Some of you may remember Dexter, our young friend who has taken an interest in bushcraft and is a Most Favored Individual because of his friendship with and support of our boy Dashiell. He's picked up quite a bit of knowledge in the last year, we pitched tarps, made splitwood fires, camped, and most important, told whoppers. We'd planned on keeping it going, but then 2018 took a series of massive dumps all over me, so the outdoors in general and bushcraft in specific moved to the back burner. Anyway, Dexter is now eleven and suggested that we shoot rally at his family's "honey pot", so we started gearing up for an early January overnighter. His dad/my friend and my no.2 son would come along, and it would be a cold camping extravaganza for the boys. However, an hour before setting out on Saturday, Dexter broke the news that his family's honey pot was also someone else's honey pot, and it was going to be hunted that weekend. Damn. But Dexter was undeterred. He made some calls and got a recommendation for a state park on bluffs above the Mississippi, and realizing it was a whole different type of trip, invited a bunch more people along. So we car camped. Had the entire campground to ourselves. No.2 is old enough now to be a real help in pitching and striking, which was critical because by the time we got to camp we had only an hour or ninety minutes of daylight left. No prob, mostly. Lots of mud, no snow, super weirdly warm for "dead" of winter. 40s, sunny, and still... so no need for the wood stove. Instead we doubled up on ground pads, and both used inner and outer sleeping bags. I brought along wool blankets but we ended up not needing them. Our duffels stayed in the van, we got into them as we needed to add layers. I gave him a checklist for his own gear, and fortunately, he'd brought most of it (forgot his jeans but brought the bigs; forgot his coat but brought the sweater). Being a car camp, I'd brought oak logs from home to supplement the boards that my pal, a contractor, brought for the pit fire. Very nice. Six kids worked on breaking standing dead wood into manageable kindling and sticks. The folding saw was a big hit. When they started splitting the boards, I had to step in and give a safety briefing. The baton concept blew their minds, which was amusing. They kept us in enough wood to burn the fire until midnight, and banking the coals, it started right up again the next morning. However, the remaining wood was questionable and burned cold and smoky, which sucked. Food wise, brats, potatoes, roasted onion, and naan bread were dinner. Four boys and two girls ate the hell out of the brats. I brought the camp oven and charcoal and made a 2x2 apple cobbler. It was a partial failure because the ground was so sloppy that the coals under the oven needed a lot of maintenance. I probably should have set up a wind screen. Also, I've learned my lesson and picked up a charcoal basket and lid lifter. Such a no brainer that it only took me a few years to catch on after the tip from rphumble. Thx Dick! Breakfast the next morning was a bit tricky. I'd brought a big stainless griddle, which rocked, but the grill on which I rested it wasn't anywhere close to level. So we had to build a bacon dam to keep the eggs, and then the pancakes, in place. It worked. Coffee was critical. Finished the last of my main stash of instant Starbuck packets (.25 per three pack from the Amish scratch and dent shop). Friends brought some delightful twenty year whisky, which was delightful on its own and marvelous in the toddy that I made (brew good tea with 3x whole cloves, 1x allspice, 1" cinnamon stick, grated nutmeg, honey and lemon juice to taste). Then, the mediocre cognac I brought wasn't lifting my spirits until I tried a splash of it in the hot chocolate. Holy smokes.... really good. Hot Cognolate. Or Cognate. Whatever. Recommended. Incredible star show that night. Clear, dark skies, and remnants of the meteor shower. When the kids and my buddy's wife began turning in, our voices lowered and the conversation mellowed, in a way that I remember my old man speaking at car camp/Indian Guides camp/ etc etc and kids were tired/retired/"asleep" but still within earshot. Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to the state park, deserted or otherwise, without repulsive pit latrines about which I won't comment. And naturally we had one visitor for the better part of 45 minutes, rolling up and down the access road in his pickup, "that guy", obviously a ne'er-do-well of some sort, who kept me at attention. Eventually, he found a turn off and on cue, his buddy zipped up in a little street rod for a dark o'clock rendezvous of some sort. They took off after their business was completed. My buddy's wife asked us if we were carrying knives. I laughed and didn't tell her what I WAS carrying, nor what was ten feet away in the van. The kids and kiddos were blissfully unaware as the had retired to one of the tents for secrets and giggling. My son entertained them with singing and guitar Nice! Cleanup was easy - so nice when you can be lazy and pop muddy ground cloths into a plastic trunk bin, and you don't have to bother with packing out your trash. We had a blast. As I led in, it was the polar opposite of what we'd planned for originally, but it ended up being just as fun and maybe a bit more leisurely, in the end. I hope you don't mind the car camping report, and plan to make the next trip a bit more bushcrafty.