Each year, the hubby & I book a long camping weekend around the anniversary of our family (first date anniversary June 24, 2007).
I prefer state park camping over resort camping, for the simple fact it is usually less expensive ($15 to $25/ night). Most NY state parks have a junior ranger program, where the park ranger meets with kids ages 3 to 12 years old, and talk about various topics from plant regognition, to survival tips in the wild, to wildlife safety (to name a few). Junior ranger programs are “typically” done once a week, on a set day at a set time. Another kid friendly reason I prefer state parks to private campgrounds is, state parks also have playgrounds in the campers loop for kids. The roads in most (not all) campgrounds are well maintained, and a child can enjoy bike riding. An added bonus to not having scheduled activities (seen more with private campgrounds) is kids have time to play in the woods (with adult supervision of course), go hiking, collect edible berries, go to the beach, go swimming, hang around camp, meet camp friends, etc… there is a world of fun to be had at a state park.
We booked our stay at Eighth lake state park in April, on reserveamerica.com (which is where all camping reservations are made). We booked a stay of Friday to Monday. When you book that far in advance, you can only hope the weather will be favorable. I like to book new state parks every trip, this allows us flexibility to explore new places and experience things that area has to offer.
Friday, June 22,2018 came around. We had just purchaseded our new to us pop up camper, which was not on the road yet. We (I mean me), loaded my 2015 Subaru Outback with our tent, tarp, air mattresses, my daughter’s pack n play (life saver for small children under 2 years old for camping), Coleman cook stove, propane canisters, camping tool box and dry goods, a cooler with drinks and food for the weekend. After that, I stuffed in pillows and blankets, clothing, and stuffies for each child. My car was packed! We left home, later than I wanted at around 3:30pm. Most state parks need you to check in BEFORE 9pm or you forfit your campsite, Eighth Lake was no exception.
We stopped in Utica at Walmart for a few last minute camping supplies, tarp, rope, bug spray and sun screen. We grabbed sandwiches, fresh cherries, and water for dinner and hit the road headed North! We passed several small adirondack towns on Route 28, including Old Forge, and Inlet. We crossed the majestic and picturesque Moose River. We arrived to Eighth Lake at 8:54pm…..talk about cutting it close! We registered, and were warned about bears (as in active bear problem, not just sightings), we bought firewood at the campground ($9 for enough for 1 campfire); I will add it burned really good, we had no trouble starting the campfire.
We set up camp in the dark, one of my least favorite activities (also why I wanted to leave home before 3:30pm). We missed the ONLY good weather day the whole weekend. Our neighbors heard us, before they met us. Evie, the baby gets very upset if she is not safely and warmly tucked into bed by 9pm. But we managed (something your accustomed to as a parent of small children, everyday is an adventure).
The kids and I had quite the adventure of finding the bathroom, in the dark, the night we arrived. Once the kids were asleep, hubby and I enjoyed some adult beverages, by a very nice campfire.
The rain started as a mist, right as we were going to bed. It continued all day Saturday, until we arrived back to camp. Saturday morning, we woke up early 6:30am to heavy rain. We packed up the kids, left camp. We drove 1.25hours North, to Tupper Lake. I’m no stranger to Tupper Lake, as I lived in the village from 7/2004 to 12/2006. We were all starving (as with the rain we were not successful in cooking a camp breakfast). We drove through town, which was busy, as they were in the middle of the “Tin Man” triathlon. Wearrived to one of my favorite places for good food, The Lumber Jack Inn. A family of 4 ate till we were full, on homemade breakfast fare (Chocolate chip pancakes for the kids, french toast & omelet for me, and hubby had sausage and biscuits). Evie ate her Gerber food, she has not graduated to solids yet. We rolled out of there, onto our next adventure (we paid $30, for all that food, some leftovers for later)….seriously best deal & food for miles!!!
Our next stop was to The Wild Center, a adirondack museum dedicated to animals, plants, habitats, and people of the adirondack park. I LOVE THIS place. This was our third time there, each time there is something new to do. Since our last visit in 2014, when Ella was a baby, they added a whole outdoor learning area. The rain has slowed enough for us to enjoy the outdoor area, so we headed there first. The exhibit consisting of a bird area, boardwalk above the treetops, life sized eagle nest, life sized spider web, tree fort with steel bridges to/from, all handicapped and stroller accessible. Then we hiked down to the river, enjoyed the 2 river overlooks, and hiked back up (again stroller accissible). Then we went into the main museum, the rotating exhibit was on Native Americans of the Adirondack park, as well as around the US. The kids loved the fish tanks with native fish, turtles, and their favorite the river otter exhibit. Evie, the baby, loved watching the river otter play and dive, she giggled uncontrollably as the otter swam in front of her. (As a side note, all of my kids loved the river otter as babies.) We napped in the NASA sphere room, and I nursed Evie into a nap. Lily partook in 2 animal presentations, first on otters (she wore the otter suit), the second on skunks. There is a program of hands on events, and shows in the theater that run all day long. The museum is ABOUT HANDS ON EXPLORATION, and is perfect for kids to learn and explore. We stayed at the Wild Center from open @ 10am to just before closing at 6pm. **If you are staying in the area, the Wild Center admission is for 2 days (pay for day 1, and return the next day for FREE, just bring your reciept in for verification).** There is no way to see and do it all, in 1 day.
We returned to camp, to find that the rain had stopped. Joe cooked dinner, as the girls and I did some exploring. Lily & Ella stripped down and went swimming (luckily there was no one around). Evie & I bird watched (ducks, geese, and a eagle). We met our camp neighbors, a couple from Saratoga with Grandkids. They just loved visits from our girls. We got back to camp, ate dinner, and headed for the showers.
I always look for state parks with hot showers, as this is a MUST HAVE with small children. There was 1 shower building for the whole campground. It had 6 shower stalls. I cautioned Lily & Ella to keep their shoes on (crocs and flipflops) on during the shower. The cleanliness of the shower area was not the best. The water was nice and warm, hot if you turned off the cold water (Ella & I like it hot). While the water was metered (on a timer), it was free. Ella & I enjoyed long hot showers.
We returned to camp at dark, set up a campfire (smartly we picked up a large bundle of wood, at a roadside stand in Raquette Lake, for $5); road side firewood is your BEST DEAL, usually a good sized bundle can cost between $3 to $7 each. (TIP TIP!! Most state parks sell fire wood $9 or more a bundle, or have a local person come in to sell firewood; you WILL pay a lot more than if you find some local roadside firewood seller.) We also stopped at Stewart’s in Long Lake for smore supplies. We enjoyed roasted marshmallows and smores before the girls went to bed. Hubby & I stayed up later with our adult beverages and watched the campfire.
Sunday we packed up camp, as we were headed to Plattsburgh for a graduation party. We packed a soaked tent (it rained Sat into Sun), rolled it into the large tarp and put it on the top of the car (with a towel under it, to prevent scratching). We headed for breakfast, stopping in Long Lake at the diner. I worked in Long Lake, for as long as I lived in Tupper Lake; the diner used to be very good. Now that the Blarney Stone burnt down, it’s only competition is The Adirondack Hotel. I was not impressed, at all. The food was mediocre, at best. Bacon was way overcooked, the pancakes were ok, my french toast was ok; the waitess -yes busy, for a Sunday morning (all tables filled, with some waiting for a table)- seemed annoyed with our small children, who were behaving ok (like small children- atleast they stayed at our table, and were quiet). When our bill came I was unpleasantly surprised for less food it was higher than the bill at The Lumberjack Inn the day before. Save some money, better food, better service go 30 minutes North on Route 30 to Tupper Lake, and treat yourself to a meal at the Lumberjack Inn!
We left Long Lake, took route 30, to Route 3 Saranac Lake, to Plattsburgh. Beautiful drive!