Last month we went on our Annual Carter Family Camping Trip. We missed last year’s due to Kevin being deployed and my being pregnant so we really wanted to go this year.
On Our Agenda
This year’s trip also coincided with the Blue Heron Ghost Train, and we have been trying since our first visit to the Big South Fork River and Recreation Area to match up our schedules with the train so we could take the dogs. Turns out the dogs were not welcome on the event train, but they were more than welcome on the regular daily train so we got tickets for both. The Ghost train for Leelynn, and myself and the day train for all of us and the dogs.
Unfortunately, this trip didn’t start off to well for us. We seriously underestimated how much stuff we would need to bring with us to accommodate all of us, with the added step of weather proofing since there was rain in the forecast and we weren’t getting a rental for this trip.
Our First Hurdle
Packing ended up taking so long that even though we were done by midnight, Leelynn and I had passed out and Kevin didn’t wake so we didn’t end up leaving until MUCH later than anticipated. In fact, we missed our first night at the campsite… Just like the last time!
I hope that doesn’t become a thing for us.
When we finally did arrive we barely had time to get to the train station grab our tickets and grab a bite to eat before boarding for our day ride.
Blue Herron Train
The train was absolutely filled with families with kids, it was a tad difficult to find a train car that had enough space for all of us. While our pups are friendly, well-behaved and good with kids, I know not everyone likes to have dogs up in their face plus there was a possibility of allergies so I wanted to make sure everyone had enough room to feel comfortable.
We all had a blast on the train, Leelynn got to try out our Tula carrier, which was amazing! We love our Moby, but it can only be used for front carry, and I had learned during our last hiking trip that I would feel more comfortable and confident on a hike if I could put Leelynn on my back. Turns out I was right! He loved riding in the Tula as well, he could see what I was seeing and was still able to take a nap when he just couldn’t keep his head up anymore just like the Moby.
I knew the pups would do well on the train, but I wanted to be extra certain so I had given them a dose of Composure for the ride. Kevin thought I was a tad bit overly cautious (which was funny since he is normally the cautious one). Half way to the Shadow Mining Camp one of the turns caused the train wheels to squeal to high heaven! I couldn’t help but give Kevin a look of “Aren’t you glad I did that?” to which he leaned forward to tell me I was right and that he wished he could have had dose of Composure as well!
That being said, I do want to add this cautionary note:
Do not take your dogs on a train without thoroughly preparing them for the ride beforehand!
The reason I knew our pups would be good with the train is the section of greenway that we always walk runs parallel and at times under train tracks. The dogs have all been exposed to the sound and smell of a train prior to our trip and never skip a beat when one comes by us on our walk. We can even stop in the vicinity of a train and they aren’t fazed. The motion of the train on the rails can be a bit rocky and can be unsettling for some dogs, so if your dogs don’t do well in a car, I don’t recommend taking them. Ours love car rides and also go canoeing so they all know how to get and keep their footing in unstable situations.
Now back to our trip.
We met up with our family who had hiked down the Blue Heron Loop trail, which is right next to our campsite, to meet us at the Shadow Mining Camp, originally called #18. The reason for the word “Shadow” is because the original structures were long gone, but new buildings (pavilion type buildings) were put up to so show where the original structures stood.
Leelynn had decided to take a nap at this point in the trip so Kevin went and took the dogs for a potty walk and to stretch their legs before they got back on the train. As I was boarding the train to wait for him, I had a couple of the adults who already boarded with their kids compliment us on our dogs behavior, in fact, a few of them said “Your dogs behave better than our kids!”
I have to admit I never get tired of hearing the good behavior compliment, but we are always quick to respond with how much work and exercise it takes to get them that way.
The Ride Back
I kind of wish I had brought some of the Composure with us on the trip, but now I know for next time. The pups did good, but I could tell that they could have benefited from another dose, particularly Willow. With all the kids on the train, they were getting a lot of attention. While they all love attention, they all have their limits. Chloe fell asleep so most of the kids knew better than to bother a sleeping dog, Putt-Putt and Hank never get tired of getting attention, but Willow does eventually need to be left alone. The kids on the train were great, they all listened when I said she was done being pet and needed a break
Another way I knew a second dose would have been helpful was when we went through the tunnel on our way back; the kids, of course, got all kinds of excited and wanted their parents to try to get a picture of them while going through the tunnel via flash. Seriously if those photos came out at all I’d be surprised it was pitch black in that tunnel! But while we were going through and flashes were going off and the excited kids that were screaming and screeching put a few of the dogs on edge, which wasn’t really a surprise considering how stimulated they all had been with the ride up to the Mine, all the attention, and petting.
Thankfully the tunnel was short and near the end of the ride, the pups were able to calm down afterward.
The Blue Herron Ghost Train
Once we were back at the station, we took the dogs out for a nice walk, we heated up something to eat, and then waited for our family that was meeting us for the Blue Herron Ghost Train. That whole day it was cold and rainy, perfect spooky weather for the ghost train, but not so great weather for camping. Brrr!
Kevin stayed behind to give the dogs a break, and sit out the storm while we rode the train. The ride was pretty uneventful since it was getting pretty dark by that point.
At the mining camp, they had decorated everything with spooky decorations and had a bunch of Park Rangers there to participate in the Ghost Tour. The Ranger that was leading our train car was a transplant and wasn’t familiar with the area and I’m not proud to say that her voice was just a tad grating. Isn’t it weird how the strangest things tend to be the things that stand out the most? Honestly, I was glad when we arrived at the first stop on our tour that she wasn’t the one who was going to be telling the stories.
The tour ended up being pretty fun, and they opened up the concessions stand for an hour before we left, so even though it was a very chilly night they had hot chocolate, coffee, and tea available as well as snacks to help warm us back up.
After we got back to the station, I was expecting Kevin to have gone to the campsite and to get set up, instead he stayed behind and waited for us, he knew he would end up taking to long of a nap while waiting the storm out, and then would not have had time to set up camp and been able to meet us at the train station on time. He was right, he ended up napping while waiting out the rain that came through and didn’t wake up until we got back from the ghost tour. Oops!
Seriously though, the logistics behind this trip ended up being a nightmare and we both were exhausted! So it really wasn’t a surprise that he had napped the whole time I was gone, I’m pretty sure I would have done the same thing had we switched places.
So we finally get to our camp spot and get out to start putting the tent up when it just opens up and pours yet again! It was a cold one too! We managed to get the tent put together but finally said screw it and got back in the truck and cranked up the heat to warm us up and wait out the rain.
We finally managed to get the tent up and the air mattress inflated, the dogs fed, Leelynn who had been sleeping trough all of this moved to the tent, and then finally something for us to eat!
The Next Morning
Unfortunately, that was the only night we stayed, I had a meeting the next morning otherwise we would have stayed another night to make up for having missed the first one like we did the last time.
So we unpacked enough to make a huge breakfast, then it was time to pack everything back up.
It wasn’t one of our better trips, but that was our own fault. We both underestimated the amount of time it would take to pack, and we were completely unprepared to pack for an infant and the rain didn’t help either.
Before you bring up the fact that we had just had a much longer road trip with an infant and actually had brought more than we needed, we had planned that trip a bit better, and we also had rented a larger vehicle that gave us more room and weather protection that we didn’t have this time around. Add in that digging out our camping gear from where we had it stored and having to figure out what all we needed for feeding everyone was a bit more challenging than we originally thought. We were camping in bear country so food stuffs had to be in sealable and portable containers that could be put in the vehicle or in the bear-proof storage containers provided at the campsite, plus we were also bringing some things that were temperature sensitive. What really would have been the biggest help would have been an a bed lid for my truck.
In The Future
We’ve already started making notes for the things that we want to bring or remember to do for the next time, and have a few new items on our wish list to make things a bit easier for us too.