The owls were welcoming us. While settling into our camp in the hills, the first barred owl call had our crew of two families turning our heads up toward the evening sky. The owl was unusually close, on a branch less than 50 yards away. Moments later, a second owl returned the call from deeper within the forest. “Hoo, hoo, hoohooooooo.” The closer of the two then leapt into flight, gliding to another perch higher in the trees. The kids were mesmerized. Meanwhile, the melodic song of wood thrushes rang out, followed by more owl calls.
We had pedaled for about five miles along rolling dirt roads and singletrack trail to reach this wild nook (accessible only by bike or foot) within an area of locally conserved forest land south of Stowe. Delayed twice by a late spring snowstorm and then a stretch of cold, rainy weather, we now found ourselves basking in an early blast of summer.
Our three-year-old daughter, Maiana, worked with our friend Nick to start a small campfire. Meanwhile, Lenora, our 10-month- old, played with her friend Ophelia of the same age—gnawing on wood, crawling over moss-covered logs, thoroughly exploring the forest floor.
We made use of a small cabin on the property for meal prep, but set up our tents in the surrounding forest beneath towering sugar maple, northern beech, and white ash trees. Kristen, Ophelia’s mom, was thrilled to be on their first bicycle camping adventure as a family; she and Nick were already scheming about a long weekend loop connecting several neighboring valleys.
After dinner, with a round of s’mores underway, a break in the owl calls eventually gave way to the howling of a not-so-distant pack of eastern coyotes. A warm, humid breeze picked up, drifting through our camp and fanning the small flames of our fire. The air smelled of the forest—mixed with a tinge of marshmallow sweetness.
It had been an action-packed day and before long, the girls were falling asleep in our laps. Our bikes lay next to the tents, as if they, too, were worn out from our pedal-powered adventure. It was hard to believe that only a few hours ago, we were taking a post-breakfast swim in our backyard pond and loading up our bikes for the journey to our wooded campsite. Yet we already felt as if we were a world away from home.