Setting up a Tent without Instructions and Other Camping Adventures

On October 24th, Laura, McKenna, and I headed to Douthat State Park in western Virginia to do some camping in the mountains. This was McKenna’s first camping trip since she was two, and she had a number of important questions.

  • Will there be a bathroom? As it turned out, not only was there a bathroom, but it was a nice, fully plumbed bathroom with lights and stuff.
So we would not encounter the megladon spider that inhabited the bathroom at our last camping site.

So we would not encounter the megladon spider that inhabited the bathroom at our last camping site.

  • How long will it take to get there? This is a question we were fated to hear many, many times on the way to Douthat. I say “we,” but the droning on of McKenna’s repeated questioning must have been very soothing to Laura, because she fell asleep shortly after downing a latte purchased at a Starbucks near Waynesboro.

WE MADE IT!!! And there’s a bathroom!

Once we had arrived, it was time to engage in that activity that has ended many a marriage – putting a tent together without directions.


Although we succeeded in putting the tent together, I thought it was safer to photograph the assembled tent from a distance.

Having overcome the tent hurdle, we went down to the lake at Douthat.


We didn’t walk far before McKenna decided to go in.


Notice how many other people are in the water? We are awesome parents.

Hey, I know what will lure the child out of the water…



McKenna loved the selfie stick so much that she wanted to use it herself. This led to the greatest misuse of the selfie stick of all time, greater even than the time we violated the rules of the Louvre and used it there…


The duck face. This is the most disappointed I have ever been in my child.

At about 5, we decided to go back to the camp site to get the fire ready for dinner and, of course, s’mores.


Here is McKenna, demonstrating the same degree of patience in waiting for s’mores as she demonstrated on the drive to Douthat.

As always, making s’mores was an occasion for experimentation. In this case, we went with…


There was a concern associated with these new and different marshmallows – would the coconut burn when we toasted them? What if the marshmallow caught on fire – would the marshmallow then be encased in charred coconut that was as brittle as the McDonald’s french fry shards underneath McKenna’s seat in the car? After roasting several as a “pilot” in the name of science, we found that coconut burning was not an issue. We should have trusted the ingenuity of the American junk food industry. The resulting coconut marshmallow s’mores were delicious. In spite of the deliciousness, we still had s’more supplies left over the next day. And that meant…


Breakfast s’mores! See, I told you we were awesome parents!

McKenna woke up to go to the bathroom at about 6:15 in the morning, and her concern about proper bathrooms really reared up and bit us in the ass as she woke us up. Apparently, we need to train her to be able to squat in the woods and pee. Instead, I had to take her on the 150 yard trek to the real bathrooms. On the plus side, that meant we got an early start in disassembling the tent before some rain storms came through.


After we packed up the camping equipment and leftover s’more supplies, we took the scenic route back along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway runs right through the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina and has numerous pull-offs where travelers can see cool overlooks, waterfalls, and more. We happened upon this pull-off that had some old railway tracks.





It was a bit cloudy, but we still managed to find some good views along the Parkway.


Another good thing about this area of Virginia is that there are a number of excellent breweries with restaurants. In the past, we have stopped at Blue Mountain Brewery’s restaurant, which is very good, so this time we decided to change it up and stop at Devil’s Backbone Brewery.


McKenna’s response to our choice: “Hey, this isn’t a kid place! This is a bar!” Be quiet and eat your bar fries. 

After filling up on fried pickles and pulled pork, we headed to our last stop – Carter Mountain Orchard near Charlottesville. At this point in the year, Carter Mountain can be insanely crowded on a Sunday; because of the intermittent rain, the orchard was only moderately crowded, meaning that the zombie herd of visitors was only Season One of the Walking Dead dense and not Season Six dense. Once we navigated through the zombie herd and found a place to park, we turned McKenna loose to find a pumpkin.


Since it was only six days from Halloween, mostly only the reject white pumpkins were left. But McKenna claimed victory when she chose this gigantic orange pumpkin.

Finding an orange pumpkin that wasn’t slightly rotten, concave, or otherwise deformed was hard work. Time for some…


Peach sherbet-vanilla swirl ice cream! Because they probably would have frowned upon us firing up the s’mores.

One thought on “Setting up a Tent without Instructions and Other Camping Adventures

  1. Pingback: Fall Leaves and Cold Winds in Shenandoah National Park | Endless Odyssey

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