This has been the coldest Spring in memory. That's fine with me. I come from Wyoming, and I have a very high tolerance for cold. In New Jersey, people seem to be willing to cancel anything because of a bit of rain or snow. Not me, I surge forward, with kids in tow, determined to have a good time regardless of the temperature. This is true of all people from my part of the country. My nephew from Wyoming came to visit us at this exact same time last year and went swimming in the ocean at Asbury Park. He emerged from the ocean with a blue hue. He couldn't have been happier.
So, when I planned to go camping with my family for Spring Break, I got a few strange looks. "I hope the weather holds up!" people told me over and over again. Honestly, I wasn't concerned. I just needed to get away from all the chaos of life at home and sit around a fire and chat with my family. I needed to take long hikes. I needed to eat 2 s'mores every night. So, we booked a cabin in the Poconos. I paid way too much money to stay in a cabin on the edge of a state forest. There were many waterfalls to see and I imagined long hikes and picnics by the falls. I called the week before to make sure it was safe to hike in the forest after the three huge storms we have had in the past few month. "yep, all is well." So, we arrived on a Monday afternoon. It quickly became clear that we would not be able to hike at all. Every single entrance to the park was closed for "emergency reasons" and would not open for weeks. I hiked to the falls behind our cabin, avoiding the park entrance, and found huge, ancient trees stacked on top of each other throughout the forest like matchsticks, or worse, hung up on other trees. There was no way I could take my children in those woods. I was absolutely devastated. I had looked forward to this trip for months. We decided to stay one night only and find another camping spot in good ol' New Jersey. That night, we were determined to have a good time, so we spent some time sitting around the biggest fire pit (where you actually sit on the edges of the pit, while the fire burns in the middle).
The next day we had a long drive ahead of us to our new campsite so we decided to stop in a a cute nearby town, Milford, PA to do some shopping and grab lunch. Every single store was closed. It was Tuesday. I guess that's a good reason to close your store in Milford. We went to grab a bite to eat. Nothing was open until noon. It was 11:30. It began to pour rain. At that moment, I vividly recalled a memory from when I was maybe 12 years old. My friend, myself, and her sisters were going on a trip to an amusement park or the like. My friend and her sisters had spent the morning bickering and by the time we got into the minivan their mom's nerves were frayed. We were late. Her children were ungrateful, etc...So, we piled into the minivan, and one of her sister's started complaining about something. My friend's mom turned around in her seat and faced us, "stop fighting! Now let's go have a great goddam time!" Well, that elevated this Mom to the level of "awesome" in my eyes for all time. What a moment. So, I thought, no matter what, we are going to have a great goddamn time on this spring break trip from hell.
So, I suggested we go to the "Grey Towers Heritage Center." We could warm up inside and check out these towers. We parked in a lot at the base of the center. It turns out, this is annex parking. On our mile-long walk to the towers, we passed 3 other empty parking lots. That's okay, "we are having a great goddamn time." We get to the towers, it is closed. My husband and I looked at each other "of course it's closed!" OF COURSE! Still having a great goddamn time, mind you.
Then, something shifted. We started wandering the grounds and found we were completely alone in this gorgeous, magical area. It was like visiting a foreign country in the French countryside for a few minutes.
We forgot about the rain and cold, and just explored these grounds without anyone else around.
I will definitely be visiting these grounds again when they are open, but it might not be as special. Not without the hike, the cold, or the feeling of being surprised by a little piece of heaven.
Afterward, we went out for lunch at an adorable tavern. Later, we stayed at an amazing camping spot outside of Freehold, NJ. And you know what, we really had a great goddamn time.