Last weekend, Matt and I went on an overnight canoeing/camping trip with some friends!
It was my first time camping since study abroad in college and I think Matt was nervous for me but I had a great time. Here’s a full recap!
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Our adventures kicked off on Friday morning, when we said farewell to the kids (a big thank you to Matt’s parents for babysitting for us/making this trip possible!) and drove about 2 hours north to Outback Adventures in Tionesta, Pennsylvania to get our canoes.
Here’s the whole crew – there were 6 guys and 2 ladies including myself. Apparently half our group didn’t realize the picture was being taken. 😉
Ben, the guy to my right, is the one who organized the trip – he’s a childhood friend of Matt’s and has been organizing this trip for years and years! Matt has gone probably 7 or 8 times before, but I’d never made it.
I was actually supposed to go back in 2016 but the forecast ended up being freezing and raining so we all bailed. And then since then I’ve either been pregnant or breastfeeding pretty much every year! Glad to finally get to join in on the fun.
The way the trip works is you leave your cars at Outback Adventures in Tionesta, and they drive you, the canoes, and your gear 34 miles north along the Allegheny River to an area called Starbrick, which is where you get the canoes in the water and start paddling your way back to Tionesta!
Here was our canoe all loaded up with our gear (which of course included a guitar so Matt could serenade everyone that evening around the campfire).
We had two small coolers (one for drinks – water and beer – and one for food), one gear bag with our sleeping bags, tent, clothes, etc., and a trash bag which had some sleeping pads and pillows. We had the space in the canoe so didn’t have to worry about packing super light like we would on a backpacking trip!
Matt and I (and one of the other guys) just joined for the first night of the trip instead of 2 nights because we needed to get back to DC on Sunday before school started Monday, so we left our car in a town called Tidioute where the gang always stops for lunch on the second day, and the outfitter was able to come get our canoes from there instead!
We ended up covering about 20 river miles in the canoes over the course of our 24 hour trip. Not too shabby!
By 1 p.m. on Friday we were in the canoes and on the river! Normally on day 1 the gang can chill a bit and lash the canoes together and float some, but we had a wicked headwind (15-20 mph) so we ended up pretty much having to paddle nonstop to cover enough ground before it was time to find somewhere to camp around 5 p.m.
We did make time to stop at a rope swing and go for a swim, though! This rope swing was legit – there was a tree with some nailed on boards you used as a ladder to climb up and get high enough to grab the higher knots on the rope, and then you jumped out and around the tree.
I practiced first down by the water swinging back and forth on the rope to make sure I could actually hold my weight okay for long enough because I was nervous I would fall before I was over the water, but I ended up being totally fine and was really glad I did it – so fun!
After the swimming fun, it was back on the go!
It was fun being out on the water – very relaxing even though we were working hard to paddle.
Around 5 p.m. we decided it was time to find somewhere to camp for the night. There are a bunch of tiny islands in the middle of the Allegheny River and after awhile we found one no one had claimed yet. Home sweet home!
Waterfront accommodations! We borrowed the tent from Matt’s parents.
Once we all got our tents set up we got a fire going and started making dinner. Matt and I brought some sausages (pre-cooked just in case) and a can of baked beans… we wanted something easy but filling!
We used a camping pan (a normal pan basically but the handle folds in on itself so it’s easier to transport) for the baked beans and a stick for the sausages. We added a little foil over the beans so the fire ash wouldn’t get into the pan.
Dinner is served!
Plus some veggies I had precut and put in our cooler to snack on throughout the day.
After dinner, we relaxed around the campfire. It got chilly out that night – into the 50’s – so I was glad I had borrowed a sweatshirt from my father in law! But it made the fire feel really cozy and I loved the fall vibes after such a hot summer in DC.
We had a lot of fun all hanging out singing along to the music, telling stories, and just generally relaxing. I had not laughed so much or so hard in a long time.
The stars were also amazing! It was pretty cloudy until all of a sudden shortly before we went to bed around midnight the skies cleared and it was stunning. I hadn’t seen stars like that in a really long time. We even saw a shooting star!
Sleeping in a tent was not the best night’s sleep of my life – it took us both ages to fall asleep and I was a little scared by some of the nature sounds around us (although there’s not much wildlife on the tiny islands), but waking up in the morning to the cool fresh air and water views was glorious. It was so beautiful out, it felt like fall!
We took our time getting another fire going to boil water for instant coffee and heat up breakfast. Matt and I kept it simple and had some of these blueberry oatmeal bars from Allianna’s Kitchen that I stumbled upon at the grocery store.
They were delicious and reminded me a lot of my Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bars but with blueberries instead of apples. Glad I picked them up! They were yummier than the banana, bread, and peanut butter I had packed us for breakfast originally.
After breakfast, we packed up all our gear, loaded the canoes up again, and headed back out onto the water.
It was such a beautiful morning to be out paddling! I was glad we got to enjoy some more canoe time before it was time to get back in the car and drive back to my in laws house.
We spent about 2.5 hours paddling that morning. I was bummed when we made it back to Tidioute where our car was parked – I wanted to stay out there longer! Although my arms and shoulders were quite sore by this point so it was probably for the best…
We were all starving when we pulled in to Tidioute around 12:30 so we headed to a small local deli/pizza place and ordered some food.
Matt and I shared an enormous pizza (and donated the last couple slices to the gang going back out on the water) and I also polished off the last of the veggies I had packed!
After lunch, Matt and I hopped in the car to make the 2 hour drive back to his parent’s place in Sewickley, PA, and the rest of the gang got back in their canoes for another afternoon on the water and evening in the woods. I was excited for a real bed that night but also sad to miss the second day and night of fun!
It was so nice to totally disconnect and spend so much time in nature. And it was fun to be out there at night camping, too!
I’ve always loved being outside and enjoy spending a ton of time outside during the day, but like I mentioned it had basically been 20 years since I’d gone camping. It was well past due.
There’s something really lovely about simplifying everything into the few things you actually need and getting out of your usual creature comfort routine. Until next time, canoe trip – thanks for the good times!
Matt and I arrived back in time for one last dinner courtesy of my father in law – he made my Greek Lamb Burgers (<- click for recipe) but with ground turkey instead of lamb. This is a family fave – try it if you haven’t yet!
We didn’t have any buns on hand so we went bun-less. Plus some super sweet summery corn and some tater tots just for fun.
For dessert, we made a little fire on the back deck and had s’mores. Riese was thrilled! We miss this backyard – isn’t it gorgeous? Everything was SO green and lush.
(The tent back there in the yard is a huge one that Matt and his whole family used to stay in back when he was a kid – they went camping every summer for many years in a row! While digging through their camping gear for stuff for us to borrow, Matt’s dad wanted to see if it was still in okay shape so they set it up. The kids enjoyed playing in it!)
We were all sad to say goodbye to Matt’s parents on Sunday late morning when we got in the car to head back to DC! But it was nice to have this view again. Home sweet home.
We got back a little before dinner on Sunday and on Monday morning the kids started school! Whew. Perfect timing, though, as I have a huge backlog of work to get through these next few weeks after taking most of the last 2 weeks off.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Are you a camping fan? Where is your favorite place that you’ve camped?