Camping, Travel and Learning

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photo by @_zphotoz_

Growing up my family moved a lot. I lived in several places in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Nebraska and now in Tennessee. However it wasn’t until I was with Ian in my twenties that I really got the chance to travel and really see places. Places that were out of my comfort zone like Mexico, Italy, England, Portugal, and Spain. Now Ian is gone but he passed a love of travel, learning and exploring along to me and our children. As a single parent, I enjoyed finding new adventures with my children and made it a goal to travel with them out of the country to get out of my box. Now with our new blended family, I’m so happy to have found someone else that shares my desire to camp, travel and learn. We’ve only been a new family for about a year but at the end of this month we’ll have camped in 10 different states together. It’s been a real blessing.

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Photo by @_zphotoz_ on Instagram

My favorite part about camping is the opportunity to be out in nature and away from the hustle and bustle. I try to lead a simple life at home, however with 4 kids it still ends up to be busy and hectic at times. I welcome the change of scenery and pace of life that camping brings. I love the chance to connect with nature. Being in the trees and near the water makes a world of difference for my mental well being. The kids tend to put down their electronic devices, get on their bikes and seem to be open to more conversation. We are able to work as a family/team to set up the camper and do the cooking. There are less distractions and more focus and quiet time which we all enjoy. There is something about being away that gives you a new perspective on your everyday anxieties.

Traveling opens our eyes to the world around us. I have found by visiting different areas we become more tolerant and accepting of differences, as well as each other. Traveling teaches patience, you can’t just snap your fingers and be at your new destination, it takes time. Our kids enjoy their electronic devices on the way, don’t get me wrong. When we first started taking trips together there would often be frustrated huffing, and complaining along the way. I’m pleased to say they seemed to have found a way to enjoy the process and give up the negativity (most of the time). We’ve also found ways to use the car ride as a bonding time. We sometimes play games together, or listen to songs or books on tape. Just a little bit of effort and planning can make a world of difference for a long road trip.

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Taken at Croft State Park by @z_photoz_

As I’ve stated a bzillion times before, learning happens all of the time. It’s not contained by the walls of a classroom. Learning happens everyday, you just can’t stop it. I find traveling and camping to be an exercise in teamwork, cooperation, patience, and simplicity. There are valuable skills that will last a lifetime. When life slows down I’ve noticed that often new books are pulled off the shelves and read in an afternoon, and new projects are started and new skills learned. This is done by their choosing, at their will. This kind of learning stays with you and changes who you are, makes you a better person.

 

We have some big changes and exciting things planned for our family over the next year. It makes me nervous and excited to see things coming together. We hope to keep expanding in our travels and spend more time with our kids learning and exploring every step of the way. I have enjoyed this past week participating in the Write Tribe challenge. It has given me the chance to catch up in sharing our camping adventures over the last year. I hope you will keep joining us for our journeys.

What are you favorite places to travel with your family? What have you learned? Suggestions where we should camp next?

 

Croft State Park

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photo by @z_photoz_on Instagram

We were on our way for a convention in Orangeburg, SC but we had a few extra days we could add to the trip so we thought we’d test out a new state park along the way. Poose came up with Croft State Park which was in Spartanburg, SC.  It was a good decision. We didn’t realize it at the time we made our reservation, but it’s an equestrian park. So as we were pulling in we noticed everyone had horse trailers, and we we saw a show arena for horses, so Big Z and Pee Wee were particularly excited about this. They had taken horse back riding lessons this year, and have a fondness for horses.

 

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Pee Wee and Big Z testing out the waters

Croft State Park has a unique history to it we would learn. It was originally a military base in it’s early years. There was an army infantry training camp that at one point hosted over 250,000 soldiers, it closed in the 1940’s and was opened up as a state park afterwards.  It was called Camp Croft after a military general, and prior to that the area served as a prisoner of war camp for World War I, and held approximately 250 Germans POWs. Now this beautiful state park has over 7,000 acres of trails, farmlands, old homesteads, cemeteries, lakes and woodlands. It’s become a popular destination for hiking, biking, fishing, boating and for bringing your horses. There are trails made for horseback riding and an arena for horse shows. We were fortunate enough to get a glimpse at one of the horse shows.

 

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Poose and Lil’Z fishing 

We rented kayaks for the big kids, and then a John boat for me, Poose and Lil’ Z. It was March but the weather was beautiful, as so often seems to be the case in South Carolina. The sun was shining and the skies were blue. We all spent the afternoon rowing around Lake Craig. We were able to get Lil’ Z a bamboo fishing rod at the welcome center and he was able to give fishing a try. Compared to other state parks we have visited, we found the rental rates for their boats to be very reasonable. The Park Rangers were extremely friendly and helpful in answering all of our questions.

 

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Serene Fairforest Creek 

The campground itself was a nice little loop where the kids could ride their bikes. It was just a short walk from the show arena. Most campers in our loop had their horse trailers with them, and were clearly there for to enjoy time on the trails with their horses or there to show their horses.  There was another loop closer to the lake, where we will try to stay if we stay there again. It would be nice to camp so close to the lake. The facilities were nice, the showers and bathrooms were always clean and they are located central to all of the camp sites.

 

IMG_6970We enjoyed a beautiful hike along Fairforest Creek. It was such a serene area tucked in the woods. There were sandy areas along the creek. The winding trail took us up and down where we were beginning to think we were lost. We were not of course, since we were still on the trail. It brought us back out on the road leading to the horse arena. Sunday morning the horse arena was in full use. There were beautifully groomed horses all around. It was a cool experience to see the horse show. I was surprised how young and small some of the riders were on these large horses. One girl got scared and fell off of her horse during the show, that gave me a fright. She ended up to be just fine and apparently lost control of her horse. Everyone clapped and supported her as she got back up.

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Photo by @z_photoz_.. her pictures are so much better than mine. I love this one! 

We drove into Spartanburg for dinner one night. As I’ve mentioned before, we always seem to have good success with small family owned ethnic restaurants when we travel. The food is usually healthy, delicious and affordable. It seems to work well for our varied preferences. We usually can find something for the vegetarians, the meat eaters and gluten free for Perry.  This time we tried a place called A Caribbean Sweetness.  The owner, Gaston, was a very outgoing and friendly man. We arrived right before closing, but he was kind and quick to serve us and guide us in our choices. Everything was delicious. The kids enjoyed the mango smoothies and we talked about how delicious and fun the experience was on the ride home. That is a sign of a good meal.

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Crazy girls in the water in March, they bet each other Starbucks, and couldn’t resist. 

We loved our time in Spartanburg, even though it was brief. Croft State Park was the refreshing nature break that we needed. We were so happy to be in some sunshine and we could feel that spring was in the air. We especially enjoyed our fun out on the lake.The girls took it to the next level, and decided to jump in the water. They challenged each other, and they weren’t about to back down. So in they went, silly girls!

When you camp what activities do you enjoy most? For us, we love being out on the water. This was so great to be out on the lake in the sunshine in March. I hope we’ll go back to Croft State Park in the not so distant future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, SC

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Downtown Greenville, SC Photo by @z_photoz_ on Instagram

So I’ve been doing this write tribe challenge this week and have been catching up writing about our travels over the past year. As a new blended family we just reached our year mark last month. It’s been fun for us to bond while we camp at different state parks not too far from home. Sometimes we get the opportunity to travel when Poose gets invited to share a bible lecture in American Sign Language at a local Deaf congregation. That was the situation that brought us to Greenville, SC.  When we get invited to attend a deaf congregation we always research what state parks are nearby so we can start planning our camping trip. We were happy to find that Paris Mountain State Park was close where we needed to be in Greenville,SC.


IMG_6870Paris Mountain State Park
is a smaller state park but with very nice camping facilities. There were paved camping sites for us to park our RV. This always makes things a little nicer when it comes to being level. We traveled to Paris Mountain in February, and had perfect weather for our trip. The kids enjoyed riding their bikes around the camping area and we had the chance to hike a few trails. The  park is surrounding Lake Placid which has a nice trail that circles the lake. Lil’ Z and I took a morning and explored wildlife and other cool things from nature on the Lake Placid Trail. It was an easy trail that took us below the dam and around the lake. We had a fun time seeing the ducks and squirrels on that quiet morning of our hike. IMG_6880

We went into Greenville for dinner and found a fantastic place called the Pita House. They served authentic middle eastern dishes, it was so delicious. There is a middle eastern market attached to the restaurant, we had fun there too. I often find that finding delicious ethnic food is often cheaper and most always more delicious than eating at a chain restaurant with the same ole foods.IMG_6883

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Downtown Greenville photo by @z_photoz_ on Instagram

I found Greenville to be a unique and beautiful town. It’s definitely a town designed to make you want to walk around, hang out and enjoy the people and the scenery. Falls Park is an incredible downtown space designed with  plenty of space for kids to enjoy nature and families to relax together. My very favorite park of the park was the beautiful exposed root system of one of the trees along one of the walkways, it was like a piece of art in in itself. IMG_6871Our family enjoyed an afternoon just walking around Downtown Greenville. I was so impressed with the cleanliness of the town, the friendliness of the people and the beautiful layout of the city. The Liberty Bridge just begs for you to walk across and see what awaits on the other side. There was something for everyone in our family. Perry was  even thrilled to find a gluten free bakery.

Have you ever visited Greenville, SC? Where are your favorite places to camp? Do you have a favorite State Park?