The kids and I road tripped to Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. I made reservations months prior to our trip; I had no idea the weather would be so hot. I was concerned about the kids in the heat but truth be told they handled it better than me. We brought plenty of water and had a backup plan of getting a hotel room for the weekend. It never came to that and we had an amazing weekend full of adventure.
Using the truck versus the bike offers some huge benefits. First off there was no limit to the amount of stuff we could bring; second, it was a place to cool off.
Our site was at Indian Meadows and they were smaller than I expected. My son pointed out that we were able to fit the big tent, a picnic table, the truck, and all our other stuff with room to spare. So, I have to admit I was wrong. The sites are plenty big enough. They are however very close to each other. The sites at Riverview and Silva both seemed smaller. The Riverview sites had great shade and a breeze coming off the Mississippi river but had very little privacy. Each site at Indian Meadows and Silva are surrounded by a wall of trees but with no trees in the site, there was little shade.
Our site had a picnic table and a fire pit with a swing over grill. There was no trash can, though. My plan was to collect the garbage then walk it to the trash point, a dumpster up the road. Unfortunately, while we were at the shower house raccoons got into it. I was better prepared for the second day. Just remember to bring trash bags and dispose of your trash often, the raccoons out there are brave.
The Loud Thunder office is top-notch. They sell a few necessities like batteries, firewood, ice, and stuff for s’mores. Service was incredibly helpful and nice.
The extreme heat affected our experience for sure. After setting up camp we were all a little cranky. Day 1 was for sure our hottest day.
We headed for the Riverview area and were happy to catch a breeze and some shade. The area has what looks like a fairly new playground. The campsites here are open and very close to each other but the view is amazing.
Supper on day 1 was steak from Haddy Farms. I seasoned the steaks a few days before and vacuumed sealed them. The kid’s steak had just salt and pepper while mine had a coffee rub. We also had spiced potatoes and mixed veggies.
We are huge board, card, and dice game fans. My friends and I routinely have game nights. So, when we camp that is one of our activities. The first evening we played Exploding Kittens in the shade provided by my truck.
Dessert was s’mores with a variety of candy bars. On our way to Loud Thunder, we stopped at a Casey’s and I let the kids pick out the candy bars.
I never stopped sweating that first day. I was so soaked with sweat it looked like I had jumped in the river. I had to change clothes after supper. We also went to the shower house to get the funk off us. The shower house was nice but it only had hot water! It sounds crazy but it’s true zero cold water. We discussed packing it in and leaving the next morning. Two groups camping near us actually did leave early. I convinced the kids to give it until noon before deciding what to do. It was uncomfortable sleeping until very late into the night when a breeze finally started blowing through. I was not feeling hopeful about the next day.
Having the truck meant I could bring my Colman stove and coffee pot. It's way more convenient than the normal way I make coffee while camping. We had some shade in the morning which helped our moods.
Breakfast was a multi-grain cereal by Wise Company. It was more like oatmeal with much more than just oats. Wise Company makes meal kits for emergencies but they work well enough for family or group camping. My daughter and I like cereal but my son was not a huge fan. I knew we needed the calories to fight the heat so I had to force him to eat at least one bowl full.
At the center of Loud Thunder is Lake George. Lake George is a boon for kayakers and anglers. For us, it was the highlight of the trip. Loud Thunder rents kayaks, john boats, pontoons, and mini-pontoons. I had never heard of a mini-pontoon prior to this trip; they are amazing and now I want one. For 30 dollars we navigated the lake for two hours. My son loved steering the boat. Even though we were in the sun there was a nice breeze. We could have easily spent another two hours on that lake.
In order to avoid the heat at the site, we set out to find a shaded place to hang out. We saw a picnic area while we were boating so that’s where we headed. It is called Lone Cedar picnic area. The kids enjoyed running around. I was amazed at how much cooler the area was compared to our site. We stayed there much of the day playing Catan Dice (see my solo play video here) and Minecraft the card game.
We also had our lunch at Lone Cedar. The kids had Velveeta shells and cheese while I had Muscle Mac. I have tried a lot of different snacks and meals with protein added and many taste odd, not bad, just odd. That is not the case with Muscle Mac. It tasted just as good as Kraft. I also had Quest protein chips. The chips were good, but they did have that odd taste. The kids ate their Christmas presents of Mountain House Cheesecake Bites and Ice Cream Sandwich. They both enjoyed their treats.
Later we braved the heat to go for a hike. Loud Thunder has a few trails. Next time we go I plan on bringing the bikes. We hiked a portion of the Hauberg Trail which begins near Riverview. The first part of the trail was a wide gravel path then it narrowed to a dirt trail. It went by the lake dam, which was neat to see up close. The dirt trail reminded me of the Kentuckian Ragnar trails. It had one very steep climb that was harder going down than up.
Supper for day 2 was burgers and brats. It can be hard to find meals to suit everyone’s tastes, especially with kids. Burgers and brats seem to be universally liked. Here is a pro-tip: collect condiments from fast food joints and gas stations. For dessert, we again made s’mores.
A thunderstorm came very close to us. I knew if I was camping then it was going to rain, that’s just how it is. The storm never did hit us fully. It did, however, bring some cooler temperatures and a pleasant drizzle. I was too hot to drink any beer the first night but I partook this night. I sat in the light rain sipping Sunking’s Wee Mac and My Grain Brewing’s Stateville Stout. I didn’t talk about the beers in this video because I reviewed them in other videos (here and here).
The last thing we did before calling it a night was play Golf with waterproof cards. I recommend learning to play that game as well as picking up the waterproof cards.
We didn’t hang around too long on day 3. The kids had cereal and I slurped down some coffee. I used powdered milk from Wise Company for the cereal. It tasted like skim milk to me. It was nice being able to pack milk without the worry of it spoiling.
I’m glad we toughed it out the first day. The rest of our trip was very fun and we would love to return but maybe in the fall instead of the middle of summer.