It’s usually about mid-February that I start itching to travel. The weather starts teasing us with Spring-like days followed by days of snow. Winter is still hanging on, but I’ve been getting seed catalogs in the mail since before Christmas, begging me to start planning my garden. Cabin-fever has set in.
This year it set in a little earlier.
Little Roamer #2 was born in November, and having a baby only a couple months old and frigid temps has meant even less outside time for this momma. I need something to look forward to, so I start planning trips for this year.
And looking back on last year.
I had been dreaming about getting away for weeks, but my husband couldn’t see a break in his work. What’s a girl to do? Do I dare attempt a Mommy-Son camping trip with my almost two-year-old by myself? Am I crazy for even considering it? I talked myself in to and out of it over and over.
“Would we be safe on our own?”
“I can be cautious and still adventurous.”
“Am I going to be able to rest sleeping on the ground and pregnant?”
“I can always come home if it’s not working.”
“Can I handle a toddler on my own?”
“Ummm… hello? What do you do all day every day?”
I searched online for tips from other moms who travel solo with their kids, and much to my disappointment, found very little evidence that people actually attempt this. But they must, right?
Fast forward a couple weeks and LR and I are on the road.
Tip #1: Don’t overplan. Accept your adventure for whatever it becomes.
I made a very loose and forgiving plan for us. A general idea of when we will be where, so at the very least, my husband knows where we should be. But, I haven’t planned too many activities or too many stops. And I’m ok with this trip being whatever it ends up being, whether we stay out for a whole week or come back after 2 nights, we did it.
We start in Johnstown, PA at the Stonycreek Rendezvous. Matt attends this whitewater festival every year, so we weren’t on our own just yet. A night camping in the park, splashing in puddles, and then we’re heading out on our adventure.
Sidenote: This rain suit is one of my best purchases! Read about it how we use it here: Do’s and Don’ts of backpacking with Little Roamers
Tip #2: Go some place familiar.
Our first stop is not far from home: Cook Forest State Park. We’ve been here before. It’s also close enough (just 45 minutes) that Daddy can come visit in the evenings since he’s missing out on all the fun. My biggest fear about this trip was being exhausted in the evening and not being able to get LR to sleep (I don’t know if you knew this, but tents are pretty exciting!). Having my husband there the first couple nights helped to put my mind at ease.
In the morning Daddy leaves, and we’re on our own, but not for long. We do a hike and picnic lunch with another Mommy/Son duo we know who just happened to be hiking at the park.
Tip #3: When you’re ready, move out of your comfort zone.
After two nights in the park, I’m feeling much more confident. I can totally handle this solo-parent camping thing! We move on, going farther from home. While on the road, I spot a sign for Kinzua Bridge State Park, and having wanted to see the ruins for a while, I decide to take a detour. It’s nearly time to stop for lunch anyway. We arrive at the park with time to eat before walking out to the end of the Skybridge to see see the ruins as well as the beautiful view.
Next, we continue east to Leonard Harrison State Park, to see another sight I’ve been wanting to see: the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The view of the Pine Creek Gorge from the canyon rim is spectacular, and photos truly do not do it justice.
We stay in the park campground. I’ve brought plenty of things to keep LR busy while I set up camp. I show him how to do leaf rubbings with crayons, and he’s content to explore our campsite, looking for things to use.
The next day LR does his first hike by himself. I’m reaching the point where I can’t comfortable buckle the pack’s hip belt around my growing tummy, so now is as good a time as any for him to start hiking on his own. We go slowly, watching for wildlife and stopping to look at anything interesting along the trail. We also take a little time to bike down the Pine Creek Gorge Rail Trail and eat a picnic snack all the creek.
Tip #4: Take a map. Know how to read it. Teach your kids to use it.
We take a different route home, through State Forest, Park and Wildlife Areas. With ZERO cell service and ZERO GPS. I recommend you always carry a paper map with you when you are traveling. You never know when you’re going to need it, and I’m so thankful I had one, and I know how to use it.
Tip #5: Let people help you.
I’m perfectly happy with the outcome of our first solo-parent adventure. We survived. We had fun. We met so many people who were kind to us and eager to help from the campground hosts who came to check on us and see if we needed anything, to fellow campers who chatted with LR while I did the dishes, to the shop-owners who let us use their phone to check in with Daddy when we were out of cell service.
The bottom line is: We did it and so can you!