This weekend marked the second attempt at a Broken Bow camping trip. Broken Bow is a typical campground near Lac Du Flambeau, in Northwest, Wisconsin. This particular campground is popular among disc golfers as it offers the usual camping amenities such as clean showers & restrooms, wooded campsites, beaches, excellent service, but, most importantly it is within miles of the Sandy Point Disc Golf Ranch and Resort. Every year on Labor Day weekend, Sandy Point Disc Golf Ranch hosts the tourney which is often referred to as the event of the disc golf season, the Northwoods Open. This tournament is held on the Sandy Point Disc Golf course, which is as inviting and scenic as it is varied in shot possibilities and difficulty. Coupled with a fantastic pro shop and higher than average payouts for top players, this event draws in so many disc golfers on Labor Day that we tend to outnumber the usual Northwoods crew of Harley’s and fisherman. While the disc golfers who are vigilant and quick to reserve the cabins found on the resort grounds, the rest of the disc golfers tend to fight to reserve spots at nearby Broken Bow and other area campgrounds and motels.
So, getting back to where I started this story, this was our 2nd attempt at a Broken Bow camping trip. Our initial attempt was a few years prior. At that time, Ben was not quite a year old and Jake was an early 3 year old. That trip seemed a disaster, as I always had to hold Ben, because when I sat him down he’d munch on rocks and nearby cigarette butts (or any other random thing occupying the ground near him). Meanwhile, Jake, (much faster than a toddler but not nearly as obedient as a preschooler) would take off running with no regard for cars of strangers. At the end of my days with one boy in my arms and the other tiring my legs, I was one cranky mother. The only redeeming moment of that trip was that it was Ryan’s tournament debut, and even as a newbie, he landed in the cash. In any other instance, that trip had in no way inspired me to plan another, but I had hopes that this trip would be much different as the boys are so much older now.
Let me be honest here, the trip got off to a less than desireable start. I forgot to request Friday off from work, had to work late on Thursday and was left to rush packing our clothes and camping gear into the van in the early evening. As we started our venture, it began to down pour and the sweltering heat quickly became frigid. Ryan’s mood was as tense as my own, as we hit set backs like traffic jams, a side trip to Walmart for forgotten Nighttime Pull Ups and some dense fog. Eventually, we arrived at Broken Bow just after 9PM, in a dark, cold, downpour. Ben was terrified. “Mama! I don’t want to sleep in the big bad jungle!” I kept thinking it was going to suck if the tent got soaked when we were putting up in the rain. Luckily, I had randomly selected the movie “The Sandlot” for the boys to watch in the van, and they were enthralled and out of the way when we were hustling to get the tent assembled and the air mattress ready. (Additionally, this movie was set in a much simpler time and was a great story of boys having clean summer fun, which really helped set a nice innocent tone and my boys seemed to adapt to that feeling very well.) As we were unrolling the tent, the rain ceased to a drizzle, and by the time we were ready to pull the kids out of the van, there was just a heavy mist in the air. I pulled Ben out and took him for a tour through the tent. Now mind you, we sleep in this tent each summer, but this seems to be the first year that Benjamin could remember that we had a tent. The moment Ben looked at the bed, he changed the momentum of the entire trip. He looked at our King sized air mattress and questioned, “is this where we’re all going to sleep?” When I affirmed his suspicions, he exclaimed, “OH MAMA! A FAMILY SLEEP???? THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY EVER!” And immediately, we knew that we were going to have a better trip than the last, and we all relaxed.
I took Ben on a small walk to the bathroom, thinking I knew the campgrounds and that my cell phone would’ve lite the way (had it not been sitting in our van), but ultimately, I got lost and was rescued by our friend from the Fox Valley Area. When we found out where he and his brother (also our friend) were staying, we went down to visit with them and their well established campfire. The boys were excited to throw twigs into the fire and after an hour or so the boys were ready for that fantastic family sleep that Ben had been so excited about. So, we headed to our tent and prepared to rest. Despite the five or six blankets and pillows that we brought along, and the entire heat of all of our bodies under mutual covers, it was still a very, very cold night. In the morning, I was very reluctant to get out from under the covers when the boys were waking. But eventually, I got them up and dressed. The coat I brought along for Jake ended up being a better fit for Ben, and Jake was forced to wear my sweatshirt until we had a chance to go to Walmart to buy him another. Ryan had left very early in the morning to throw the first of his two tournament rounds, so it was just me and the boys. Eventually, we took that side trip back to Walmart in search of assorted donuts and milk for our cereal. (But we forgot the sweatshirt till a later trip.) This got us warm and awake, and by the time we were fueled, we were ready to go.
We were off to find our adventures. First, we walked around the entire campgrounds, and I showed the boys the restroom/shower facilities and the beach. We took pictures of the Broken Bow Campground signs and sights and headed back down to the beach. At the beach, Jake and I played a lot one on one soccer practice, while Ben was building sand castles. Eventually, we discovered what we decided to call “puffy plants” (which I used to call smokey plants when I was young, but thought perhaps the name had a different connotation as an adult…) which are round brown ball looking plants that puff out a thick brown dust when you step on them. The puffy plants blended in well to the ground around us, so we had to hunt for them and we took turns calling each other and stomping them when we found them. We also went down to the water and threw acorns and rocks into the water to watch the waves ripple, which was the closest we ever got to being warm enough to swim. I would round up as many heavy acorns and tiny pebbles as I could and make piles for the boys to launch into the lake. I found one acorn in particular that was hooked to another, and I thought Jake would think it would make a great “double bomber” as I eagerly handed the new ammunition to him. Oddly, he handed it back to me and asked me to keep it, because, “it looks like love, Mom.” I’m not quite sure why that hit me so much, but I thought it was a sweet comment and so I took pictures of it and held on to it, until Jake decided later it would be fun to throw it into the fire to hear two cracking noises….
|“This looks like “Love”, Mom.”|
On the way back from the beach, we stopped back at the restroom. We played at the small playground at the bathrooms for a bit, until Jake noticed a “secret trail” behind the playscape. We decided to go on an adventure and figure out where this trail led. Well, as luck would have it, this secret trail happened to be a wonderful secret passage SHORT CUT to our tent. (Don’t ask me why, but boys LOVE short cuts. It makes all happenings seem more like a race and they have an advantage.) Jake and Ben began begging me to race the short cuts. I didn’t feel confident letting either of them take the long way around with out me, so I decided they would have to take the short cut (which wouldn’t allow for a bike much less a car) together while I ran the much longer route. After discussing some basic ground rules, (hold hands, straight there and back, Ben listens to Jake’s direction, look both ways when crossing the street, no talking to strangers, start on the count of three, and no cheating….) we did a count down and took off. Even though I ran my hardest, I was never able to beat them on any of our races, and they enjoyed the independence of running the short secret trail without supervision. (Meanwhile my derby coach would’ve been happy with the amount of cardio I probably got in!) This trail would be the cause of the majority of their excitement for the rest of the weekend. Anytime anyone had to go to the bathroom, the boys insisted on being their tour guides and going with them.
|secret bathroom passage|
|Jake being a most excellent big brother, and Ben adoring his attention.|
Along our walks, we discovered that the campground, not surprisingly, had been filled mostly with other disc golfers. We got to see several families out putting around on their travel baskets, and we knew that we were in pretty good company on our grounds. It so happened that the tent lot directly beside ours (though there was a nice walls of trees between us for privacy) was occupied by a disc golfer who played our local courses and we had known him (and his fiancée) by acquaintance at the very least. Over the weekend, he and his fiancée spent a lot of time with us, generously sharing their s’mores and other treats with our kids and keeping us company, as did the group of friends who rescued us on the way to the bathrooms. As we got our own campfire going, I put my “pudgy pie” skills to the test, and made a variety of hot pocket like meals including pudgy pie pizza, grilled cheese and even cherry pudgy pies! The boys had so much fun that they were barely awake long enough to take in the millions of stars that you can see without the interference of the city lights, and then fell sound to sleep in our tent. Luckily, the air had warmed significantly throughout the day, and though we still needed to stay closely huddled and very bundled up, we were much more comfortable than we had been the night before. Once the boys were sound asleep, I joined the gathering back at the campsite and we enjoyed a rather peaceful night in good company.
Perhaps I stayed up a bit too late, or perhaps the day before had just been a lot of movement, but I was much slower getting up on Day Two. The boys were also sluggish, to my advantage, so we chose to stay closer to the campsite on this day. Ryan played a later round, so he was with us in the morning and in the early afternoon, I began reading stories to the boys while lounging around on the air mattress. Now, Ben has been enthralled with weather lately, largely due to the recent storms and tornadoes, and it just so happened I found a book called “Why, Why, Why do Tornadoes Spin? and other related weather questions…” that I had bought for Jake at a similar age. Both boys enjoyed reading that informative book, and we followed it up with a favorite of Jake’s, “The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids”, which we always just pick mean or gross looking animals to learn more about, because the book is much too long to read in it’s entirety. Finally, I finished up by reading one of my personal childhood favorites, which had been given to me as a gift for my baby shower, unbelievably. Shel Silverstein’s “A Light In the Attic” kept the boys rolling around laughing and pointing for what seemed like forever. Each time I thought they’d grown tired of using their brains to figure out the next tongue twister’s meaning, they’d beg for another poem. I was more than happy to oblige, until we decided we were starving. At that time, I set to work getting the fire burning and the food hot. Meanwhile, the boys started finding their energy.
At one point, I pulled out colored pencils, crayons and many workbooks and coloring books for the boys. Jake immediately grabbed the paper and being telling funny stories and illustrating for Ben with the pencils as he talked. Ben jumped around extremely excited and then decided he would take his turn. Jake laughed equally as hard as Ben explained that “each hurricane just POOPS out a little tornado and some lightening” while he also illustrated his best “pooped out tornado” for Jake. Later, Jake confided that it made him feel special that Ben was trying to do what he had been doing with the story telling.
|look closely for pooped out tornadoes…|
Eventually, though, the story telling wore off and they decided that the colored pencils would serve better as digging equipment They began using the the pencils as tools to dig trails and set up elaborate rock/leave castles and such. This project built into a fantastic science experiment. The boys began using the firewood and the pencils and various rocks, and building small simple machines. They built balances and catapults, along with see saws at varying pivot points. They chose which pine cones and rocks would work better for flinging the pencils, and which pencils would work better for support than would the rocks. They worked at this like true scientists, asking questions, making hypothesis, testing hypothesis and then changing variables and trying again several times. As a person who loves the nature of science, I was really impressed. As a mother watching her sons, I was just melting. I had not seen them entertain themselves so peacefully but so excitedly in all our lives.
Perhaps the only bone of contention the entire weekend was keeping the children out of the fire. I can’t tell you how many times I had to explain that you can burn wood and paper, but never plastic, to no avail. Jake had been determined that he wanted to put a particular rock into the fire. I reassured him that rocks don’t burn at campfire temperatures, and that it would do nothing exciting, and to STOP THROWING THINGS IN THE FIRE! I had said, “put that fire poker down, Jake (Ben)” so many times I thought I was going insane. Well, for the most part, they did pretty well with several reminders, but Jake had sneaked a rock into the fire despite my warnings. Once he decided that he had done something wrong and didn’t want us to find out, (probably later when he realized it really wasn’t going to burn like wood and disappear), he decided to stick his hand in the fire to remove it, which of course left him with 3 tiny blisters on his finger tips.
|a nice example of the band aids… trying to keep the dirt out of the blisters….|
Jake was especially stoic about his injury. He didn’t cry or scream in the least, so I barely realized anything had happened at all. He just said calmly, “Mom, I think I hurt myself.” When I asked him what had happened, he began to let silent tears run down his face as he explained that he had meant to remove a rock from the fire and burned his fingers. A rock, mind you, that I had specifically told him not to throw in there, multiple times. He wanted to know if I was going to be mad at him, but it was obvious by his tears and blisters and that he had learned his lesson the hard way, and I felt that really was that needed to be said. (And then, we took yet another trip to Walmart for first aid supplies……)
Once we got Jake’s wounds cleaned and covered, we headed up the Sandy Point Disc Golf Resort and prepared to watch the awards. Though Ryan wasn’t convinced he had played to the best of his abilities, the entire Robertson crew was pretty excited to see that Ryan took home his first Pro Cash at a tournament. It was such an honor for him, as this particular tournament is an “A” tier event which is the highest level of state tour, shadowed only by the National Tour “NT” tier. It also seemed particularly fitting to know that he took his first pro cash on the course where he played his first tournament ever, and amazingly still took intermediate “cash” (vendor vouchers in that division). We stayed and watched much of the excitement, and the boys got to play on the Sandy Point playscapes and enjoyed the company of many other disc golfing families, until we headed back to the Broken Bow. Again we were exhausted, but warmer and drier than we had been a night or so before. That night, we cuddled in, I read many more Shel Silverstein poems to the boys as Ryan caught a bite to eat, and we cuddled in for another wonder evening under the stars.
|And this is the last moment Ryan was ever able to play amateur tour events… right before he accepted his 1st pro cash!|
We awoke early this morning, got the kids up, dressed and fed, tore down the tent and cleaned up the campsite. We said our good byes and our thank yous, and we started out trip towards home. The boys were loud and excited and trying to give me a headache, I think, but it was obvious we had all achieved what we had set out to do, and we had a wonderful family vacation at the Broken Bow Campgrounds. I cannot wait to do this again next year! BBBBBBBBRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……………….