Tag Archives: camping

Canoeing and Wild Camping

To celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary this year Rob and I left the kids with the grandparents and embarked on a canoe expedition course to learn the necessary skills to head off on our own adventures. In that week we fell in love with canoeing and on our return invested in two canoes and the various paraphernalia required such as life jackets, dry bags and so on. The kids have been desperate to get out on the water with us but I’m in the final stages of dissertation writing for my MSc and with weather and tide considerations a couple of weeks passed before we had a chance. That chance came last weekend and we went for it, full bore!

We could have fit way more stuff but this is all we needed for the five of us overnight

We could have fit way more stuff but this is all we needed for the five of us overnight

We set off just before high tide going up stream with the flow which made for easy initial paddling. Although as we rounded a corner the wind caught us and with only my 8 year old in the front of mine we were much lighter than I had anticipated and we kept getting turned. Even with the camping kit there wasn’t a lot of weight in the canoe and it was very much in the middle (kit) and back (me)… first lesson learned in terms of kit positioning.

drifting paddling

Eventually after spinning in the water for a while and even walking along a stretch of shore until we were past the bend in the river that was catching the wind, we were back on route and arrived at our camping spot.

tide going out drying sicks high tide

Traffic on the river was busy around high tide and we didn’t want to draw too much attention so we didn’t set up the tarp until much later but we set about collecting and processing firewood. We lit the fire with a flint and steel using tinder we found around us and the kids played in the water before the tide went too far out. Rob strung them up a simple rope swing which proved fun for hours (and also caused irritating “my turn” arguments!!)

processing wood

Boys processing wood for a fire

rope swing water fun summer fun whittling

Dinner was a basic chicken curry and here I learned another lesson… when taking curry powder in a pot seal the pot in bag or decent container… the curry powder spilt in one of the dry sacks and covered EVERYTHING! I salvaged enough for dinner and sucked up the lesson. We had taken about 10 litres of water with us but actually on such a hot day and with cooking dinner and washing up this was only just enough. On our course we had learned about finding water on an expedition, filtering and sterilising but the river we were on is largely salt water so that wasn’t an option. There was a stream feeding into the river nearby that we could have got water from had we been desperate and next time we’ll take a suitable filtration system in case we need it.

cooking dinner

Cooking dinner on the fire


Curry with a view

After dinner and some bird watching we set up the tarp and as the sun set we got the kids to bed and us shortly after… we had to be up at 5am to catch the outgoing tide back home or we would be stranded until mid-afternoon!

bird watching setting up tarp camp sleepign babies

The early start was brilliant, we had the camp packed down and ready to set off in half an hour and we made sure that we left no trace that we had been there… an important principle we are pressing hard on the children!

early morning

Up and ready to set off at 5.30am

The trip back was effortless on a mirror still river drifting with the tide. Of course at 5.30am we were the only human life on the river but it was teeming with bird life and the beauty of a canoe is that you can silently drift along without disturbing them.

morning shot misty morning one of me still waters

We were back at the car by 7am and heading home for a big old breakfast and a nap.

heading home for breakfast

heading home for some breakfast

Missouri – the beautiful


It’s not just the lack of offensive billboards that make Missouri beautiful. The rolling emerald hills, deep deciduous woodlands and roller coaster roads that leave your stomach catching up every few hundred metres make Missouri a fun place to drive through. It looks a lot like the Cornish countryside but with even less people. We loved it!

But Missouri seems to lack self confidence. Everyone we met questioned how we ended up there and were even apologetic of their State. The ferry man asked if we were lost, utterly baffled as to why we would be there otherwise. Yet it was truly beautiful, has a lovely climate and there’s loads to see and do.

We hired a camping cabin and had a fire outside. The boys fished (without success) and we had fun. The next morning we hired a raft and floated down the a river for five miles in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, stopping for a picnic lunch. We made a great team paddling, Alfie and I at the front and Rob steering from the back. The little two hanging over the sides watching fish darting around in the crystal clear water and spotting herons and turtles by the banks.

Later we had a campfire and I had brilliant success cooking a loaf of bread in the Dutch oven for the first time. Then Alfie had success catching his first ever fish!

Everyone here is really friendly and helpful, which combined with the stunning countryside, bird watching and fishing it’s got to be one of our favourite places so far. The benefit of the area’s lack of confidence is that the whole place is wonderfully quiet and empty, although there are signs of busier seasons in the summer months, now in May seems absolutely perfect to visit this region.

Alfie Dean

Alfie learning to fish – he’s good at casting in

Alfie Dean and Rob Dean

Daddy helping to unhook his first fish

Alfie Dean

Alf with his first ever catch – a little small to eat though so it went back in


His second catch – a pretty long eared sun fish


I’ve wanted to cook bread in the dutch oven for ages – my first attempt was a brilliant success – YUM!

Caitlin Dean

Proud of my success!

Alfie Dean and Patrick Dean

Jokes around the campfire – fun times!

Canyonlands National Park

There is no phone signal or Internet in Canyonlands National Park… It really is a long way from anything in the depths of Utah. And that’s a good thing as the crowds can’t be bothered, so the people there are there because they have made the effort. The long drive is stunning and wildlife is easy to spot, a coyote ran right across the road in front of us.

Canyonlands makes the geology easy…. It’s right there in front of you. Pink and white layers of sedimentary rock having built up by the alternating periods of sea, lake and river deposits then being worn away again by rivers and winds. The fine sand clearly from the rocks around us blowing and washing away.


Impressive views in every direction at Canyonlands National Park

At first sight it’s easy to think this landscape is rather barren and bleak but on closer inspection you become aware of how abundant the life here is. Plants thrive in the unique biological soil and reptiles, mammals and birds are everywhere the moment you stop, look and listen. But even before you stop, their tracks and signs are everywhere and easy to spot in the fine sand. Tiny shrew tracks, pursued by thick and distinctive snake tracks. Lizard lines and feet criss-crossing every sandy gap between plants and rocks.

A brilliant display in the visitor centre prepared us for a better understanding of what we would see on our short, child friendly walk around Cave Spring trail. Particularly the flowers and plants which have a variety of uses from nutrition to medicine, dyes and useful materials. We also saw a fascinating cowboy camp which was still in use until 1974! Although short, the trail offered everything from fantastic animal tracks to follow, plants to identify, ancient petroglyphs to marvel at, ladders to climb leading to views that make you feel like you’re on Mars.


Historic cowboy camp


Petroglyphs are abundant in the area, which was heavily populated by Ancestral Puebloans until a few hundred years ago when they departed the area, probably due to drought


Newspaper Rock on the road into the Park. A mind blowing display of petroglyphs from people spanning millenia

For the afternoon we hung out at the camp, washing our clothes, painting and cooking on the campfire. My boys are impressive climbers and having got to the summit of the hefty rocks behind our camp the night before with Rob they convinced me I would love the climb too. So with Orla on Robs back up we went and the view was amazing… But I’m going to skip over the bit about the descent in the hope that my children (and I) can all forget the rather embarrassing panic attack I had half way down a steep bit when I caught a glimpse of our tiny camp way down below the sheer drop to my left… Anyway, we survived and I decided I’m definitely more into climbing with a harness and ropes.

Camping at Canyonlands

Our humble abode

Camping at Canyonlands

Orla painting in the desert

Camping at Canyonlands

Snack time while the washing dries

Canyonlands National Park

Alfie climbing – this was a small one…

We also discovered that our sleeping bags are utterly unsuitable at high altitudes… Boy can the desert get cold at night, brrrrrr!

With another trip to an outdoor store on our list of things to do we packed up and headed for the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Just before we left though, we met a friendly man by the water tap who was down from Montana escaping the snow for a few days… he happens to be a ranger at Yellowstone and after a lively conversation about our respective trips we exchanged emails with instruction to get in touch before arriving at our most exciting destination in just over a month. He was actually there at the release of the first wolves in the Park and knows the place inside out and back to front. Exciting times ahead!


The peaks of the Rockies calling us onwards and upwards