Branched Oak Lake & Pop-Pop’s Birthday


We’ve kept fairly busy in the days leading up to our annual camping trip. I had a random lunch date with Vivian at Chick-Fil-A and had a lovely lunchtime ride on my bike to Towl Park first the first time in a while. We also celebrated Pop-Pop’s birthday by getting gas for all our cars in a caravan down at Baker’s — saving an actual celebration for the following Sunday as we got busy packing for our camping trip. I wound up shopping at three different stores looking for a new pump for our air mattress, finally nabbing the last one at the Bellevue Walmart.

Then on Friday, we hurriedly packed everything up and headed on our to Branched Oak Lake for a brief camping trip just west for Lincoln. We got there just as the sun was setting and had to make a bit of a mad dash to set up our campsite. Then once we had a place to sleep, we lit up a fire and roasted a few s’mores together while looking at the stars. Jupiter was clearly visible in the Northern sky, and we had some fun identifying visible constellations like the Big Dipper (and the little one).


The next morning, we were greeted by a lovely little rainbow as we lit some coals to fry up some breakfast. Then Vivian and Lexi cooked up spam, ham, and some of the Mills’ own homegrown eggs for us. Nate drove the kids and me down to the Marina to get some fishing rods and check out some of the cute hay bales they’d decorated up there for Halloween. Hannah and Sammy went on a nature walk in the meantime and came back with a few little bouquets for their moms, which was very sweet.

The Mills’ boys did a little fishing in the afternoon, and Lexi spent a little time showing Hannah how to cast a line. It also seemed warm enough to break out the swimwear and go wading in the lake for a little bit. The water proved to be absolutely frigid, but Aaron in particular didn’t seem to mind. We’d seem someone swimming in the icy lake earlier in the morning, but most of us weren’t quite ready to get more than our legs just a little wet.


Later on in the afternoon, Hannah and Sammy took us on a walk through an unmarked trail they’d found earlier, which wound its way through a wooden area behind all the camping areas. We returned to the campsite and then drove down to the playground to let the kids play for a little bit, and then Nate took us back to the Marina to get some ice cream. Then when we returned to the campsite, we got to say hello to a lady and her horse, who came down just to play in the water by our campsite before dinnertime.

That evening, Vivian made up some chili, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese for dinner while Lexi baked some cornbread. I got a few family photos as the sun went down (and a closeup of a passing blue jay), and then we made a few more s’mores around the fire, this time using some chocolate marshmallows (which Donna found at Menards (of all places).


The next morning, I lit the campfire one last time so we could warm a few cinnamon rolls for breakfast (as I make an actual s’more). We got to see a couple flocks of geese as we finished eating and started packing things up.

We gave the kids a little time to play together before packing up our campsite. Aaron, August, and Gabriel had some massive kind of excavation going on, digging a hole in the side of a cliff throughout our trip. Vivian also broke out some sketch pads so the kids to draw together as the grown-ups started taking down tents and packing things up for the trip home. Hannah made herself a camping journal, which she hopes to continue on her next camping trip (next week).


We had an hour or two to recover when we returned home before heading on our again to celebrate Pop-Pop’s birthday. The kids made a few birthday cards for him, and Vivian helped to grill a couple steaks and some burgers for the kids.

We ate together out on the front porch as the sun set, and Hannah and Aaron both got to take turns taking Bella for a walk up and down the sidewalk in front of Grammy’s house. Then we had some decadent chocolate peanut butter cup cake for dessert (along with peanut butter cup ice cream).


It was back to work (and school) the next day on Monday, of course. I did get to have a last bit of fun hanging out at the Pizza Ranch with the River City Republicans for their monthly luncheon. This month, they brought in Rod Edwards, who was Charles W. Herbster’s right-hand man during his campaign for Governor, who was now heading up Herbster’s new Nebraska First PAC. I had wondered what Herbster would be doing with his time and money since losing his bid for governor earlier this year. Among those is pushing for more transparency in the legislature, where leadership votes are held by secret ballot, among other things.

It was a busy little weekend, and fairly late in the year for our annual camping trip with the Mills, but we lucked out in a major way when it came to the weather. It was definitely worth waiting for!

IMG_7551Happy campers!

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