Ominous slate grey clouds started filling the sky as I drove from Washington to Boonsboro, Maryland, on a Friday afternoon. I stored my fingers crossed that my son and I’d be spared a spring downpour on our first tenting journey since earlier than the pandemic struck. Certainly, after the yr we weathered, we deserved a break.
No such luck. As quickly as we pulled into our campsite at Greenbrier State Park within the Appalachian Mountains near Frederick, it started to rain. It appeared like a dismal portent for the weekend to come back.
We had excessive hopes for our journey. For me and my 8-year-old son, Zephyr, it was our first group journey since 2019. We have been reuniting with longtime buddies: Will and his 9-year-old daughter, Lauren, and Scott and his 6-year-old son, Heath. All of us met when the children attended day care collectively years earlier, and we had camped collectively prior to now.
Our expedition was deliberate in February with the hope that the world can be protected sufficient for us to enterprise onto a public campground collectively by Might. All of us felt tenting with buddies can be a perfect setup for inaugural post-pandemic group journey. Adventuring with acquainted of us, whose personalities and preferences we already knew, eliminated one vital layer of potential stress, which might be amplified by COVID-19 protocols, or different well being and security considerations. I noticed the tour as each a check case to see how we felt about touring with buddies and a method to decide finest practices for additional group journey this summer time.
Earlier than leaving, we had a fast check-in. All three fathers have been vaccinated. We mentioned what precautions we might take. We determined we might be maskless round one another at our campsites, however we might put masks on in any respect different instances and keep socially distanced from different campers. These have been additionally the park’s official guidelines, although different campers inconsistently adopted them and we did not see any enforcement in impact.
A few days earlier than we left, we took a take a look at the forecast. Probably moist and chilly. We weren’t deterred. I added rain gear and heat clothes to the large mound of drugs we have been taking. Just a little water wasn’t going to cease us from beginning to journey once more.
Nevertheless, my resolve was examined as I struggled to arrange our giant tent within the deluge. Although there was a soothing high quality to the sound of the fats raindrops pitter pattering on the leaves above me, I used to be pressured about the opportunity of sleeping in a puddle. I let Zephyr keep dry within the automotive whereas I put down the bottom mat and staked out the tent, however I wanted a hand when it got here time to place within the help rods and fasten the rainfly. It was an adult-sized process, however they did their finest. As we completed – somewhat soggier, somewhat grumpier – the rain stopped. We needed to snicker, and located our spirits restored.
The opposite households confirmed up a short while later and arrange with none wet intrusions. We selected three campsites shut to 1 one other, however set barely aside from the others. This made it straightforward for us to hang around collectively, whereas constructing in an additional layer of social distancing.
That night, we had dinner and the requisite s’mores round a roaring hearth. The youngsters have been a nonstop whir of exercise: pillow battles, tag and a sequence of excessive jinks that solely made sense to them. By bedtime, nobody begged to remain up later. They have been finished. My son slipped into the cocoon of his sleeping bag and fell asleep inside two minutes.
When the solar rose within the morning, it revealed a sky flirting between gentle blue and darkish grey. The forecast was all over. It was positively going to rain, nevertheless it wasn’t clear when or for the way lengthy. Wanting to make sure a full, however versatile, schedule, we plotted our actions upfront however left their timing open. This relieved the strain of making an itinerary on the fly, whereas permitting us to plan actions that may enable us to basically keep podded up for our journey. We determined we might first go for a hike round Greenbrier Lake, only a brief stroll from our campsites, after which fish from the shore within the afternoon.
After chocolate chip pancakes have been devoured, tooth brushed and day packs crammed with snacks and water, we headed out. We have been not more than 50 yards from the campsite once we heard the roar of an incoming thunderstorm. As we turned and ran again the best way we got here, a wall of rain washed over us. Discovering shelter beneath the cover tent, we chuckled on the timing. “I am certain it will clear up rapidly,” I remarked.
That is when it started to hail.
Fortunately, the children thought it was hilarious that ice cubes have been falling out of the sky. They disappeared right into a tent to take heed to the rat-a-tat sound of the onslaught and proceed their unending pillow battle. We dads fortunately sat down to attend out the squall and rejoice at our oddly good luck. In any case, once you’re a mother or father, surprising downtime with no obligations is trigger for celebration.
Lower than an hour later, the storm stopped and we restarted our hike. As the children performed a three-way recreation of rock-paper-scissors, we made our approach across the lake at a leisurely tempo. After we reached the midway level within the hike – actually the farthest away from our campsite we might be – the skies darkened once more and the rumble of thunder started booming within the distance. All of us laughed as we sprinted again to our campsites. Mom Nature had impeccable comedian timing.
Within the afternoon, the skies cleared once more. We did not belief them, however we nonetheless trekked again to the lake’s shoreline to go fishing. The fathers gave the youngsters casting classes, then stood by to untangle the inevitably snarled traces and retrieve lures that ended up within the overhanging timber moderately than the water. None of these misfires dampened the children’ spirits. Neither did the dearth of fish. My son swore they obtained a chew, however it might have been their creativeness pulling on the road.
Folks stored strolling by us, some carrying masks, most with out. We stored ours on and stored our distance as finest we might. Not that we felt anxious, as we in all probability would have earlier within the pandemic. Between our masks, grownup vaccinations and the good outdoor, we felt protected.
That evening, there have been extra s’mores, in fact. The youngsters could not cease speaking in regards to the day. Describing the fish they virtually caught. Who received the pillow battle. Why it is funnier to fart in another person’s tent moderately than your personal. What they did not do was complain in regards to the on-again-off-again rain. It was nothing however background noise to the great instances they have been having.
Sunday morning dawned. Soaked tents have been taken down. Automobiles have been loaded up. The kids wolfed down normally verboten sugary cereals, whereas the dads pounded coffees and breakfast sandwiches. Spirits have been excessive. We felt protected for the whole journey. We had a implausible time. Everybody would do it once more with out query.
Lastly, it was time to go. The dads congratulated one another on a job effectively finished, as the children mentioned their goodbyes. Naturally, it began to rain once more.
Nevin Martell is a author based mostly in Silver Spring, Maryland. Discover him on Instagram: @nevinmartell.