Camping with the Crew at Lake Bob Sandlin

Our family had a wonderful weekend camping at Lake Bob Sandlin. We got back into camping about a year and a half ago. Here are some of the camping trips I’ve blogged about:

Eisenhower State Park camping trip
Turner Falls camping trip
Cooper Lake South Sulphur camping trip
Cooper Lake Doctor’s Creek camping trip

We have a list of demands preferences for camping:

  1. We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
  2. We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
  3. We want electricity and running water.
  4. We want to camp at a time of year when the temps get at least down in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
  5. We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past time for our guys.
  6. We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room.

The boys didn’t have school on Friday, so we headed out after lunch. The campground is located in Pittsburg, TX, and hour and forty-five minutes from our house. The boys watched Finding Nemo, and then we were there. I had booked a spot with a screened shelter. It’s first come first served, and we were thankful to get a great site.

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We’d had a lot of rain in the morning and were expecting more in the afternoon, so Brian wanted to get the tent set up ASAP.

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Camden loves the Muddy Puddles episode from Peppa Pig, and he was thrilled to reenact it in his rain boots.

So glad we wore rain boots because it was pretty messy and definitely more fun with boots.

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The boys love having their bikes when we go camping, but they do take up a lot of space. Brian purchased a metal cargo carrier before our last camping trip to tote the bikes. It’s a big help. We grabbed a trail map from the office. The boys rode a lot near our camp site, but we only did one trail. It was really muddy, and even though the .64 mile trail was listed as easy, it was a bit much on Camden’s adaptive bike.

Meals were yummy and fairly minimal effort, as we prepped as much as possible beforehand.

I love this picture of Camden in front of the tent. The kid is one happy camper! If you are reading this blog, odds are good you are aware of the statistics on ASD kids wandering to water. When we camp, we always make sure an adult has their eyes on Camden. There are times when Brian and I are both working on a task, and that’s when I’ll have Camden sit in one of our camping chairs with his iPad. I am able to keep my eyes on him. He certainly enjoys his electronics, but here is how much he loves camping…I was helping Brian with a meal and told Camden to sit in a chair and watch his iPad. He tells me “no thank you.” SO COOL!!! He’d rather ride his bike, drive the RC cars, or play! Play hasn’t/doesn’t always come easy, so I was elated!

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Happy camper poster child. Notice the lights behind him? That’s how the camping veterans roll. Crazy how much more fun it is with lights. Kind of magical. I think it’s an essential item now.

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The boys spend a lot of time on the remote controlled cars when we camp. It’s a fun activity for them to do together. We have the Rock Crawlers  and they’ve been a good fit for us.

The campground has a playground which we enjoyed for a bit.

There was also a small fishing pier. It was really crowded so we basically walked onto the pier, turned around, and walked off. See how impressed they look? 😉

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A sandy beach area is on our short list, but apparently I didn’t do all of my homework. There was a swimming area, but no sandy beach. You just kind of jump in. Probably not a big deal for most folks, but our boys can play in the sand for hours. Here’s the swimming area entrance to give you an idea.

The weather was a bit mild the first day we swam, but hot the second day. We had a blast…well, except for Carson saying he was cold. This is when the sandy beach would’ve come in handy. Camden had gotten two ant bites and could barely walk on Sunday, so it was nice to hang in the water where he didn’t have to put weight on his foot.

Brian bought me a hammock for Mother’s Day which we all enjoyed on this trip. Camden spent the majority of the day in it after he got the ant bites. Carson napped in it twice.

Tent sleeping is always challenging. Thankfully, Camden slept every night. Not sure it was all the activity or the Benadryl and melatonin. Whatever. The boys and I played fruit basket turnover with our sleeping arrangements. I’m thinking twin size air mattresses for all of us is the way to go. Here is our tent set-up:

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It was a bit warm and humid for comfortable sleep and there was some insect screaming. My quick Google search seems to point the finger at the cicada. What a dumb way to attract a mate, if you ask me. The last night we were there, random loud fireworks were going off which was disturbing to my boys who don’t like super loud noises.

We did venture to Wal-Mart one day. It’s only 9 miles from the campground and on the long list of things we forgot to pack, chocolate was one of them. What were we thinking?! So we had to go and rescue the chocolate. On the way back, we took a picture in front of the entrance. Every time we go to a state park, I always comment about getting a picture in front of the sign, but we never have until this trip. Not our best family photo.

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Here’s Camden on the pathway between our site and the bathroom. While Brian is in charge of bath duty for the boys, I will say he’s gotten it down to an art now. The kids are much better about showers these days, which helps. They go to the showers in their swimsuits and water shoes. Brian takes a canvas bag with toiletries and towels to hang up. There is always so much water on the floor, and he doesn’t want the boys touching anything, so he tries to keep it as stream-lined as possible.

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We stayed at screened shelter 85 and would recommend it.

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The boys watched Cars on the short trip home. Lots of laughter from the back seat. =)

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YAY for another successful camping trip! Woohoo!! I love making these memories with my crew!

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Camping at Cooper Lake (Doctor’s Creek)

I am giddy to announce that we had a successful camping trip this past weekend!! Our camping trip to Cooper Lake (South Sulphur) last May was 24 hours since we found out my dad was really sick. Our camping trip to Turner Falls over Labor Day lasted about 24 hours because it was CRAZY! We were quite pleased that we made it over the 48-hour mark with this excursion.

After the CrAzY that was Turner Falls, we wanted to camp in a familiar spot so we’d have a decent shot at success. We camped at Cooper Lake on the South Sulphur side in May, and since we liked it, we wanted to go back. The sheltered sites were all booked, so I made reservations on the other side of the lake known as Doctor’s Creek.

The park is only an hour and fifteen minutes from our house. Easy drive. Here’s a fuzzy picture of us pulling out of the driveway. Our van was packed. Brian put some metal contraption on the back so we can haul the boys’ bikes and the cooler and such. When we drove out of the driveway, it scraped on the concrete. Camden piped up from the back seat, “This is terrible!” Bwahaha! He cracks us up when he takes phrases from his shows and uses them appropriately in conversation! =) Carson did bring Little Dog, but he’s holding Texas, the class pet. It was Carson’s weekend to care for him, so the little mutt came along with us.
headed to Doctors Creek

We headed out after lunch on Friday, and arrived early enough to have our pick of spots. My husband was thrilled with the sites. They were flat and spacious. Met the criteria on our list of camping demands:

•We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
•We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
•We need electricity and running water.
•We need to camp at a time of year when the temps get at least down in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
•We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past time for our guys.
•We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room.

Here’s a picture of our site (#7) from the front. We ended up relocating our tent under the trees. There was tons of room to play. To the left is site #5, and there were two other screened shelters just across the road. This would be a great set-up for families and friends to do group camping.
Cooper lake Panoramic front Here’s a shot of the area taken the other direction. Look at all that room!
Site 7 big viewCamden always seems fascinated by watching the tent go up and come down. He followed Brian around and then assisted a bit.
tent set upWhile Brian was setting up the site, the boys rode their bikes and put the binoculars to good use.
binocular boysThere were all sorts of insects flying around when we first arrived. I called the front office to see if they’d tackle the wasp situation. Some guys came right way to spray and check things out. They were super friendly. Told our boys about the deer that hang out at our site and all the armadillos that live there as well. We had just spotted two armadillos, and the staff encouraged us to whisper so we could get a closer look. Camden hasn’t perfected the whisper quite yet, so the armadillos went running. The park ranger guys were walking through these trees and bushes looking for them.
armadillo spottingSince the weather was so nice and warm, we decided to head to the sandy beach area for a swim. Here’s a shot of the playground and sandy beach area:playground panoramic
And here’s a shot of the just the sandy beach:
sandy beach panoramicAs soon as we approached the water, Camden exclaimed, “At the beach!” He’s a hoot! Camden floated around, the guys tossed the ball around a bit, and there was much digging in the sand. We were the only people on the beach. It was wonderful!
Doctors Creek beach collageSince Carson had the class pet for the weekend, we had to get a picture of him and Little Dog on the sign.
no pets on beachHere’s a shot of the inside of our screened shelter. Many people sleep in them. We sleep in our tent and use the shelter to store our stuff, to prep food, and to eat in if the bugs are bad.
inside the shelterThe lake was less than 100 yards from our site. We walked down to check it out, and I snapped this picture of the boys before the sun set.
boys at sunset

Here’s a peek at the showers. They were pretty clean. Two shower stalls in each restroom. One stall had one shower head, and this one had two (a taller one and shorter one). Brian had shower duty and he said it went really well. Last year when we first camped, the shower situation did not sit well at all with Camden. He has never been a fan of water in his face, but due to his allergies, he needs to bathe every night. Brian has been working with him for quite some time trying to get him more used to the water. Two weeks ago, he had his first shower at home and he hasn’t turned back. Something as seemingly simple as a shower made this trip so much easier. YAY!
showerWe did spot quite a few armadillos. They kind of freak me out. So weird looking.
armadilloAfter showers, we sat by the campfire with Texas, the class pet. The boys were ready for bed at 9 o’clock so we turned in. Glad we did, because Camden was up in the night for a while. I was scrolling through Facebook and was reminded that we did our first camping trip to Eisenhower exactly a year ago. Super cool! We’ve come a long way in that time, and we are pretty convinced that the first weekend in October is perfect for camping!
camping sleeping collageHere’s Brian cooking breakfast while Camden warms up at the fire. Beautiful sunrise. Yummy aroma! Hottie hubby. Check. Check. Check.
Brian cookingThe boys had a blast driving the remote controlled cars. There was tons of space and even some mud.
RC adventuresWe had never done any of the hiking/biking trails in the past, so we decided to give it a whirl this trip. There were several different trails that were rated “easy” and close to 30 minutes. On Saturday, we did the south loop trail. The signs say “loop” but there really isn’t a loop. You just ride to the park/sandy beach area and then come back. We took snacks so that we could munch and then play for a while. The trail is great for little kids. Camden held his own on his adaptive bike.
south loop trailWe went back down to the sandy beach on Saturday. The boys played in the water before moving onto the playground. Camden loved the swings during this trip and wanted to swing way more than we were willing to push. That’s pretty standard in our world though.
Sat beach and playgroundThere was a small playground that was between our campsite and the restrooms.
little playgroundBrian and Carson played a lot of soccer during the weekend. It was awesome that there was so much space to play! Last time we were at Cooper Lake (South Sulphur) Brian did get some chigger bites when he was gathering fire starter in the brush. This time he sprayed himself and the boys down with white vinegar and we sprayed them with our homemade bug spray.
soccerWe started packing up mid-morning on Sunday. Camden was not pleased to be putting the tent away. Every time we came to our site during the weekend, he’d say “home sweet home.” It was so cute and fun affirmation that he was a happy camper.
snackin'After our site was packed up, we decided to go for another bike ride. We did the west loop this time. Labeled “easy” as well and same 30 minutes as the other one. There were lots of shady oak trees. Camden was disappointed that this trail didn’t take us to the beach or playground like the other one.
CooperLakeDocCreek1-002This was a really good trip. Sweet times for our little family. We are definitely fans of Cooper Lake State Park.
Camden happy camper

Biker Dude

If you follow Counting on Hope via Facebook, you may have seen one or two a lot of my posts about Camden’s new bike. If not, let me tell you ALL about it, because I LOVE to talk about it! Seriously, in a week’s time, Camden went from this:

Camden in the bike trailer
to this:

 

Still amazes me! I first learned about Ambucs from one of my besties, Paula. Her spunky/beautiful/huge-hearted youngest daughter is legally blind and they had received an adaptive bike from Ambucs. I remember being wowed thinking how cool it was that through the gift of this bike, Scout was able to do something with her family that she hadn’t been able to do previously. Since I am continually looking for things for our family to do together, Scout’s adaptive bike came to mind when I was thinking about Camdenator. Here are some pictures of Scout riding her 2nd adaptive bike. I LOVE this one!!

Scout riding her adaptive bike

Camden is a cautious fellow (though he gets more bold all the time) with gravitational insecurity (meaning he doesn’t like it when his foundation seems unstable) and low muscle tone.

We enjoy going to the park. There was the season of strollers…and then the season of walking…then we transitioned to my youngest son wanting to ride his bike or scooter. That’s when my friend, Danielle, gifted us with a bike trailer. Camden loved/loves it, and it works great for us. I want Camden to get exercise and I want him to be as involved as possible in life. So I set out to learn more about Ambucs. Camden’s Adaptive PE teacher helped guide me to the location that would be best for our family. We completed the application and waiver and submitted them to the Grapevine Ambucs group in November. Four months later, we received a call that Camden’s bike was being delivered that day! Here are a few pics from that first day:

Camden's First Day with His Bike

The bike is such a great fit for Camden. The seat gives him back support. The pedal straps keep his feet in place. The three sturdy wheels give him the balance and security he needs at this time in life. This next shot is one of the main reasons I wanted Camden to get an adaptive bike. It makes for a more even playing field for him. He can ride with his little brother, race down the street, and join in with the neighborhood kids. Seeing Camden pedal with urgency and watching that big ole smile plastered to his face as he says “go faster” does this mama’s heart some good!

brother bikes

We bike a lot to the parks in our area. This week, Camden took the next step with his bike, going from our street to the park. That was exhilarating for me to observe! He’s learning to stop and look for traffic before we cross the street. It’s so cute, because he wants to do the same things he’s seen his little brother do…like riding through the water.

Boys riding in the water

and flying down the ramp of the portable building…

We are incredibly grateful to the folks at Grapevine Ambucs for loving on Camden and our family with the kind and generous gift of an adaptive bike! It’s been huge for Camden! You can learn about the history of Ambucs and some of what they do by watching this video entitled “The History of AMBUCS and It’s Should Together Mission.” Ambucs builds ramps for people with limited mobility, they offer scholarships for students going into PT/OT/ST, and they provide adaptive bikes for disabled veterans and people with special needs. We applied for the bike in November and received it in March. The waitlist varies from location to location and based on the number of applicants, but I was surprised by how quickly we received ours.

I have had numerous people ask me what type of bike we received. It’s an Amytryke ProSeries Model #1412, except Camden’s has traditional handlebars. You can check out the 2015 Amtryke catalog for various options.

Amytryke #1412

Just have to say again how grateful we are to the folks at Grapevine Ambucs for Camden’s bike! And a big “thank you” to Camden’s Adaptive PE teacher for being so supportive to help us connect with Grapevine Ambucs!

Also, Autism Awareness Month kicks off tomorrow. TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) has provided some wonderful superhero graphics that you can use for your profile picture this month.

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They’ve also created a calendar to give you ideas for Autism Action this month. Awareness is good and important. Action is imperative for progress! You can read today’s blog post by TACA founder, Lisa Ackerman.

TACA April Calendar