The first day of camping with Joe…

As I mentioned in the last post, our first camping trip has come and gone, and was a big success.  Of course, we went to Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton, Arkansas.  Where else would I choose to introduce my little buddy to the adventures of camping?  We stayed three nights and four days, and really did it up right, which is putting it mildly.

The biggest reason for the success of the trip was all the pre-planning.  After several weeks of scurrying here and there to look at and gather different gear, tools, supplies etc., when it came time to leave, we were sufficiently equipped with enough “stuff” to survive any calamity that the great outdoors could throw our way.  It was quite comical looking back on it, but almost all of the preparations paid off.  Here is a shot of Joe in the Explorer.  As you can tell, we packed almost every square inch of the SUV.   The Nesbit Hillbillies, maybe?

We got out of town on time, and our drive over to Petit Jean was uneventful, thanks to my mechanic, some new tires, and a little good luck.  Driving westward on I-40 to revisit adventures of the past and begin a new set of adventures with my own family was an amazing feeling.  It wasn’t as exciting as getting to see Joe’s face light up at Magic Kingdom, but moments like these are what make it all worthwhile.  It was truly great to make the drive up Petit Jean Mountain. Of course, we couldn’t go all the way up without stopping first at the Arkansas River overlook and Petit Jean’s grave site.

Petit Jean - AR River Overlook
After the overlook, we sought out our campsite, which I had reserved months in advance.  Because it was one of only a few overlooking Lake Bailey, and I thought we would have the best campsite in the park, but when we found it, we had to make a change.

It seems in the nearly 30 years that I first went to Petit Jean with my sisters and dad, that RVs have become prevalent in our fair land.  Who knew!  I didn’t take any pictures, but trust me when I say that this campsite was smack dab in the middle of RV HELL.  Nothing against RV’s mind you, but the intent of our trip was to get a little closer to nature and spend some quiet, quality family time in the woods.  With this campsite, we were surrounded by beer bellies, generators, and satellite dishes (yes, people really are THAT addicted to television, UGGH!!!).  We would have been the ONLY tent campers in this section of the park.

Luckily, the awesome staff at the welcome center let us pick a new campsite, and we drove around until we found lots 80 and 81.  We needed two lots to be able to “stretch” out, since my dad was planning on meeting us for the trip.  80 and 81 were situated at the end of a cove, and had only a brief, but secluded, walk to the bathroom and showers (which was NICE).  We grabbed them up.

Looking at Turtles with Interpreter MystinaWhile I was trying to figure out how to unpack our gear from the truck, Michelle and Joe went to a program about the various amphibians and reptiles located at Petit Jean.  They had a good, albeit hot, time going on part of the Seven Hollows trail with Park Interpreter Mystina and a few other fellow campers.

Speaking of hot.  My wife is not a fan of the hot.  Heck, she’s hot when it’s cold.  The only time she is cold is when she is sick.  Me?  I wear long johns in July.  Well, maybe not July, but pretty close.  Our one snag, if you could call it that, on the trip was that it was unseasonably hot.  Not warm, HOT.  We should have had highs in the low-80s and lows in the mid-60’s.  Instead we were sweltering in 93 degree heat.   So much for spring.  In a stroke of good fortune, the weather broke on our last day at the park and we enjoyed our longest hike of the trip down Cedar Creek Trail in cooler climates.  More on that later!

Once the amphibian program was over, we worked together to get our campsite up and situated.  In other words, it took me an hour to figure out how not to put up the tent.  Thank goodness for wives.  By dinner time, we were ready for some serious grub!  We made some brats cooked over the fire with bell peppers and onions and had a nice meal together.  Of course, I had mine with some Trader Joe’s Spicy Brown Mustard…

Brats & Trader Joe's Spicy Mustard

After we unpacked the gear, we realized all the things that we “needed” but didn’t have and made a mad dash back down the mountain for a 1.5 hr round trip to Wal-Mart.  Luckily it was the last time we went down the mountain until we left.  We got Joe a hat, us a bigger cooler, and a few other little items.   Joe was having a pretty good time – we let him watch a Scooby Doo movie he usually doesn’t get to watch, so he was extra happy to be on this particular trip.  He must have watched it 150 times that day.

My dad showed up at about 9:30PM, just as the darkness of the woods was really settling in.  He unpacked his gear and decided to sleep under the stars, rather than pitching his tent.   Before turning in for the night, we sat around a low lit lantern and enjoyed a beer and the quiet sounds of the woods together.  We talked about our travels and how good, really good, it was to be able to be together once again on Petit Jean Mountain, after all the years that had passed since we were last here.

Finally, around midnight, we CRASHED and called it a day.  That’s when the critters came out.  We were visited by a raccoon that Michelle fearlessly chased away.  Again, thank goodness for wives.  He did come back to get a little of our trash, but decided not to raid our tent.   He would have been in big trouble with my better half if he tried that one.

And that was our first day of camping with Joe…


  1. [...] with the news of the trip about 30 minutes before we left on Sunday.  Thankfully, Joe enjoyed our first camping expedition earlier in the year, so he was excited to go on another adventure.  With a few last minute [...]

  2. [...] during our “recent” trip to Village Creek State Park.  While on our trip to Petit Jean, Joe was enamored with all the different varieties of mushrooms we found in the woods.  My dad [...]

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