Notes on Camp

Guest Blog by Beth

“What should I do?” We usually hear that from Noah a dozen times a day, but I hadn’t heard it all weekend. Until now. At 3 am on Sunday. Could he be talking in his sleep, bored with his dreams? I decided to feign sleep, hoping if he was awake he’d fall back to sleep quickly. It worked.

We were in the middle of our second annual mother-son fall camping trip. Although this is a new tradition, Noah already has two requirements: that we stay in one of the Maryland State Park system’s camper cabins and that we be able to see a waterfall during the trip. This year’s destination: Susquehanna State Park with a side trip to nearby Rocks State Park for waterfall-viewing.

School let out early on Friday, so we hit the road in mid-afternoon, arriving at the park with plenty of time to get settled in then head into town for a pizza dinner. When we returned it had gotten dark, and on the walk to the restrooms for bedtime preparations Noah imagined scary animals lurking in the dark. “I saw an anteater. I definitely saw an anteater.”

Once we were settled into bed, we stayed up late talking through the darkness. Our conversation focused on recurring dreams. Noah’s been having a scary dream lately, which he says he can anticipate because he gets a ticklish feeling on his feet. He had previously been unwilling to divulge the contents of the dream, but after I told him about one of my recurring scary dreams, he spilled the beans on his. It involves him hanging from a tree while a fox leaps at his feet, trying to eat him. “It’s nice when you are in the same room with me so I can tell you everything I think before I fall asleep,” he said.

The next morning it was pancakes cooked over the open fire. “The best pancakes ever,” Noah declared. Perhaps because they were made with Bisquick pancake mix–first ingredient white flour, second ingredient sugar–instead of our usual whole wheat, multi-grain, no sugar recipe from home? Then it was time to drive down to the riverside bike trail for our planned expedition, or so I thought.

“Drive? No, we’re going to ride our bikes from here!”

“But I told you the plan was to drive to the bike trail.”


Uh oh. Clearly he had a picture in his head of us biking away from the cabin, and hadn’t been listening when I described the plan.

“But the trail from here isn’t made for bikes. It is narrow and rocky and steep.”

“Bikes are narrow. And our tires are made for rocks. And if you go fast it doesn’t matter if it is steep.”

This was Noah at his most uncompromising, and he was using the all-knowing tone that gets my blood boiling.

“Noah, we just can’t do that. It is not an option.”

“Show me on the map. See, your way is not an option because the trail goes over a creek and bikes can’t just go over creeks.”

“There is a bridge.”

“No there’s not. There’s no bridge symbol on the map.”

“Noah, that part of the trail is along a road and the road goes over a bridge.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do.”

Finally, somehow, as with all such stalemates, I managed to keep my cool, stand my ground, and get him into the car and headed toward the trail.

The bike ride was great, although I mostly walked, pushing my bike with one hand while steadying Noah’s with the other to prevent his training wheels from sticking on the uneven surface. We spent a long time rock hopping in the river, my calls of “be careful” and “use caution” apparently meaningless as he beamed his loose-limbed energy across the sun-dappled water. By the time we finished the trail — 5.4 miles to the Conowingo Dam and back — it was well past lunchtime and I was very hungry. I laid out our lunch options — leftover pizza or a trip to town to find a lunch spot. Noah reflected on the choices then said, “You know what the perfect fall lunch would be? Leaf-shaped cookies and apple cider!” When I suggested that we might want to add something with some nutritional value to the meal — yogurt perhaps? — he gave me a sincerely puzzled look and said “Why?”

So into town we headed, in search of leaf shaped cookies and cider. We found a fair enough approximation at the local grocery store (round “harvest” cookies with orange, yellow, red and brown sprinkles) and I managed to get him on board with the yogurt plan. We ate at a bench overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, on the grounds of the Concord Point lighthouse. The lighthouse was open, so we were able to climb up for a look. Then we headed back to the campground, for an evening of campfire, s’mores, and more anteaters in the shadows. No chatter after lights out this time. The bike ride had worn him out.

Sunday morning we breakfasted at Waffle House (“Let’s pretend that it’s really made of waffles, OK?”) then drove to Rocks State Park for our hike to Kilgore Falls. More scrambling over rocks, more maternal pleas for carefulness and caution. At one point, struggling to make an impression, I stated firmly, “If you take one more step you will fall off that rock to the bottom of the falls and hit your head and die.” He stepped back, but the look on his face let me know that he thought that was just about as likely as running across an anteater in the woods of central Maryland.