We had tentatively planned a trip to the Outer Banks, NC early May. We started to head down and the truck made a funny noise, and the weather down there was terrible. We rescheduled for June. Our next plan was early June, heading to Great Smokey Mountain National Park, BUT as that trip approached, we ended up deciding the weather was too iffy to head down there. What do you do with a 15 month old in a camper if it is raining? We didn't want to figure that out. Bummed that a second trip was changed, Brock came up with the idea to maybe go north instead: the weather was looking better, and we had never been to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Before I go any further, we have this cool map that Brock's brother gave to us, that we had framed with no glass. It has all the national parks in the US on it (not monument or sites or anything else: just parks) and you add a sticker to it each time you visit a park. I also add the dates, because as we get older, we can't remember when we went! If it has a little R on it, Ruby visited that park with us. You can see below... we went to Hot Springs National Park (#31) and Mammoth Cave National Park (#40) in 2015. Shenandoah National Park (#50) with Ruby in 2016, and #15 is Cuyahoga Valley National Park!
Anyway, back to this new and improved idea: heading North. We had never been to, and had to go to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and I have this quirky bucket list item to visit all the state capitals (post on that later, I promise! Not quite half way with that goal yet...)
So... if we left Northern VA, headed northwest, we could hit Columbus, OH before heading due north to Cuyahoga Valley. We could loop home through western PA. Looking at the map....and our bucket list... we noticed Niagara Falls wasn't too far from Cuyahoga, only 4 hours or so. Why not? So we did! This will be part one of the trip, and Niagara Falls and the ride home will be in a second blog post. We left on Tuesday May 30 after Brock got home from work, and ended up sleeping in a Walmart Parking lot in Morgantown, WV. (What: you've never parked and slept for FREE in a Walmart parking lot?? You're missing out, my friends.) It was the most convenient place, instead of back tracking 10 miles over the hilly roads for a campground, or forging on for another 45 minutes at 6pm and going much past bedtime for Ruby. She got a bath in our little Sea to Summit sink, a bit chilly, but she was clean and refreshed.
Again: we started out on the bottom couch of the camper. This time we were ready. Brock made window coverings to block out light of traffic. We purchased a cheap battery powered sound machine. And still... she was NOT falling asleep. I want to take a moment and share this deep thought we had on this trip ...
Being a parent is HARD.
Traveling with a young child is HARD.
It won't go perfectly. We can think of everything, except how Ruby is feeling inside, and that we can't do anything about, except have an infinite amount of patience.
Only her second night in the camper ever, and by 9 or 9:30pm, she was up in bed, in her tent, next to me, and Brock was yet again left to his own on the couch below. And again, within 10 minutes, she was comfortable enough to fall asleep. Was this how we would have to do it for a while?
Miraculously, she slept until almost 7am! Even the trucks in and out of the parking lot didn't wake her until she was ready. Whew. Quick breakfast for us: coffee for Brock, water for the girls, and Ruby had precooked ham steak and green beans, and a banana. Breakfast is her best meal, so I almost always try to get in a protein, veggie, and fruit. The rest of the day, who knows what kind of mood she'll be in, and rationalizing with a 15 month old is not my best skill. We do pack yogurt for her, and baby food packets, so she gets her pro-biotics and at least a small dose of fruit and veggies later in the day. She LOVES baby food packets because they're a treat for her, and we only have them on special occasions. Brock and I had oatmeal in the little cups where all you need to do is add water.
Next we were on to Columbus, OH. I loved it. Turns out, its the biggest metropolitan city in OH, and the 14th biggest in the US. Who knew?
Brock wanted to stop at Rogue, because we are sort of nerdy like that. Two shirts and $40 later, we were on our way to Field of Corn in Dublin, OH. Not too far off the beaten path, it was a field of corn ear sculptures. COOL.
Then on to Cuyahoga area... the park has a VERY small campground, and very expensive ($25 per night!) and because this was last minute, we didn't make reservations. So we camped in Silver Springs Campground in Stowe, OH for two nights, at $12 a night. It was a pretty campground, with potable water, and port-pots, and loads of room for Ruby to explore. And the price was right!
After a 15-20 minute drive into Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we checked out the visitor center, and bought our christmas ornament, magnet, and sticker for the truck (we do this for every national park, and an ornament for most places we visit). I had done a bit of research and wanted to see Blue Hen Falls, and The Ledges. Cuyahoga was VERY bike friendly, and we wished we had loaded the bikes and been better prepared for that... Ruby typically enjoys biking! It was also a very historical park, so if you're into that, definitely plan a visit. I'm NOT a history buff AT ALL...
Blue Hen Falls was a short hike (less than a mile) and then we went off the beaten path down to the actual falls. Quite refreshing... Ruby sure does love any water!
The Ledges was on our way out of the park (we needed to get back to campsite for someone to try and nap) so we stopped there and checked them out. Not a long or strenuous hike by any means: we just carried Ruby or let her walk. Pretty neat place to check out, and maybe have a picnic.
We stayed a total of two nights in OH. The first night, we started Ruby up in the bed with me (in her tent) and it STILL took her until 9 or 9:30 to finally fall asleep. Sigh.
The second night.... we tried putting her down on her bed, on the couch. And she did it: she fell asleep before 9pm, and SLEPT UNTIL 7AM. It was a victory for us! Progress! We were both pretty stoked.
The part I was still really struggling with? MEALS. Feeding Ruby was near impossible, because she WON'T. SIT. STILL. She always wants to get down, and play. Which is great, and I'm ok chasing her around and feeding her on the go, but then when does Mama eat? And this Mama NEEDS TO EAT. Especially when one of the meals is shrimp boil packets, full of shrimp, andouille sausage, corn, green beans, potatoes, butter and cajun spice, all grilled in a foil packet. I prepped that: I WANT TO ENJOY IT. It was incredibly frustrating... every time I sat down and tried to take a bite, Ruby was headed toward a puddle, eating rocks, or playing in a fire pit. Like I said... trial and error. We were determined to figure this out.
And this was a pretty primitive campground: no showers. So Ruby got chilly baths in the sea to summit sink again!
Would we return to Cuyahoga? Probably not. It doesn't have the pull that we felt from the parks out west (Glacier, Olympic, North Cascades, etc...) but was it a neat stop? Sure. And we got to put our sticker on the map!