I think experiences are the building blocks of our personality, and I want nature to be one of their cornerstones to enjoy, respect, and continually learn from.
Our boys certainly aren’t ready for backpacking (or rather I’m not strong enough to carry all that gear and them when they get tired), so car camping has to do for now. That said, this is our 3rd summer of camping. They’ve transitioned from being wobbly little guys who might fall into the fire at any moment, to little guys who could accidentally stick themselves with marshmallow roasting sticks, to this year’s little adventurers who are exploring lots of things on their own.
The boys and I chose Beartown State Forest because my wife chose Beartown. She would be off on a yoga retreat, so it was a boys weekend. All I knew when I pointed the car west was where Google Maps told me to go. Our campsite was #9, which was definitely one of the two coolest sites there (the other is #8), and put us right on the lake while also giving us lots of space for those late night bathroom breaks.
After only a few minutes there, the boys were off exploring. Young goslings came by to say hello, and after they left, the boys waded into the lake to cool off. After roasting several marshmallows and then burning them off their sticks (they like burning them but don’t like the taste), we made an evening stop at the bathroom (a pretty good hike from the campsite, over by the beach/swimming area) and saw this awesome luna moth in the grating.
Back at the campsite, with the sun setting, I thought it might be good to try the fishing. After just a few casts with a salmon egg, we caught a sunfish which was quite exciting! This continued until we simply couldn’t see the bobber out there any more. I went to bed thinking that with the right bait, the fishing might be quite good.
After breakfast we headed over to Lee, MA to bought 2 dozen worms at the gas station. From this point on, the excitement level grew dramatically. The following pictures were all caught by a 4 and 5 year-old with about 1 hour of previous fishing experience.
Late in the evening, I watched a fish drift in from the side as they reeled in another 6″ sunfish. Then it just sat there, sometimes moving as they pulled in another and another. After prompting my oldest with some reel, wait, wait, reel a little, wait… the fish attacked, screeching the drag of the little fishing reel and breaking the water surface many times. After about 2 minutes of fighting, my oldest landed this, a pickeral. After noticing what it was, I told my boys to stay back as this fish has teeth, which of course made it scary and ultra cool at the same time.
By 6pm we were out of bait. My guess is that the boys each caught 15 fish each. We didn’t eat any, and to their dismay, we did not take the perch home for our fish tank, but I think we all had an incredible time.
The next day we went for a big walk in the morning and they were discussing which fish might be hanging out in different places, as well as how this would change as the water temperatures rose and the fish headed for deeper water. My little scientists are learning and growing, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.
If you have the chance to get out to Beartown State Forest you won’t regret it. As we drove on some of the dirt roads, we saw several beaver, great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, and even a painted turtle that I grabbed so the boys could see it up close. If you aren’t near Monterey, MA… this is hopefully a reminder of how ‘worth it’ things are when you just see one genuine smile.