Patapsco Valley State Park: Hollofield Area

Ahhh, the first camping trip of the season. Three days of glorious weather and a few new gadgets to test out!

Patapsco Valley State Park has a number of camping areas that border the meandering river. We got around to booking so late this year (just like Spring Break) that we didn’t have that many options for camping within a couple hours’ drive of DC. We’d been to Patapsco before and were lucky to find several sites available in the Hollofield area three weeks out. Our campsite, #446, in the outer loop was  small but level. It was also nicely shaded, as were all the other sites in this loop, so there is no need to bring a canopy here as the site only receives a couple hours of unfiltered direct sunlight per day.

Bikeability is not so great because of the steep ascent from the main gate area into the camping area, which is about 3/4 mile away. That’s not a terribly long way to go but the little bears would never make it up the hill and who wants to put out that kind of effort just to go for a bike ride? The campground loop has much gentler hills and is 0.37 miles around.  Three quick spins around the loop and one’s National Bike Challenge points are logged for the day, if you’re obsessive about that sort of thing (ahem). Strap the bikes on the rack and head out of the park and one can drive to a number of places to find paths to bike on. We did so in prior years from the Hilton area, I think. This time, since 2 members of the family chose not to bring their bikes this wasn’t a viable option. Baby Bear did bring her bike and was having a blast buzzing around the campground loop until she blew her tire out irreparably. Unfortunately it happened the first full day here which left her looking longingly at the other little kids as they zoomed past our site.

We met another couple of families who were traveling together and had kids around the same age. Naturally this meant Sister Bear spent a lot of time in their campsite mooching their apparently superior food. I swear to God I brought enough food, snacks and treats for a week’s outing but SB loves Other People’s Food (OPF) like nothing else. And, it seems, Other People’s Company. I foresee the “what am I, chopped liver?” phase in my near future. My strategy to keep us together and her out of their cooler was to do things with the Other People. We had a lovely time down at the river near the campsite one day and then drove to a reservoir and splashed around for awhile the next day.

Baby Bear isn't sure she wants to do this

Baby Bear isn’t sure she wants to do this

Splashing in the Patapsco River

Splashing in the Patapsco River

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

Papa Bear as ferryman

Papa Bear as ferryman


Sister Bear successfully built her first campfire with minimal parental supervision, using the Vaseline-and-cotton-ball firestarters Baby Bear and I had assembled for the trip. To celebrate, Sister got her own Swiss Army knife. This one is a fairly basic model with a small serrated blade, toothpick, tweezers, corkscrew, bottle opener and reamer. I was about to teach her how to use the knife when she immediately sliced open the tip of her left index finger. Maybe Curious George is a better nickname for her. It bled for awhile, giving her time to rue her impulsiveness before I put her out of her misery with a butterfly bandage. Suitably humbled, she was a much better student after that. Once we went over the basic techniques she started whittling everything in site. A pocket knife is tailor made for a kid whose fingers never stop fiddling.

PB and I agreed: we’re definitely getting better at this outdoor cooking thing. I’d acquired a few new gadgets and was eager to test them out. One was a folding grill that stands 11″ off the ground. Perfect for grilling food over the fire. Yes, most fire pits have built in grills but, yuck. In addition to grilling all the meat and seafood I experimented with foil packet cooking. The mixed vegetable packets turned out pretty good but the potatoes were trickier to cook through without burning. Still, everything was edible this time, which is progress. Even Sister Bear would have liked the food if she hadn’t filled her belly with OPF.

I was absolutely delighted with our newest little camping gadgets. It’s amazing how happy a small investment in gear can make me. I recently acquired a rack that has hooks for utensils and a small basket for spices and sundries and hangs off the Coleman 2-burner stove . It’s so nice to have all that little stuff handy instead of rummaging around on the table for things.

Best $3 I've spent at REI.

Best $3 I’ve spent at REI.

I thought the girls would finally spend a night sleeping in their hammocks on his trip. The only one chance they had to use them before this was on our December camping trip near Sedona, Arizona where it was much too cold to sleep outside. Despite mild overnight temperatures and no rain in the forecast the little Bears had two false starts before deciding they weren’t quite ready for this particular adventure. Baby Bear owned up to feeling scared while big sis claimed she wanted to stay close to her sister out of sheer love. Such love was not readily apparent most of the other hours of the day when they were at each others’ throats but one allowed this fiction to stand unchallenged. Out of sheer love.



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