Sunday, July 22, 2007

Jellystone Camping

We just returned from our weekend camping trip with Sharon, Desi, Pam, Phil, Leslie and Scott, and all ten kids in tow. This trip was a two night affair at Jellystone Resort in Luray, Virginia.

Jellystone, being a commercial resort, has its advantages: water slides, two swimming pools, paddle boats, fishing, mini-golf, and a very complete (and very accessible) gift shop. However, Jellystone also has its disadvantages: something like ten thousand rednecks and whisky tango sleeping side by side by side!

I've never seen the like. Apparently, Jellystone is happy to rent out golf carts to lazy campers intent on avoiding anything that resembles exertion. Every morning at six o'clock, we'd awake to the dulcet tones of an overloaded gasoline-powered motor driving 100 yards to the nearest toilet facility. It was quite something to see a golf cart loaded with twelve hundred pounds of women, each of the four smoking their cigarettes, on their way to "freshen up" in the loo. There was one fellow who I swore was just doing loops around the campground, until his two year old daughter disengaged the parking brake and backed the entire cart into a tree!

Yes, it wasn't exactly wilderness camping, even if the wilderness did manage to find us anyhow. Sometime around two o'clock P.M. on Saturday, Leslie, who was back at the camp while the others were at the pool, spied a fully-grown black bear enter our camp and begin eating hot-dog buns at the neighboring camp. Leslie ran down and called for help and some of the park rangers came and helpfully shooed the animal away.

This was not the last we'd see of Mr. Bear. In fact, later that night, around 3 A.M., we heard the very distinct bear foot-falls crunching in the leaves directly behind our tent! Now, this was no skunk! We had spotted a skunk the previous night rooting around in trash we forgot to dispose of. Skunks scuttle. Bears, however, have distinct footsteps, much like a man walking through the forest.

We were scared to death. With all of us in the tent, and the bear exactly three feet on the other side of a 1 mm thin tent veneer, we could do nothing more than lay there quietly and wait for him to pass.

Luckily, we had the foresight to put all food and trash away, so he eventually became disinterested, and lumbered back up the hill away from our camp.

Let me tell you, I have never been so frightened for my family. My heart raced all night. I had visions of grabbing the boys and making a mad dash for the minivan. However, I didn't want to startle the bear into some chaotic action, so I think laying quietly was the best policy. (It had worked so well with the skunk the previous night.)

After I was sure the bear was gone, I got up to check the campsite, and decided that by peeing on the corner near the tent, I'd be able to ward off future visits. (It obviously worked, as we had no future bears paying a call.)

Overall, it was a nice weekend to get away. The weather was stupendous--low humidity, cool but sunny. Luray Caverns were a fun visit--a definite must-see tourist trap for the kiddies. The water slide at the resort was also great fun! I haven't been on a water slide in twenty years, and it was a real blast. The kids really enjoyed the fishing and paddle boats, and we even got to share some birthday cake for Zach and Eoin.

In all, another great trip.

Welcome to Jellystone! Some nice vistas, though a bit crowded.

Our campsite.

We may be roughing it, but we're not uncivilized! (Sharon makes margaritas, or Deetaritas, as Leslie called them, having stirred one with her finger.)

Fishing with Scott and Leslie. Some of the kids were more interested in the worms than the fish.

Eddie and Olivia. These two are SO much alike.

A flock of juvenile wild turkeys, being led by their mama.

Spelunking at Luray Caverns. (Well, not much spelunking... the cave is entirely paved and has hand rails.)

The manliest campers all wear kilts.

Eddie and Gabi, Maura and Madeline all enjoyed the "big dance" hosted at the resort on Saturday night.

Happy Birthday, Eoin and Zach!

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