August 28, 2012

Salty

Hubby & I used to camp a lot.
Like every-other weekend a lot.  In the summer, since I was out of school, camping was a cheap and easy getaway.  You can't beat $15 a night with the ocean only a mile away - -  hot showers and flushable toilets even!  We would beach-bum all.  the.  time.  We love the beach.  Listening to the crashing waves.  Laying in our beach chairs reading our latest novel-addiction.  Lazing around in the water on our boogie boards.  Munching on grapes, Pringles and beef jerky from the cooler, never really paying attention to the time.
So how much more fun would it be to take our 15 month old camping at the beach?!  We were inspired to give it a shot.  I mean, we camped in the bush of Africa for three days, surely we could survive two nights in a beach town of the Carolina coast!

So off we set on a Saturday morning, arriving mid-afternoon to our campsite we quickly got busy setting up our (borrowed) tent. We have a tent of our own, it's a four-man tent and very nice, it has lasted us more than 5 years, but when our (very gracious) friends offered us their ten-man tent that had three rooms, we had to accept.  That meant we could bring the pack & play for Owen to sleep in, rather than him being on the air mattress with us.
So we set up camp - Owen was an awesome (albeit, very dirty) helper.
 

He's very into that these days.  Helping.  It's sweet.  And cute.  And usually helpful.  

And viola! The tent was up!
So off we went to stroll the beach.  It was about 3:00 in the afternoon, so we slipped on our suits (we were all hot and sweaty from setting up the tent) and figured we'd take a dip in the water to cool off.
When we got to the board walk and we could see the ocean, Owen was very... hmmm interested? intrigued? leery? Yup.  All of those.
He wouldn't take his eyes off it.
 So we carried him down the boardwalk, slipped off his flip-flops and plopped him in the sand.  He just stood there for a minute, looking up at us like "what the??@?!?@" The we grabbed his hand and started walking and he walked along with us. Still unsure of this squishy substance beneath his feet.  He tripped a couple times, but got his 'sand legs' by the time we were down by the water.
When we got to the water's edge he clung to my leg as if his life depended on it.  He started saying 'nah. nah. nah' over and over again.  So we gently reassured him that we wouldn't put him in the water, and we told him it was the ocean.  We tried to get him to say 'ocean' but all he would say was 'nah.' (which means no).  So we just stood there for a little bit while he got used to the idea of the ocean.  And then it happened.  The water came up and over our toes, before rushing back out to sea.
 And he did. not. like. it. one. bit.
So we picked him up, reassured him that it was okay and started walking toward the pier.  Once under the pier we put him down again and he was okay.  He got to see a bunch of seagulls up close and he thought that was pretty cool.
 
Next we went up on top of the pier.  He much preferred the ocean from that viewpoint :)

 He even got to see some fish up-close (this one was being used for bait... but we didn't tell him that)
Some guy caught some crabs and he let him touch them, and we saw some people cleaning off some pretty big flounders too.  We left the cleaning table before it got too gory. And I didn't get any pics because there were scales flying everywhere, and I was in the moment watching bear's reaction :)
We headed back to camp after walking the pair so we could get the fire going and make dinner.  Owen did a great job around he fire - he kept saying "hot hot hot hot hot" and blowing on it (like we do when his food is hot).

 There were a TON of mosquitoes out because of all the rain we've had lately, (hence his jacket and pants in that first pic) so we ended up hanging out in the tent a lot.  Owen loved running around in the tent and jumping on the air mattress.  The tent appeared to have a level floor, but because there were roots and hills Owen resembled a drunken sailor stumbling around in it.  And that night, he was really tired.  When he gets tired he gets clumsy.  And the tired-clumsy on top of the uneven floor, was quite the sight to behold.  I'm pretty sure he fell more than he walked.  But he was a sport about it and always just got right back up.  Since we were in the tent so much we told him he had to find a spot to sit if he wanted to eat.  He chose the bed (of course).  So anytime he wanted to eat he would go climb onto the mattress and say 'eat eat please'.  It was cute.
The next morning we headed to a different part of the beach to set up camp.  Some (other gracious) friends of ours let us borrow their kid-beach stuff.  They let us take their little kiddie tent, kiddie pool and an umbrella.  So we lugged all our stuff to the beach bright & early Sunday morning.
 It had rained the night before just a little and the sand was nice and packed down - Owen much preferred it that way :)

He also much preferred the ocean water to be in his kiddie pool, rather than him being in the ocean.  We did take him down to the water once, I held him and we dipped in to cool him off, but he mostly just sat on that boogie board and played with the water in his pool.  He had a blast sitting there playing and that's what matters.  Maybe he'll like the ocean next time :)




I love how his hair got the 'beachy' look! :)
He loved sitting in papa's chair :)
And I loved his little sandy toes!

Around 1:00 we saw some clouds rollin' in, and Owen was getting tired so we packed things up and headed back to camp to get showers.  On the way to camp (which is 5 minutes from the beach) Owen fell asleep, so Bill & I took turns taking a shower while he slept in the car.  Afterward we decided to drive back down to the beach and maybe walk around, but what we saw was this:
 

So we decided to drive around instead.  I got some pretty neat shots in the process: 
 There is something so beautiful and raw about a storm on the beach.
 I was just getting ready to snap this pic of the lone umbrella left on the stormy beach, when the wind came and picked it right up!  Talk about timing!
  So for the rest of the afternoon we drove up to the local mall and let Owen play and run around the play area.  He had a blast climbing on all the cars and trucks that cost $1 to make them spin or move, and he didn't even care that they weren't on! We ended up eating out since our fire pit was quite drenched from all the rain.  
The rain lasted all night long, and it was quite the storm.  We stayed pretty dry in our tent, but Owen didn't love the sound of the rain on the roof and ended up in bed with us.  It was a long night for us, but he slept pretty well.  In the morning the clouds still looked a little threatening, even though it wasn't raining, so we decided to go down and walk the boardwalk for the sunrise, then head to the NC Aquarium.  

 
It ended up being a beautiful morning, but we decided to head to the aquarium anyway, because we knew Owen would love it, and there isn't anything like that close to us in Charlotte.  We were right on, he LOVED the aquarium.  He was so adventurous an would touch anything that he was allowed to.  His favorite: the turtles.
 He kept saying it over and over again "tuh-tuh, tuh-tuh".  It was adorable.  He also got to watch me feed a horseshoe crab (there was no way I was letting him touch the dead, cut up fish that was the food), he also got to touch a starfish, an anemone, and some box turtles.

Although he didn't get to touch everything at the aquarium - I was impressed with how much he was able to see and focus on.  He loved looking at all the fish, and was even able to spot the seahorses, though they were pretty camouflaged.
 

We got to see a lot of really neat little creatures!
 


and some not-so-little...

We let Owen walk around the aquarium for the most part, and he loved it.  We only held him or picked him up to let him see the exhibits that weren't on his level.  He really enjoyed being able to wander around and go wherever he wanted to go :)
When he was tired of looking at all the fish (I mean, they kind of start to look the same after you see so many (-;  )  we headed to the playground outdoors.  They just opened it this past spring and it's supposed to be this state-of-the-art playground - Owen didn't care how state-of-the-art it was - he had a blast!
 

 
I think this one is the look of shock on his face that he made it to the top of the slide all by himself and was about to go down :)

After the aquarium we decided to hit the road and head back home.  We spent a good 2 hours there before following the winding path through the trees, bushes and past the pond back out to the parking lot.  Right before the exit into the parking area we met this little guy... Owen was very excited to sit on him. :)
Owen did great on the ride home, dozing off and on and jabbering the rest of the time. :)  We slowly made our way home, in no rush, just enjoying the last few hours of 'vacation' time together.  We even stopped for dinner and had a picnic in the grass under a big shade tree.  It was a lot of fun - our first family camping/beach trip.  I did learn one thing: Camping is fun.  The beach is fun.  But doing both together with a toddler is a lot.  Not that I didn't think it would be, but it's a lot. So our family-consensus is that next time we go to the beach, we'll try to barter for a house/condo to stay in.  And next time we go camping, we'll go to the mountains where it's cooler.
But the best part of the trip were the memories we all made.  I'm not sure Owen will remember it all, but he has at least 348,379,874 pictures that momma took to help jog his memory one day :)