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. Absolutely, after the 12 months 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 pals: Will and his 9-year-old daughter, Lauren, and Scott and his 6-year-old son, Heath. All of us met when the youngsters attended day care collectively years earlier, and we had camped collectively up to now.
Our expedition was deliberate in February with the hope that the world could be secure sufficient for us to enterprise onto a public campground collectively by Could. All of us felt tenting with pals could be an excellent setup for inaugural post-pandemic group journey. Adventuring with acquainted of us, whose personalities and preferences we already knew, eliminated one necessary layer of potential stress, which may very well be amplified by COVID-19 protocols, or different well being and security issues. I noticed the tour as each a check case to see how we felt about touring with pals and a technique to decide greatest 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 may very well be maskless round one another at our campsites, however we might put masks on in any respect different occasions 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 have a look at the forecast. Doubtlessly moist and chilly. We weren’t deterred. I added rain gear and heat clothes to the large mound of drugs we have been taking. Somewhat 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 potential 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 assist rods and connect the rainfly. It was an adult-sized process, however they did their greatest. As we completed – just a little soggier, just a little grumpier – the rain stopped. We needed to chuckle, 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 at least one 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 in every single place. It was undoubtedly going to rain, but it surely wasn’t clear when or for the way lengthy. Wanting to make sure a full, however versatile, schedule, we plotted our actions prematurely however left their timing open. This relieved the stress of making an itinerary on the fly, whereas permitting us to plan actions that might 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, enamel brushed and day packs full of snacks and water, we headed out. We have been not more than 50 yards from the campsite after we heard the roar of an incoming thunderstorm. As we turned and ran again the way in which we got here, a wall of rain washed over us. Discovering shelter underneath the cover tent, we chuckled on the timing. “I am positive it will clear up rapidly,” I remarked.
That is when it started to hail.
Fortunately, the youngsters thought it was hilarious that ice cubes have been falling out of the sky. They disappeared right into a tent to hearken to the rat-a-tat sound of the onslaught and proceed their endless pillow battle. We dads fortunately sat down to attend out the squall and rejoice at our oddly good luck. In spite of everything, once you’re a guardian, sudden downtime with no duties is trigger for celebration.
Lower than an hour later, the storm stopped and we restarted our hike. As the youngsters performed a three-way sport of rock-paper-scissors, we made our method across the lake at a leisurely tempo. Once 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 bushes fairly than the water. None of these misfires dampened the youngsters’ spirits. Neither did the shortage of fish. My son swore they bought a chunk, however it could have been their creativeness pulling on the road.
Folks stored strolling by us, some sporting masks, most with out. We stored ours on and stored our distance as greatest 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 open air, we felt secure.
That evening, there have been extra s’mores, after all. The youngsters could not cease speaking in regards to the day. Describing the fish they nearly caught. Who received the pillow battle. Why it is funnier to fart in another person’s tent fairly than your individual. 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 occasions they have been having.
Sunday morning dawned. Soaked tents have been taken down. Automobiles have been loaded up. The youngsters wolfed down often verboten sugary cereals, whereas the dads pounded coffees and breakfast sandwiches. Spirits have been excessive. We felt secure for all the journey. We had a incredible time. Everybody would do it yet again with out query.
Lastly, it was time to go. The dads congratulated one another on a job effectively finished, as the youngsters mentioned their goodbyes. Naturally, it began to rain once more.
Nevin Martell is a author primarily based in Silver Spring, Maryland. Discover him on Instagram: @nevinmartell.