Unplugged And Roughin’ It

It’s tough to even find the words to explain just how AMAZING this weekend was!


I grew up going camping at least 4 times a summer with our family friends, the Klatka’s and Popiel’s. With 6 adults and 14 kids, there was rarely a dull moment. Those camping trips are some of my most favorite memories growing up and I will cherish them forever.

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My friend Kimi suggested that we plan a camping trip with just us “kids.” Yes, even in our 30s we are still the kids. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and I was looking forward to making new and exciting camping memories with my childhood friends.

Tyson and I had originally planned on bringing Qwynn with us, but the more we started talking about all the logistics, the more we thought it might be less stressful and more fun (for everyone involved) if we left Qwynn behind. Luckily, my wonderful and very generous co-workers had offered a few months earlier to take Qwynn for a weekend, and we decided this would be the perfect opportunity to take them up on that offer.

It was our first time leaving Qwynn for more than an evening or night. I knew she would be in great hands, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little nervous. Especially after finding out 3 days before the trip that there would be no cell service at the campsite. The first time leaving Qwynn AND no way to check in! Could I handle it?? I quickly realized that I didn’t really have a choice, so I just kept telling myself that everything would be fine and that this was the best decision for all of us. Plus, I was anxious to have some fun with my friends, sister and husband!

I thought about Qwynn most of the 7 hour drive to the Allegheny National Park. It ended up taking almost an hour longer than expected to get to the campsite, arriving just before 1 am. When I saw just how primitive the area was, I was reassured that we had made the right decision leaving Qwynn back in NYC.

I was bummed we weren’t able to get there earlier Friday night and was extremely excited to spend the whole next day with everyone. It was supposed to rain all day, but I was definitely planning on making the most of my time there. We stayed up until 3 am chatting around the fire, and even though we went to bed so late, I was of course up by 7:30 am.

The rain was already coming down, and I laid there listening to the pitter-patter against the tent. Not for very long though. I was too excited to check out the beautiful oasis that was waiting for me outside our tent. And, I also really had to pee! I grabbed my umbrella and quietly unzipped the tent door so I wouldn’t wake Tyson.

I was kind of relieved that I was the first one up. The scenery was so beautiful and the rain was refreshing and peaceful. I stood there alone just watching the raindrops fall on the water and relishing in how amazing it felt to be there in that moment. To be in nature. To be disconnected from everything else. It was exactly what I needed after an emotional last week of school!


I actually didn’t mind that it was raining. If the weather would’ve been nicer, I would’ve felt an obligation to go hiking and explore the area more (which also would’ve been fun), but the rain gave us an excuse to just sit around, eat, drink beer and enjoy each other’s company. So we did exactly that. All day. And it was perfect.

Right before lunch, a nice local man ran into us and informed us that they were predicting thunderstorms that night with winds up to 50 mph. Eeeek. He seemed concerned for our safety and thought we might want to reconsider staying the night, even suggesting a motel not too far away. None of us were prepared to leave though. Luckily the two small cabins across the woods from our campsite were available, so we packed up all our sleeping tents and moved our party over to the cabin. The rain slowed down for a few hours in the evening and it gave us just enough time to enjoy a delicious dinner and yummy s’mores over the fire.


This trip was the first time in so many years that I got to just hang out and relax with my three best girlfriends. No weddings. No other events or parties. No obligations whatsoever. Just hanging out, being with each other. Reminiscing. And laughing. There was so much laughing!

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I definitely missed Qwynn, but I was surprised at how little I actually let myself think about her.  By the end of the trip I was completely confident that we had made the right decision. It would’ve have been so much harder dealing with the rain if she would’ve been there with us. And it was so great to be 100% available for my friends who I don’t get to see nearly enough. In fact, because there was no phone service, we were all able to be completely present with each other. It was absolutely fabulous! And Qwynn ended up having a pretty fun-filled weekend as well, complete with her first visit to the Natural History Musem.


We all agreed that we need to make this past weekend a tradition moving forward and we were already brainstorming possible locations for the next summer. It would be so wonderful if we were able to continue a tradition that had been set into place by our parents nearly 30 years ago.


Valerie Anne

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