Two weeks ago we spent a lovely weekend in Washington, D.C. Matt and I both agreed that the city life is not for us: too many people in your space, too fast paced, people that don’t even look up from their cell phones, cars honking at everything, bad attitudes, and OMG the traffic! The weekend of April 26th marked the start of the Something in the Water Festival in our home of Virginia Beach. Pharrell scheduled his cultural experience during the usual college weekend at the beach, the one where the locals stay away because of the violent crimes that arrive with the visitors. While his vision is beautiful, this weekend could go one of two ways. And either way it went, there would be the dreaded traffic. We decided to escape our city life and take the kids on their first ever camping trip. Actually, it is the first camping trip Matt and I had ever been on together, too. So this, just like the festival, could easily go one of two ways.
Pettigrew State Park
We came across Pettigrew State Park in North Carolina. It is only an hour and forty five minutes away from our home, and holds a lot of history. It is situated on Lake Phelps, a rain-fed lake at least 38,000 years old and used by Native Americans during hunting season. Forty of their canoes were found sunk in the lake, and one is still on display! There was a boat ramp if you brought your own, but no place to rent canoes or kayaks. Bummer.
Just a short path from the campground is the Somerset Place State Historic Site. It is the old plantation of Josiah Collins. Tours are provided Tuesday-Saturday, 9am to 5pm (last tour departs 330pm) and are free of charge. The tour is one and half hours long, so with two toddlers we opted out. We explored the home and buildings on our own, although some are only unlocked during tours. Our favorite part was seeing the goats. If you walk a little farther down, you can see the Pettigrew Family Cemetery.
We reserved our campsite online for $23. The site itself had more than enough room for us and was surrounded by trees, giving us the privacy we were hoping for. There are only thirteen campsites here and most are big enough for trailers. We set up our four-person tent, cooked dinner over the fire pit, and ate at the provided picnic table. There was no electricity (we are camping, duh). Cell phone service was limited, so beware you might lose GPS signal on the way in. There was a bathhouse with toilers and showers that was fairly clean. Firewood was for sale $5 for 10 pieces.
We tried two of the paths, considering we had toddlers and no room to pack a stroller. Down by the lake, a boardwalk takes you on a path through the marshy woods and ends at Somerset Place. This is a must-do because we saw lots of little wildlife: Minnows, frogs, snakes, cardinals, etc. At the beginning of the trail was a provided tree brochure, so we had fun discovering which tree was which. Once at the historic site, you can walk the short grassy path back to camp and see the tree you can stand in!
Then we walked a small portion of the grassy Moccasin Trail. Displayed at the trail head was one of the Indian canoes. I was in awe at how something so old was still preserved, that I could run my hands down the wood carved by Indians some years ago. We found some scat (maybe a beaver?) and lots of beautiful, ivy-covered trees.
There are some longer hiking options that are also bike friendly. We missed the trails for the Pettigrew Family Cemetery, Bee Tree Overlook, and Moccasin Overlook. The longest trail ends at Cypress Point Access, so we drove there.
Cypress Point Access
A fifteen minute drive from camp, down beautiful backroads, is another outlook. The dock is great for launching canoes or kayaks, and there is a picnic area.
Of course the best part of camping is memories made with our family. We had lots of fun playing in nature and telling scary stories. We told the kids we had a surprise for them as we threw a flame color changer in the fire. They were less than impressed and after the color died out, Cambri said, “Okay, Dad, you can show us the surprise now!” Next time, we are hoping some friends want to join us!
Until next camping trip, follow us along on Instagram @AmberLaunstein. Where should we camp next?