11:30 a.m. - Leave Raleigh for a two-night camping trip.
12:00 - Stop for lunch at Smithfield's in Clayton.
12:10 - Get back in the car with way too much food.
12:15 - Begin answering the eternal question, "Are we there yet?"
[I'll spare you the itemized count of how many annoying questions we got along the drive.]
3:15 p.m. - Arrive at the ranger station for Hammocks Beach State Park.
3:30 - Leave our car in the parking lot. Load ourselves plus one jogger stroller, one large pack, two large tents, one large duffle bag, one large tote bag, two small backpacks and one cooler onto the ferry. Realize we have a metric ton of stuff to carry.
3:45 - Arrive at Bear Island and disembark the ferry. Eye dark, looming clouds and pray it doesn't storm.
3:47 - Begin walking the half-mile trail to the beach. Thank the heavens and our sweet neighbor for the jogger stroller we borrowed because we've loaded half a ton of stuff into it. Pippi is walking.
4:01 - Arrive at the beach. Buy cold drinks and chips at the snack house. Curse the discovery that they don't sell any other food on the island. Pee while we're at the bath house.
4:19 - Start walking the next half-mile to our reserved campsite. Redistribute the half ton of stuff onto Daddy so that Pippi can ride in the stroller. Thank the heavens for a strong Daddy.
4:36 p.m. - Arrive at the sign for our campsite. Climb past the protected turtle nest, over the dune and down into the valley to our picnic table and tent area. Marvel at how beautiful and quiet it is.
4:47 p.m. - Commence Operation Tent Set Up. Marvel at how patient Daddy is about letting the kids help.
5:18 - Decide we can help Daddy more by going down to the beach.
5:26 p.m. - Decide that I love beach camping because we have the whole place to ourselves and my children are so happy that they pretend to surf. They race in and out of the water's edge in complete bliss. I forget all my worries.
6:14 - Climb back over to our campsite. Make sandwiches and fruit for dinner. Wonder if we brought enough food.
6:58 - Walk back down to the beach. Because we can. Because it's right there. Because it's still light out and we know these kids are not going to fall asleep yet.
7:45 - Realize we're going to wear out before they do. Corral kids down to the bath house for showers and pajamas. Carry them back to the campsite in a futile attempt to keep them from getting sandy.
9:15 p.m. - Daddy emerges from the tent victorious in the battle of Kids vs. Sleep. We enjoy the quiet darkness before trying to brush the sand from our feet and squeezing into the tent to join them.
12:35 a.m. - I climb out of the tent to pee. In the dune, of course, because no way am I walking a half-mile alone in the dark to use the bath house. Lean back into the tent, brush the sand off my feet, rearrange myself next to my family and fall back to sleep.
12:40 - Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, Daddy decides we will only be staying one night.
2:15 - I get up to pee again. Dune, brush, rearrange, sleep.
4:23 - Curse my post-maternity bladder. Get up to pee. Again.
5:45 a.m. - Pippi sits straight up, smiles and declares, "Good morning, Daddy!"
5:45:30 - Junius bounces up and announces "I love beach camping!"
5:45:45 - We pretend to be sleep, hoping desperately that they're both talking in their sleep. It doesn't work.
5:53 - My husband turns to me and says, "I'm just going to say this out loud. We don't have to stay the second night." I am both amazed (because things were going better than I expected) and relieved (because I wasn't sure how long we could last).
6:12 a.m. - We walk down to the beach to watch the sunrise. It's beautiful and peaceful and magical enough to make us forget (for a moment) how tired we are.
6:45 - Return to campsite for breakfast. Fight off hungry bees.
6:55 a.m. - Junius writes in his track-out journal: "I see Trtll Eggs. Thea are in a Net. I like it. I saw The sun Rise today." He draws an adorable picture of a turtle ("Trtll") beside a little cage with circles in it, more or less like the protected nest at the entrance to our campsite.
7:21 a.m. - Pippi entertains herself with the digital camera and her newly acquired shell collection.
7:38 - Walk down to the bath house so I can wash my hands and remove the sandcastle that has wedged itself under my left contact lens.
8:02 - Walk back to our campsite, this time with the ability to see where I'm going.
10:07 a.m. - I attempt to teach the kids how to make drip castles while regaling them with stories of how their Pop Pop used to teach me when I was a kid. End up making drip castles alone until they are crashed by the rising tide.
11:35 - Scavenge for lunch from what's left in the cooler. Trust that the squishy Babybel cheese is still safe to eat. Thank husband for deciding to head home early so that we don't have to go back over on the ferry to buy more groceries to bring back over to the campsite.
1:17 p.m. - Engage in major battle with Pippi about wearing her sun hat. Laugh at how adorable Junius looks in his sun hat -- like a sandy little member of the French Legion. Note to self that dermatologist would be proud of us (okay, maybe not of my swimsuit, but I am COATED in sunscreen).
2:15 - Begin packing up all our stuff. Wonder how we will find the energy to carry it all back to the ferry. Wish we had brought a strong, child-free friend with us to help.
3:15 - Loaded like pack mules and grateful (again) for the jogger-stroller-turned-luggage-wagon, we start back down the beach toward the bath house.
3:21 - Realize we'll never make the ferry if Pippi has to walk. Redistribute load from the stroller so that Pippi can ride. Force her to hold the clean bath towels because there's nowhere else to put them.
3:23 - Fuss at Pippi for letting the clean bath towels fall into the sand.
3:24 p.m. - Realize that Pippi is down for the count (note the puffy cheeks and pouty lip).
3:36 - Rinse off in the outdoor showers at the bath house, change the kids out of their swim suits and race off down the path toward the ferry.
3:52 - Board the ferry. Breathe.
If you've actually made it through this whole timeline, I'll reward you by wrapping up quickly: load into the car, find a restaurant for dinner, marvel at Junius as he scarfs down a plate full of fried shrimp without taking a breath, cruise through Swansboro, drive back to Raleigh, unload the car, crash in our comfy, mostly-sand-free, fully air-conditioned beds.