We just got back from a long-awaited trip to Baxter State Park. Well, actually, we got back last week and I intended to write about it right away, but things got busy. When a time crunch means that I have to choose between writing about being outside or actually being outside in my free time, I go with the latter. But luckily our stay at Baxter was memorable enough that I feel confident I remember things clearly.
This was memorable.
Since I’m not a big tenter and Baxter doesn’t allow campers, we rented one of the park’s cabins at Kidney Pond. These are pretty rustic: no power, no running water, a shared pit toilet out back as the only bathroom. Basically you get walls, a bed, and a single gas lamp. That’s it. I was worried about how such a hard core, serious place would react to our two goofballs and my laid-back outdoors demeanor. I needn’t have been concerned. While every state park we’ve been to sees plenty of kids and accommodates them nicely, Baxter went above and beyond what we could have hoped for.
Here’s some of the ways they made us feel welcome:
They clearly were expecting kids. The cabin camps like Kidney Pond have a library building where folks can gather. It was well-stocked with children’s books–especially about animals–puzzles, coloring books, and games. The library at Daicey Pond–another nearby cabin camp–had posted drawings done by their kid campers. Our cabin had a journal in it so kids and adults could record their thoughts and sketches. The canoe rental area had more children’s life jackets than could possibly be used in the canoes available. The rangers were ready with a Junior Ranger booklet full of information and games. Signage was good, the layout was friendly, and nobody blinked an eye at a couple of scruffy, barefoot hooligans running hither and yon. In other words, they were prepped.
They went out of their way to make it special. One day, my husband went over to the ranger station to see if a hike we had planned was appropriate for the kids. After giving him a better option (why simply hike when you could canoe, then hike, then canoe, then hike to where you are going?), she asked “How old are your kids?” When she found out, she handed over a backpack for us to borrow that was filled to the brim with guidebooks, identification cards for animal tracks and scat, binoculars, a net, specimen jars, a compass, flashlight, whistle, basically anything a kid might need to have a good, safe time in the woods. It was ours to borrow for the day, for free. Amazing.
They taught us stuff. On our first wander over to the library, I noticed a flyer advertising an owl program over at Daicey Pond one of the nights we were there. It was well-attended with kids (and adults) of all ages. The kids got to measure their wingspan to see what kind of owl they were (ours were a Great Horned Owl and Great Gray Owl) and then they got to dissect an owl pellet. An owl pellet, of course, is the ball of fur, bone, and other undigestibles that owls, well, barf up periodically. If that sounds disgusting and uninteresting, you obviously have never unearthed an entire mouse skull from an unassuming grey oval. Okay, that still sounds disgusting and uninteresting, but you’ll have to trust me that it held the thrill of an archaeological dig. A really, really tiny one.
Bone sorting by lantern light.
So thanks to Baxter for a great, kid-friendly time. We were expecting to have fun, but their attitude and extras really put it over the top. And, of course, the views weren’t bad either.
Our kids are already planning our next trip. Maybe next time we’ll actually see a moose.