Outdoor adventures with friends

For the freedom we experience in this great country, I'm deeply grateful to our past veterans and current service men and women. For the Memorial Day weekend fun under the North Carolina sun, I'm pretty thankful for my stockpile of aloe. ...ouch.

This weekend, Chad and I—along with our friends Shane & Rachael (who are also transplants to Raleigh from the Midwest)—loaded our hiking packs to go camping at the beach right after church. We were pumped to pitch our tents in the sand with the ocean waves only feet away, dig a sweet campfire pit and experience the Memorial Day weekend excitement. After driving a couple hours and arriving at Carolina Beach in Wilmington, NC (and after battling and bartering and paying for overnight parking in the most touristy beach area ever on a holiday weekend + finding firewood), we prepped to walk a couple miles to our destination.

Oh, wait...new info: there was actually a misunderstanding in our reservation and the campsites were all full. Ha! Thanks to hand-held technology, the search was on for a new vacant campsite for that night located anywhere in a one-hour radius of where we were standing in that moment. After countless phone calls, we followed one promising lead a half-hour away to no avail (although the snail-paced duck family crossings over single-lane gravel drives and the near-deaf local who gave us directions from inside his knick-knack-filled cabin added to the drama of our adventure), so our desperate search for ANY patch of space we could pitch tents & cook dinner on continued... Finally, we stumbled upon a place called Lake Leamon Campground in Wallace, NC. To our surprise, it was actually quite the gem! We were able to get in and set up camp while the sun was setting.

Shane and Rachael prepared a gourmet, salmon and veggie campfire dinner that we thoroughly enjoyed over late night conversation and s'mores (with Andes mints of course!). Our laughter lingered into the wee hours of the morning. After some sleep, we ate a casual breakfast, tore down camp and spent the day at the Lake Leamon beachfront. I enjoyed the 35-foot platform to dive from, too! We made a couple of memorable 12-year old friends and soaked in {a little too much} North Carolina sun. (Hello, sunburn... we'll all use even more SPF next time.)

When all was said and done, our simple outdoor adventure was completely different than we had imagined or planned it to be, but it became quite epic for us. We ended up trading people-packed beach madness for low-key, serene beach peacefulness. Small town freshwater for the win!

Here are a few of the highlights documented with iPhone cameras...

...After arriving home Monday night, Chad and I decided that we were still on "vacation" and needed some additional soothing for our sunburns, so the only option (obviously) was a late-night run to Cook Out for fancy shakes. :D