With our first night sleeping on the tent pad at campsite 80 behind us, we started day two of our trip at Petit Jean in great fashion – with a nice breakfast.
After first reading Lonesome Dove 20+ years ago (and a couple dozen times since), I’ve always wanted to make dutch oven biscuits, outside, early in the morning. Since this was our first ‘official’ breakfast in our camping adventures, I got up a little early, started some coals and threw some Pillsbury canned biscuits in the dutch oven. It wasn’t exactly like Gus’ homemade biscuits, but hey, it’s 2012, not 1875. Uva Uvam Videndo Varia Fit, as Gus would say.
I must say the buscuits were tasty, and well worth the ‘effort’ that Pillsbury put into packaging them.We made some coffee and had link sausage and scrambled eggs w/Pickappepa to complement the biscuits. It just doesn’t get much better than a decent meal to get your day on the right track. Following breakfast, we lazed around the campsite for a little while and Joe played with his new knight and dragon that Pops brought him.
Later in the morning, we hit the first of several stops of the day at Cedar Falls Overlook. In years past, Cedar Falls was just that, falls. Due to very little rain, snow, etc. the falls are more like Cedar Trickle, these days. It didn’t help that we arrived during the middle of drought-ma-geddon. I won’t depress you with a picture, but this, is what it should look like. Still, the short trail to the falls has been redone since I was last there, and Joe really liked leading the way down. This is probably the most kid friendly (and now wheelchair accessible) trail at Petit Jean. It is a great way to start your trip, and you get a beautiful view of the falls and canyons below you. Here is a shot of Michelle and Joe at the falls overlook.
Before lunch, we went to back to the Petit Jean grave-site and Arkansas River Overlook to attend a program on the history of the mountain. Turns out, there are several theories behind the original inhabitants, explorers, and uses of the area, including this one, on the naming of the mountain. The most popular story is the one which I described in a previous post, and is also the one that appeals to our emotions the most. Since it involves explorers, French girls, summer nights, ghosts, graves, and Native Americans, it’s the one I’ll stick with.
Anyhow, during the program, led by Park Interpreter B.T., we volunteered to be in a skit describing the ‘Legend of Petit Jean’. No, I didn’t play the cross-dressing French girl. But my wife did! I played the part of Petit Jean’s boyfriend, and several of the other park guests played various explorers or Native Americans (who would say “Oh no, there goes the neighborhood” when the French Explorers arrived on the mountain). All in all, it was a fun program, and Joe really liked it. For the rest of the trip, we would randomly say “Oh no, there goes the neighborhood” and we would get a little chuckle out of it. People probably thought we were weirdos, but that is nothing new to this crew.
After the Falls and lunch, we packed up our backpack, grabbed the hiking sticks and headed towards the Rock House Cave trail. This is another short, manageable hike that kids really enjoy. You start the hike by going down a geologic feature named “Turtle Rocks” and follow a short trail in the woods that leads up to a gigantic cave shelter. The shelter is a large rock formation that has 75 foot ceilings and little nooks and cranny’s that the kids love to explore. Joe had a great time, and wanted to stay at Rock House ALL day. We had to bribe him with a treat at the visitors center, and a promise to come back, to get him to leave.
Later, we went to Bear Cave, which is another very fun, and kid friendly trail. Bear Cave is not actually a cave in itself, but a series of rocks that make it appear cave like. I believe it got it’s name when someone spotted a bear in there several decades ago. Joe really enjoyed this hike, there is more room to explore at Bear Cave, and if you are adventurous, you can climb the rocks about 40 feet, and have an amazing view of Cedar Canyon, with Mather Lodge off in the distance. I did the climb to the top on day three of our trip, but unfortunately, it wasn’t quite safe enough for Joe to come up with me this time. Leaving Bear Cave, we also got our first and only real boo-boo of the trip. Joe proclaimed that he was never going camping again (he discarded that viewpoint about an hour later).
Winding down our day, we headed back to the visitors center (our new favorite watering hole), and finally, back to camp to get ready for dinner. That evening, we had some chicken fajitas w/all the fixins and some chips and dip. Another yummy way to finish the day. We didn’t do alot the rest of the evening, but at dark, we went to the amphitheater on the lake and listened to Park Interpreter Rachel tell different Native American stories, including “The First Fire’. Also, we did manage to hit the showers and get cleaned up before hitting the sack, which was an oh-so-welcome feeling.
Here are some more pics of day two of Camping with Joe…