Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Camping – LOST

We went on our annual fall camping trip this weekend.

My wife and Kai picked me up after work on Friday and we drove about two hours southwest of the city. We had been to the area the past two autumns, and it is our favorite place to go camping.

This was the first time that we arrived after dark. It was a bit of a challenge getting the tent up in the dark with only our lanterns to light up the area, but we were able to get everything set up, start our campfire, cook dinner, and roast marshmallows.

Kai had been excited with anticipation over our trip all last week, and when my wife picked him up after school on Friday, his teachers at school reported that he was particularly happy.

And though he was quite excited at the campground, he actually slept pretty well that night. I think he just always is more relaxed when he is in the same tent with Mom and Dad, and that helps him to sleep. My wife and I, on the other hand, had trouble adjusting to sleeping in a tent.

But, the next morning, we got up as soon as it started to get light out and Kai helped me start the campfire and get breakfast ready. He was bothered by the smoke, but was happy after he put on his swimming goggles (that we brought for use in the shower as he mostly takes baths at home and does not like to get water in his eyes).

After breakfast, it was time to go hiking.

On our past visits to the area, we have always gone hiking at Starved Rock State Park. It is beautiful there, but we have covered most of the trails there so we wanted to try a new spot. So, we drove over to nearby Mathiessen State Park, which is only a few miles away from Starved Rock.

Many people in the Chicago area are familiar with Starved Rock, and it is a very popular weekend destination. In fact, the worst part of going there are the crowds on the roads, in the parking lot, and on the trails. By contrast, there was hardly anyone at Mathiessen as we started hiking that Saturday morning.

We enjoyed our walk through the serene woods.

The trail we took that led to the Vermilion River. The water level was much lower than it would be in the spring, so we were able to walk along the riverbed.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that some trees were already turning colors.

But our most pleasant surprise was that Kai willingly and eagerly walked with us without complaining. In the past, we found that he often would vociferously complain about how tired he was after just a short distance, taking the fun out of our hikes. This time he actually seemed to enjoy the hike as much as we did.

He enthusiastically commented on how far he thought we had walked. “We’ve gone 3.7 miles!”

Everything was going so well.

Until we got lost.

We were trying to make our way back to the parking lot. On our way to the river, we had not paid close enough attention to landmarks. Now, trying to get back to the parking lot, we found several spots where there are forks in the trail, and we were often unsure of which way to go. On one of the forks, we had gone in the wrong direction.

When we did not return to the parking lot in the amount of time it should have taken, we knew we had gone the wrong way. But rather than turn back, I was confident that we would circle back to the parking lot a different way if we kept going.

Kai kept counting the distance. “That’s 5 miles!” Except now his voice wasn’t so chipper.

At one spot, we found a trail map. But the colors on the map had faded and all the markings looked the same. It was difficult to discern which way we needed to go. We picked a direction and kept walking.

After an additional hour of walking, Kai started to panic.

“We’re never getting out of here! Call the police RIGHT NOW!”

My wife and I tried to talk to him calmly. We will find our way out, we told him. There is no need to call the police until it gets dark, and it is still only 11 AM.

The park is really not that big. I figured that it would only be a matter of time before we found our way. But as we kept walking, I was getting more tired and started wondering just how long it would take.

After awhile longer, we finally ran into some other people on the trail. They had just started their hike so we asked them if they could point us in the direction of the parking lot. Unfortunately, one person said to go one way, while the other said she thought we needed to go a different way.

Hearing their confusion, Kai started yelling. “THIS IS THE WORST HIKE EVER! I’M NEVER GOING HIKING HERE AGAIN!!!”

Eventually we came back to a spot we knew we had been to before, and then we took a different fork and finally came back to the parking lot. It had been about two hours of walking from the time we realized we had taken the wrong turn. Kai estimated that we had walked 10 miles altogether. I think that is probably pretty close.

My wife and I were relieved to finally get back to the car. Kai was still angry.

I was disappointed with myself that we had spoiled Kai’s great attitude by getting lost. We would have to try to undo the damage so he would not be turned off from hiking again.

The first step – getting a cold, refreshing treat!

Kai’s mood improved as he enjoyed his blue raspberry sorbet.

But, he still grumbled that he did not want to go back to Mathiessen ever again. We were planning to go back there the next day to explore a different area. I could see that was going to be a challenge.

Tomorrow: More hiking? And, the rest of our camping trip


  1. Oh no...getting lost is so disappointing, been there!
    Loved all the pictures, pretty jealous right now!
    I am glad Kai's hiking interest is picking up...we try but our almost 4 year old finds so many sticks, rocks, leaves...everything makes him stop to investigate. Your post today gives me hope!

    1. Geovana,
      When Kai was younger, all he did when we were outside was pick up sticks, leaves and rocks. And it was more perseverative than explorative. These days, he still likes to look at leaves, but its not as obsessive. He definitely changed a lot, and so you should have hope for your child as well.

  2. Well, I'm so glad you found your way! Looks like a gorgeous place!

    Smoke goggles? cute!

    1. Betsy, putting on the goggles was Kai's idea, and he was so much happier after he put them on. Ha!

  3. It is an adventure Kai will remember, I am sure. Last year, Alex, and I, got lost for about 15 minutes. Some bone head had actually turned one of the signs on the trail to show a different direction. After seeing the trail degrade into an animal trail...we backtracked until we reached our original trail departure point. I do hate that lost feeling. Had I known who had maliciously turned the sign...I would have surely picked out a nice sized branch to chase him around with :)

    1. In hindsight, we should have turned around and backtracked once we realized we had gone the wrong way.

  4. Bringing the goggles was genius! I will do that the next time we are near a campfire! We get a lot of complaining on walks too and it really does take the joy out of the experience but your son did great!! The lost part would have been horrible since my son has quite a memory when it comes to my mistakes!

    1. Kelly, using the goggles for the smoke was all Kai's idea, and frankly there were times I wish I had brought my own as well. He really did do great. Ha, I know what that is like for your son to remember your mistakes. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...