Trip Report: Lake Fairfax

This weekend was a summer sendoff. Second grade starts tomorrow, in fact. It was time for one last Roxanne trip, just the kid and me this time, and right around the corner at Lake Fairfax.

roxanne at lake fairfax
Roxanne at Lake Fairfax

In those last couple of days between summer camp and the start of school, I took a couple of days off work to spend with the kid. A quick Thursday-to-Saturday trip was in order. I remembered a water park somewhere in Virginia.

The water park is actually the Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole, and it’s owned by Fairfax County. Better still, there’s a campground in the same park. Lake Fairfax Park is acres and acres of land, barely 25 miles away from our house. After a summer of driving across the country, I thought it would be nice to have a getaway close to home.

I was right.

We arrived after a nearby dinner out, when night was starting to fall. The camp office was closed. The site I’d reserved on the phone (yes, you have to call and can’t do it online) was lousy. It was in the middle of the campground with no privacy and no shade. Meanwhile, right behind us were a traveling couple from Montana in a silver Class B van with two cats! They helpfully suggested we just grab a different site and figure it out in the morning. So we got shade and privacy and a nifty illuminated power pole. We went to watch the skaters at the nearby skate park.

The next morning, breakfast and coffee cake and a quick call to the camp office. We were legit. We packed up lunch and water, ambled up a hill, down a trail and past a carousel to the Water Mine.

And yes, we did spend 5 hours in the blazing sun at the water park. Lazy river. Slides. Obstacle courses. Buckets of water dumped on our heads. Not a spot in the water deeper than 4 feet (XY’s exact height). The sort of thing summer is for. We were lucky to go on a Friday, as it’s slightly less expensive and much less crowded. I got a slight sunburn because you shouldn’t let your 7-year-old be in charge of sunscreen on your back.

lake fairfax

We emerged hot and sweaty and tired, and glad to find Roxanne in the shade. XY made some friends at a site across the way, as she often does. They rode bikes and scooters around while I got dinner ready. We were in bed before too long.

The next morning, we showered, packed up and dumped the tanks. (Okay, I dumped the tanks while she watched out the window.) Then it was off to the parking lot for what ended up being my favorite part of the weekend.

Paddle boats!

We were the first to the docks, and we pushed our way around the man-made lake with little resistance from the water. I kept us on track and inside the buoys as we were instructed. We retrieved an errant soccer ball for a family on the shore, and traded cell phone photos with a dad and his son who also took a boat out. I steered, and we both pedaled. It was a peaceful, quiet moment during a long and exciting summer. And I realized operating a paddle boat with a 7-year-old is pretty much like parenting a 7-year-old. You’re responsible for setting the direction, but you can’t control the pace. That’s up to both of you and outside forces (the waves, in this case). At one point we stopped pedaling and just let ourselves drift. Then we returned the boat and went out to lunch.

Bottom line? Good trip, and I’d camp there again. It was quiet and pretty. The bathroom was decent but not awesome, and the dump station was fine. I’ll remember to look for a site surrounded by trees next time.

The campsite was $45 a night for non-Fairfax County residents, and two admissions to the Water Mine set us back about $30. The paddle boat was $7. All worthwhile for some dad and daughter (and Roxanne) time.

Roxanne washed

Roxanne and I had to visit the self-serve car wash today. She’s all set for her next outing.

Next blog post: how do the tanks work on a small RV? All your questions answered.

Also published on Medium.

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