Updated: Jan 8
If this year has taught us nothing else, we should all have a newfound approach to family time. Though we have not been able to participate in many of our normal routines and activities, the one constant has been family. Our friends at McDowell Camp, in Nauvoo, AL, have joined the ranks of curating family-centered experiences by creating Family Camp Retreats. These retreats are designed to inspire families to get outside and use this time together creating new and wonderful memories.
As an organization that supports the mission of Black Kids Adventures, Inc, we were delighted at the opportunity to test-drive this experience with the idea in mind to one day host a BKA family camp getaway.
So, what exactly does it look like when the whole family goes away for camp? Keep reading to find out!
For our first activity, we enjoyed a fun (and bumpy) ride over to a short trail where we made our way down to Clear Creek. It was just the right amount of hiking to keep kids from getting tired before arriving at one of the highlights of the trip. The winding creek with a secluded beach area set the scene for a day of exploration. The entire area was a gem and the boys had so much fun. We’re still cleaning sand from their heads as I type...
Next, we enjoyed dinner in the dining hall. This was our very first time venturing indoors to eat and we only did so because they are taking all the necessary precautions to keep guests safe. Everyone is required to wear masks; tables are spaced more than 6 ft apart and they provide hand sanitizer upon entering the dining hall. There’s also a handwashing station located inside the hall. If your stay is anything like ours, there won’t be many people eating inside.
If you aren't ready to join others for meals, several lodging options are equipped with kitchens. You have the option to prepare your own food just be sure to shop before leaving Huntsville (or wherever you travel in from) because the nearest store is roughly 15 miles away.
After dinner, we ventured over to the summer camp side and headed back down to Clear Creek for a sunset canoe trip. Although it was a bit of a challenge due to a sleepy toddler, it was more than worth the trouble. This was a “first” for many in our group but everyone proved to be up to the challenge by exhibiting great paddling skills. Even our 8-year-old caught on and steered like a pro!
As you can imagine, after a full day of activities everyone was tired so we returned to our hotel-style cabin to rest up for the next day. One of the things that stuck out most during our trip was how well the boys responded to being off the grid. No one asked about a TV, tablet, or computer at all and it was refreshing. They truly enjoyed being at one with our surroundings and were able to focus fully on each experience without any distractions. During the rare time that we were actually in the cabin, they happily enjoyed each other’s company by playing games, the piano, or just talking. If this is the only reason you decide to go away to camp as a family, I’m here to tell you the reset is more than worth it.
After a great night’s sleep, we woke up and hit the ground running! We wanted to cover as much as possible during our time away to provide a clear picture of what camp can look like for others.
We began the day with breakfast before heading to the McDowell Farm School for a complete immersion into farm life. We learned all about the animals and their roles in sustaining the land as well as being used as a source of nutrients. During our visit, we fed the pigs, learned about goat's unique eyesight, collected freshly laid eggs, and fed chickens straight from our hands. It was such a joy learning and sharing in this experience alongside our kids!
After the farm, we headed to the rock-climbing wall where the entire family had the chance to physically challenge our mental and physical endurance. How many times do we tell our kids one thing, but show them something different? Probably more than we know. Rock-climbing together was the perfect opportunity to practice what we preach. We displayed the power of determination, hard work, and how we always have an opportunity to persevere through challenging situations. Lessons learned through fun, family-centered activities always land differently.
Once we completed the rock wall, it was about time for lunch. While waiting we met Vulture the Vulture, which reminded you more of a doting puppy than a bird of prey. Vulture proudly displayed his beauty for us while we watched and learned all about him. The most memorable fact about Vulture was learning that the first face he ever saw was a human. If Vulture were to ever be released into the wild and encounter humans, he would end up following them around because that’s who he thinks he belongs with.
The last activity we enjoyed before packing up to go home was a beautiful hike across the swinging bridge and down to earth (better known as the Trail into St. Christopher’s Canyon). The trail was beautiful and felt like a scene out of the movie Fern Gully. It was so magical! The trail led us straight to a refreshing waterfall, perfect for cooling off on a hot day!
Although we didn’t have time to explore ALL of Camp McDowell, we left with a great understanding of everything offered. Located not far from Bankhead National Forest, this family camp getaway is sure to be one of the highlights of your year.
Be sure to visit their site and plan your own family retreat!