One of the wonderful things about growing up on our little farm in western Pennsylvania was how close we were to history. Luckily I had amazing parents who made the effort to take us kids on camping trips to see these amazing places. I have always wanted to be able to do that for my children, and when we moved to Ohio seven years ago, that became a real possibility and this year was the year! We wanted to be sure that Dorothy had a chance to see all these amazing places before graduating next year (yikes!) and taking off to college.
This will be another LONG post and the collages barely scratch the surface as far as pictures and the fun we had, but I expect anyone reading this will want to be done sometime within the next century, so…..
We started by driving to a state park in Pennsylvania near Gettysburg – actually we started with a broken radiator as we started the van and went to leave our driveway… then after lots of prayer & an amazing friend who helped Paul quickly put a new radiator in we were finally on our way. We got in super late, but our tent is a fast set up (yay!) and Day 2 we hit Gettysburg. We got an audio tour CD and everyone – even the younger ones – loved all the history and learning about things as we drove from place to place. We had lots of breaks to walk around and learn. We had a thunderstorm or two and watched a couple demonstrations. I am so grateful for those who sacrificed so much to give us what we have today (and for those who continue to sacrifice for us today by serving in the military or as police officers/fire fighters/ etc.
Day 3- After another very rainy night we packed up camp and drove to Valley Forge. We obtained another audio CD and drove, explored and learned about George Washington, his troops, and the revolutionary war. We set up camp not to far from Valley Forge and got ready for another rainy night (things were feeling rather damp all around by now.)
Day 4 we drove into Philadelphia. We were pretty worried about finding parking that would fit our van, but quickly found an open air lot only a few blocks from the Independence National Park Visitor center. The boys by now started to figure out that all these National Parks we were visiting had Jr Ranger programs and were fast becoming obsessed with earning as many badges as they could – we didn’t have time for them to earn it at every location we went, but they earned them at most places. It was pretty cool because it really helped them learn as they went. They also discovered the rangers had trading cards featuring historical people and places and really had fun collecting those as well. Not only were we able to see the liberty bell and visit Independence Hall, but we toured the United States Mint and visited the Benjamin Franklin museum. There was so much more we could have done, but we only had the one day. We packed it as full as we could and trudged back, exhausted, to another rainy night at the campground.
Day 5 we drove North to our campground just past Boston. On the way we stopped at Morristown National Historic Park – where George Washington and his men spent two winters – and got to tour the home where he had his headquarters. We had lunch at Fort Nonsense. By the time we got to our campground we were slated for pretty massive thunderstorms so we all just slept in the van – Paul still set up the tent though and he wound up in there at some point during the night.
Day 6 – We finally had Sunshine! We hallelujahed our way to the subway and treated the kids to their first Subway experience into Boston. It was fun and they really enjoyed it and we enjoyed not having to drive or figure out parking (Boston drivers are nuts!). We walked the freedom trail visiting the Old State House and site of the Boston Massacre, Fenuille Hall, Paul Revere’s Home, Old North Church, The navy yard touring the USS CassinYoung & the USS Contsitution – “Old Ironsides”. We were planning on doing Bunker Hill when thunderstorms hit and our sun dissappeared. We were feeling rather exhausted, so once the rain abated some we started to head to the subway, realized that it was 5:00 and rush hour, so we veared off and spent two hours exploring Beacon Hill and the Boston Commons. We finally caught the subway back and, in the name of sanity, grabbed Little Caesars pizza for everyone for dinner on our way back to the campground. Luckily the sun came back out and we had our first dry night – woohoo!
Day 7 we did Lexington & Concord – it was a gorgeous day! We started with the video at the Minute Men National Historic Park Visitor Center which was absolutely AMAZING. And then walked a good portion of the old road between Lexington and Concord. The kids kept ambushing each other along the way and “dying” in the road. heh. As we drove to Concord I was met with a special treat – I forgot that this was where Louisa May Alcott and many other famous authors lived so I squealed like a fan-girl as we passed the Orchard House 🙂 We even got to see Walden Pond – squee! We picnicked at the Old North Bridge and saw where the “Shot heard around the world” was fired.
Day 8 we packed up and went to Salem, MA before heading into Maine. We had a lot of fun exploring Salem and Dot especially enjoyed the different sites since she had just learned about the Salem Witch Trials this last year. We also saw the House of Seven Gables and got to watch some Morris Dancers and launch a squealing rubber chicken into the air.
From Salem we took a break from nonstop history and went to Two Lights Park in Maine and the Portland Headlight before landing at our campground for the night. It was pretty chilly – but at least it wasn’t raining! The next few days we kicked back and played, relaxed a little and had tons of fun.
We had a little visitor come checkout our tent – he was hiding between the top of the tent and the fly 🙂
Day 9 we visited the amazingly beautiful Maine Botanical Gardens (the rhodedendrons were divine!) and played at Popham Beach
Day 10 we switched campgrounds and spent time enjoying the area and exploring Lamoine State Park
Day 11 – June 6th – our 19th Anniversary! We spent the day exploring Acadia National Park and wrapped up with a delicious lobster dinner while the girls took the boys to the park to play. (We made sure we saved some for them to try). Acadia is gorgeous and we wish we’d had more time to spend there – I kinda wish we’d arranged it to spend a little more time there, but now we know for the next time we go! It was pretty cold and really windy, but at least we haven’t had more rain! And I’d prefer cold and rainy to sweltering heat when we’re camping anyway. The kids kept hiding in the rocks to get out of the wind – it was pretty cute. And while Thunder Hole wasn’t booming it still had some pretty good eruptions and the kids got wet a few times – totally fun.
Day 12 began the return journey home. We drove to Vermont and visited the birth place of Joseph Smith and then camped at a neat campground recommended by my brother, Kimball, called Moosalamoo.
Day 13 we packed up, drove through the town where Kimball and his family used to live – a charming little place called Bristol, and then headed to Fort Ticonderoga by way of a little ferry. Fort Ticonderoga was a really neat place and the kids loved seeing all the demonstrations and learning about it. From there we drove to Crown Point to camp – not the best campground – it was really marshy everywhere so the bugs were absolutely awful. However frogs abounded, which I loved! 🙂
Day 14 we packed up again and headed to Palmyra. It was beautiful. We started with Hill Cummorah Visitor Center and took the steeper dirt path to the monument. Then we drove to the temple and walked around the temple grounds. From there we went to the Smith Farm and took the tour that guided us through both homes before walking into the Sacred Grove. It was peaceful and lovely. All of us took a few minutes for quite reflection and prayer. At one point we ended up all back at the van for lunch and realized Jacob wasn’t with us. We figured he had taken a wrong path in the Sacred Grove so Paul went to find him while the rest of us started lunch. We prayed that Paul would find him quickly and not too much longer they both appeared walking down the path.
After lunch we drove to our campground in Hearts Content – a recreation area in the Alleghaney National Forest in Pennsylvania – it was a family favorite place. By the time we got there, thunderstorms were rolling in and it was late. I opted to sleep in the van so as to skip the hassel of filling the airmattress for just one night. So Paul and the kids slept in the tent while some pretty awesome thunderstorms rolled through the night. Paul said a few times all the kids were awake and huddled around, but they also thought it was pretty awesome.
Day 15 we took a little nature walk at Hearts Content before driving through my hometown of Grove City and then around Slippery Rock University where my father used to teach (and where my sibblings and I would have office chair races down the hallways…). Then we went to a family favorite place of my childhood – McConnells mill. The mill was even open, so the kids were excited to have a chance to explore and take a look inside. We walked across the red covered bridge and had a picnic in the picnic area.
From there we drove to our friends home, The Fullers, in Butler. I am sad to say we had so much fun visiting that I didn’t think to get the camera out!
Day 16 we attended church with our friends – it was especially fun because they attend the same ward (congregation) that my parents did many years ago and many people remember them, so the girls had fun hearing stories about their grandparents – as did I! After lunch we drove home.
It was a wonderful trip – though exhausting! We were able to see and do so much and I hope the kids have some wonderful memories to keep with them. Above all I hope the kids also were able to develop a love for this amazing country we are so blessed to live in. I hope they have gained a deeper appreciation for all those who gave their lives to bring us the freedoms we now enjoy. I hope they gained a deeper appreciation for all those who continue to sacrifice so much to protect our freedoms. We are truly blessed.