new t-shirts.  This charitable aspect of our family tradition gives us an opportunity to teach our boys that they can help others and have fun doing it.

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3. Longwood Gardens is a hop, a skip, and a jump away.  You could spend the entire weekend right on the grounds of this delightful KOA, but then you would miss Longwood Gardens, which is a short drive away from the campground and makes for a perfect day trip. It is the former home of Pierre S. DuPont, and is truly one of our country’s great horticultural treasures. The highlight for us is always the magical Indoor Children’s Garden.  Our boys love to get wet in one of the many kid-friendly fountains and then run through the bamboo maze and bang on the xylophones at the music station.  Mom and Dad have wizened up over the years and now we make sure to bring towels and extra clothes for the kids.  When a camping destination becomes a family tradition you are given the opportunity to perfect your approach–and we definitely have more fun each year during Care Camps weekend.

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4. It’s a great place to bring family and friends.  We are big believers in sharing the joy of RVing with our friends and extended family, and we also believe in letting our favorite family traditions grow and change.  The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is one of those super friendly campgrounds that has a very welcoming atmosphere.  So this year we brought Max and Theo’s godmother along and she contributed to the trip in spades.  When our twins found out that she was coming, they told her that she would have to be on best behavior while at the campground.  I’m happy to report that she was.  She made sausages for dinner, read the boys books before bedtime, and started up a baseball game right in front of our campsite.  She threw all strikes.  We definitely plan on saving her a bunk for next year’s trip.

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Are you hoping to start a new family camping tradition?  If so, find a campground that your family will love returning to for generations to come.  Why not try a KOA during Care Camps weekend?  Your family will help raise money for a worthy cause and you’ll get to celebrate Mom, everyone’s favorite camper.  Take her out for an invigorating hike and a canoe ride on a sparkling river.  Instead of buying her a bouquet, surround her with gardens of beautiful flowers.  She won’t miss brunch a bit.

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18 May

Hank’s Place: Perfecting the Family Restaurant in Chadds Ford, PA

We have returned to the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA every May for the last four years. It may be hard to believe that in all of those trips we have never once had a meal out. There was that first year when we bought some extremely overpriced sandwiches at Longwood Gardens (a mistake never repeated). And then there was the time when we still had our pop up camper,  and it started to rain buckets at dinner time. We ordered pizza delivered to the campsite (seriously, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it–beats grilling in a downpour any day). So sandwiches and pizza, but never a proper sit down at any of the area eateries.

Well, there is something about perfect spring weather that always makes me want to laze around at a restaurant and be served a fantastic meal. So after we had enjoyed a beautiful morning canoeing on the Brandywine River, I just couldn’t help myself. We were supposed to be headed home, but instead we headed out to lunch.

Where to go? We consulted one of our favorite resources: the 36 Hours column from the New York Times.  36 Hours in the Brandywine Valley suggested a few lunch options, but we needed a place that wasn’t serving a Mother’s Day brunch and that sounded like we could bring in three kids without crushing the souls of our fellow diners.

Hank’s Place delivered on all fronts.

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It is definitely a locals’ joint, and it took us by surprise that there is no waiting list to put your name on…just a front of the house guy who ‘remembers’ party numbers and shouts them out to the crowd on the front porch.

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Nevertheless, we sat in under 15 minutes, a minor miracle on a holiday weekend.

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Let’s cut to the chase: the service was wonderful, and the food was exceptional. The sign advertises Homestyle Cooking and that is what we got. Max and Theo got their tuna and turkey sandwich standbys. Wes scarfed down the homemade mac and cheese (with help from some adults at the table).

 

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My friend Jessie and I were lucky enough to enjoy the spanakopita, which was quite honestly some of the best I have tasted (and I have traveled in Greece a bit).

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Jeremy raved about the tzatziki sauce on his Gyro. I, unfortunately, have to go by word of mouth, since I didn’t get even a bite.

We arrived home later than usual on Sunday due to our spontaneous mid day hunt for the perfect lunch. It was worth it though. I have a feeling Hanks’ Place will become a fixture on our West Chester weekends. Actually, I know it will…because I will be craving that spanakopita until next May.

 

13 May

Big News, Folks: The Lively Little Campers Are Writing for the Jayco Journal!

The Lively Little Campers just spent another beautiful Mother’s Day weekend at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA, where we enjoyed some annual family traditions and also discovered some new regional treasures.

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For those of you following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you got a sneak peak at the fun we had during our fourth stay in this beautiful area.

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Normally we would be telling you all about it in our blog posts this week. But this time, we have to keep some things under wraps.  Why, you may ask?

Well, let us tell you…

We are so excited to announce that we will be sharing our story of this past weekend on the Jayco Journal! For those of you not in the know, Jayco is the nation’s largest family-owned and operated manufacturer of RVs. They have just launched a new website, and we are thrilled to be contributing content to their blog.

We bought our White Hawk two years ago and have spent 75 nights camping in it. We absolutely love it, and we also love Jayco’s Brand Promise, Generations of Family Fun. You can check out this video on YouTube to learn more about it. If you want the whole story, the longer version is (of course) our personal favorite. After watching it, you will definitely want to get on the road and create new and exciting memories with your own family.

Our first article on the Jayco Journal will be posted toward the end of May. We will be sharing a bit more about how we became a Jayco family, along with articles on building family traditions and finding great family activities no matter where you are traveling. Follow the Journal throughout the month of June to read all of our articles.

And remember to subscribe to our eNewsletter. In addition to receiving a weekly email with great tips for family travel, you will also get the first announcement when our stories are up on the Jayco Journal.

And as always, thanks for joining us on this amazing adventure!

17 May

The Art of Outdoor Hospitality: An Interview with KOA CEO

An Interview With Jim Rogers

Chairmen/CEO of Kampgrounds of America

This past weekend the Lively Little Campers enjoyed a magical stay at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA.  Our weekend adventure was memorable for a variety of reasons: firstly, it was mother’s day and the staff made Max and Theo’s mom feel special with a complimentary breakfast and tulips hand delivered by the owner. Secondly, the campground itself was beautiful and our visit was jam packed with excitement and activities.  There was live music, hayrides, an ice cream social, a visit to Longwood Gardens, and canoeing along the lush and sparkling Brandywine River.
But this visit was made even more special because this past weekend was KOA’s 9th annual “Come Camp and Care With Us Weekend,”  and we were able to help raise funds for “a group of 43 specialized summer camps located throughout North America.”  These camps “provide a true summer camp experience for children with cancer and their siblings.”  During these “Camp and Care” weekends participating KOA’s generously offer a free night of camping with one paid night.

My family was touched by this charity event and we wanted to find out more about KOA’s Care Camps so we called their company headquarters in Billings, Montana.  We were surprised and delighted to receive a call back from their CEO Jim Rogers who graciously answered some questions for our readers.  He proved to be a passionate and articulate advocate for the Care Camps and for the art of, as he called it, “outdoor hospitality.”

Jim informed me that the KOA owner’s association has actually been involved with fundraising for these special camps for “about 40 years” and that their efforts “have been grassroots all the way.”  Each campground owner raises the money in different ways but they all have “taken the charity to heart” and have shown great passion for the Care Camps.  Jim was proud to say that the Camp and Care weekends raise approximately “350,000 to 400,000 dollars a year” and that he is hoping to push that number even higher in the future to help some of these camps update and improve their facilities.
After the money is raised it is given out in the form of grants that range from “2,000 dollars to 18,000 dollars per camp” depending on each organization’s individual needs.  According to Jim, they “are indeed specialized camps with doctors and nurses and highly specialized facilities.”  He described one in Montana “that is absolutely exquisite: with dorms, Olympic swimming pools, and arts and crafts studios.”  The overall mission of the camps is to provide an empowering outdoor experience for “children who have cancer or for children who are recovering from cancer.”  The testimonials on the Care Camp’s website make for very emotional reading.  Please take a moment to read them and consider making a donation here.
While I had Jim on the phone I also asked him some questions about the KOA brand and about his job as CEO.  When I asked him about what makes the KOA camping experience unique he was quick to answer, “it’s the service, the yellow shirt, the owners who recognize their customers, the friendly people who drive you to your site and help you set up.”
When I asked him about the favorite part of his job as CEO he said that he “takes great pride in knowing that we are helping small businesses become successful across American” and that “these small businesses can bring this country back.”  He also stressed that “Americans need to get outdoors and KOA makes it easy because they have options for tent campers, RVer’s, and those that prefer luxury cabins.”  Jim also loves “helping visitors enjoy the freedom of travel” and he “loves helping them spend family time outdoors.”
We had a great time talking with Jim and we couldn’t agree with him more.  The Lively Little Campers have had memorable vacations at KOA’s from Bar Harbor, Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and several others in-between.  During each of these visits I have always been left with the impression that KOA is a passionate and unique company.  Now I know why.
14 May

The Best Mother’s Day Yet…West Chester, Pennsylvania

Did I miss brunch?

Not for a minute.

24 May

Claws and Paws (and Puddles, Oh My!) Poconos, Pennsylvania

If it isn’t on there already, add feeding a giraffe to your bucket list. The boys had the opportunity to feed Twiga some carrots last Saturday at the Claws and Paws Zoo in the Poconos. This was a surprisingly awe-inspiring experience. The zoo brags about how close you will get to their animals and they are not exaggerating.

Having a giraffe’s head about a foot away from your face is quite remarkable. I was shocked that the boys both held steady with the carrot grasped in fist while Twiga wagged her tongue around trying to grab it. I thought they might have a fright or at least jump when she slurped the veggie out of their hand. No flinching at all–I was sort of proud. The boys are still talking about it.
And by talking about it, I mean Theo says, “Eat. ‘Raffe. Hungry.”
And Max replies, “Yup.”
The zoo definitely stood out for its confidence in putting only some reinforced chicken wire between visitors and animals such as lions, bears, jaguars.

Honestly, I probably could have reached out and touched the tail of a beaver if I were so inclined (have you ever really, really looked at a beaver tail? It is truly an odd sight).
The boys particularly enjoyed the wide variety of monkeys and apes who seemed much more active and playful than any that I have ever seen before. They have now developed quite a range of monkey noises available for your listening pleasure.

Alas, the zoo also stood out for its puddles. Puddles and puddles of muddy water. Remember how we were worried about water at Bushkill Falls? Silly parents. We should know by now that the real problems are never the ones we anticipate. It rained the entire week before our visit, and there is not one single paved path in the whole zoo.
This fact caused one pregnant woman in a dress and flip flops to proclaim the place ‘uncivilized’ and demand her money back. That same fact caused my sons to gallop with glee through the entire zoo, splashing in every possible mud pool and occasionally performing stunning belly flops.

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At the end of the day, we decided that we just need to start dressing the boys in all-weather gear whenever we venture out in public. We are currently researching our options.

23 May

More About Hiking With Kids (Q&A with Sara Dickerman)

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Sara Dickerman’s insightful articleabout hiking with her son Gus got us pretty darn excited for our first serious hike of the season at Bushkill Falls.  Before heading out on the trail with the twins in tow we decided to ask Sara for a few more words of wisdom about hiking with kids. She kindly obliged…

LLC: What gear is essential to you when hiking with a child?
SD: Well—if you’ve got a child who can walk most of the way on their own, the most important things are lots of snacks and lots of water. They shouldn’t be wholesome good-mom snacks like homemade oat bars or baby carrots—they’ve got to be the kind of things that don’t normally show up on the after-school snack plate—pretzels, jellybeans, if I could figure out a way to get popsicles into the woods I would. Don’t be stingy with them either—dole them out in small quantities, frequently. It’s all part of getting up to speed.
For littler ones, just bring along a carrying pack that works for you. I like the ergo because its so small and packable, but for longer hikes, it’s nice to have the bigger storage and back ventilation of a kelty pack. Make sure to let the little one have some time on his or her feet too, even if the progress is very slow.
LLC: What advice would you give to a parent who is taking their child out for their first serious hike?

SD: Make sure you’ve taken them on a lot of not-so serious walks, ambles, rambles, etc. I Don’t get too hung up on the end goal—just be happy to be together outdoors.  And if there are blueberries, waterfalls, tunnels or caves, so much the better. They will get stronger, and have more endurance, but frequency is going to triumph over big hikes for a long while.

LLC: What other outdoor activities have you tried with your son/daughter?
SD: Gus and Adele and I have done a good bit of cross-country skiing together—Adele’s still gone along for the ride, while he’s learning how to get around on the skis. We’ve tried pond skating, which is one of my all time favorite activities, but we have to travel to find frozen lakes—the Methow Valley is great for that. In the summer we like to go swimming in Lake Washington, which is right here in Seattle, and of course wade up any creek we can find.
LLC: What was your favorite hike that you took with your son Gus?
SD: I’m not sure he’d totally agree with me, but last year we went hiking high above the Methow Valley in N. Central Washington at a place called Windy Pass—one of those meadowed mountain trails that just clings to the side of a steep, steep mountain—it was pretty thrilling.  There were eagles and wildflowers and jagged peaks in the distance, just the kind of hike I’d hoped he could join me on one day. And he hiked six miles that day, which was pretty astounding.   He would probably say that he likes the hikes in the little ravine near our house the best, which again, comes back to the point about frequency and familiarity before mounting a serious challenge
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LLC: What was the most valuable part of the hikes for you?  for Gus?
SD: The greatest thing for me is to see Gus realizing that outdoor time is a great excuse to open up both your powers of observation (as in—look at that huge tree!) and imagination (as in—let’s pretend we’re monsters that live in the base of that huge tree). To see him feeling free in the outdoors is really very moving.  I think Gus thinks hiking is a chance to get me undistracted by work.  And he’s also someone who likes a bit of quiet—so much of his life is loud, I think he likes listening to the wind and the birds and the burbling of a river nearby.
Oh, and the legos he gets if he completes  his summer goal!

Sara Dickerman blogs about food, culture and travel at http://saradickerman.com/

19 May

A Puddle is to Jump In: The Pros and Cons of Water (Stephanie says)

This weekend we are headed up to the Poconos. When I suggested to my husband that we might visit Bushkill Falls, he looked at me as if I had proposed that we buy a herd of goats to mow the grass in the backyard.
This reaction comes from a healthy appreciation for our boys’ relationship to water. It can provide hours of carefree entertainment as was the case in the children’s area of Longwood Gardens. There is a flip-side to this coin though. Early in the day at same said gardens, there was an incident that involved Max’s determination to jump headlong into the lake with a couple of geese. There were tears and gnashing of teeth–literally. It took a long walk and a couple of good stick and leaf discoveries to distract Max from the utter devastation of being denied a good dunk in that lake.
I immediately agreed with my husband that I was experiencing a moment of insanity. I realized that we quite possibly could spend the entire day fishing children out of waterfalls.

But then the insanity crept back in throughout the week. I couldn’t help remembering last years’ visit to Buttermilk falls–we had such a bucolic afternoon. Drive through the country; picnic by the water.
So I went online and downloaded a copy of a trail map. I checked the hours and ticket prices. I looked at the weekend forecast.

Guess what? We are so going to Bushkill falls. I’m digging in on this one. We’ll bring the hiking backpacks to corral the water beasts if needed and we will see how it goes. I’ll let you know…

18 May

Season Opener: West Chester, PA Campground Review

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The fun and excitement of any adventure with lively little campers begins with planning the trip.  For our family that usually means selecting a campground and reserving the best site.  I take my planning seriously and have been known to analyze campground maps and KOA catalogs like a rabbi analyzes Talmud.
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After I have selected a campground, I make the all important call to reserve our spot.  I always ask the owner for a quiet spot without too many other people around. I do this because of what I call the reverse “Led Zeppelin Effect.”  Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were known to raise hell late into the night by drinking excessively and throwing TV’s out of hotel room windows.  Our boys take a different approach.  They like to raise hell VERY EARLY in the morning by chugging back milk and making “milk messes” while running onto other people’s campsites looking for sticks and “b-balls.”  Repeat “b-ball” ten times while pouring organic milk over your head and running across your neighbor’s lawn if you can’t get the picture.
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My request for a quiet site is often greeted with suspicion by the campground owners.  Probably because they think I am planning a weekend of binge drinking and incoherent storytelling that will end at sunrise with my buddies and I peeing into the fire and singing Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen songs until all of the other campers wake up good and angry.  What the owners don’t know is that my buddies are two year old twin boys who like to get the party started at around 5 a.m. and rock and roll until nap time at High Noon.
When I let the campground owners know that we have twins who wake up VERY EARLY they always find us a nice, private spot very quickly. They often respond by saying something like, “Don’t worry, we know EXACTLY where to put you!”
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Do you see any other campers in the picture? Using the “my kids wake up VERY EARLY” approach will get you the best site at most fine American campgrounds.
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For our latest adventure we chose the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA and we absolutely loved it.  We had a spacious site that gave our boys lots of room to roam.  Just beyond our site was a lovely grassy meadow that sloped down towards a quiet road lined with empty cabins.  They had a fun little playground nearby next to a wide open field that we romped through after returning from Longwood Gardens.  Mom received free breakfast on Mother’s Day at the on-site café: three pancakes, three pieces of bacon, one sausage patty, orange juice and coffee!  A sweet and thoughtful touch.
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After we put the boys to bed at night and got the campfire roaring it was nearly heaven.  We fell asleep with raindrops falling through the trees and the sound of the Brandywine River rushing through the campground.