The Last Real Day – Day Five

Our last full day of our Christmas break vacation before a two-day trek home was also our anniversary. When we went to bed the night before, our water line was frozen and the fresh water tank was getting dangerously low if we wanted water for another day of dishes and bathroom use. I woke up after 8:00 but before the rest of the family, walked to the bathrooms to fill our old percolator, and started heating water to thaw out the line. By the time I returned from walking both dogs around the loop and pouring two pots of boiling water over the water spout, our kids were doing their best to make Jeff and me breakfast, complete with coffee.

I ate my Cornflakes with just a little too much milk and then continued walking back and forth from the camper to the bathroom to get more water to heat up to pour over the water line. When we finally had the water spout thawed, Jeff realized that the smart thing to do would have been to bring the hoses inside the camper to let them thaw there. He unhooked the water hoses, I put the filter in a pot of boiling water, and we waited for the hoses to thaw out so we could fill our fresh water tank one more time before we headed home.

We were recovering from two full days of hiking and traveling and Jeff needed a day to chill before we headed back on the road home. We had successfully unplugged for most of the first four days that we had been away from home. With the outdoor temperatures struggling to get past 30 degrees and my desire to make my husband’s anniversary as happy as possible, I headed up to the front desk to ask for options for watching the Michigan/Florida Peach Bowl game. Our cell service was spotty, at best, and the limited wi-fi the state park offered didn’t have the speed necessary to watch Hulu. The rangers gave me options for watching in town and then one of the rangers asked, “Wait, which site are you on?”

Apparently, our campsite had cable available, a rarity in state parks and something that I wasn’t expecting. I drove the four miles into town, bought a 50-foot cable, and got back in time to get the cable connected before the end of the first quarter. The game may not have turned out the way our family wanted, but the afternoon was full of another attempt at the Oregon Trail: Hunt For Food and back-to-back rounds of Uno. Jeff and I took a walk down to the gift shop at the Indian Lodge to check one more time to see if they had a magnet to add to our outdoor refrigerator collection, and while we failed to find one, we did decide to take one more shot at a reservation for the Star Party at the McDonald Observatory.

A quick dinner of pan-fried potatoes and beer brats and we were heading further up into the mountains to get a tour of the observatory and hopefully look through some telescopes. That hope was dashed by skies that never cleared, but we got to sit inside the warm visitors center and listen to one of the astronomers talk about the various constellations that can be viewed at the observatory, complete with pictures and diagrams. Then we braved the 22-degree mountain temperatures to look at two of the telescopes that they use for viewing at the visitors center and then headed back inside to watch both kids running back and forth to learn as much as they could about the stars and constellations before we told them that we really had to head home so they could go to bed.

Our kids exploring at the McDonald Observatory. It really is a cool place. I highly recommend.

The kids crashed into bed, Jeff settled in to read another book, and I sat down to write. Right before bed I decided to brave the 26-degree temperatures to take another hot shower in the not-quite-freezing park bathrooms. Once I was in the hot water, I didn’t know if I could leave. But I did eventually return to my bed so I could be well-rested before we headed home.

We needed a lazy day before the long drive back home, and since the weather forced us into it, I think it’s safe to say that we got what we needed. While I was eager to get away from the cold and back to the more mild temperatures of southeast Texas, I can’t say that I was ready to get back to civilization, but with a reservation in Garner State Park and the need to get back to work, we didn’t have much of a choice.

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