Camping Adventures

Hello everyone. It has been quite some time since my last post, as my dear friend Nancy pointed out to me (months ago). Between now and then, I have gone on some fun adventures that I’d like to share with you.

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Campsite at Watson Mill Bridge State Park

In August, Noah and I went camping at Watson Mill Bridge State Park. This was the first time I had been camping since starting grad school, and Noah’s first time since I don’t know when. In the picture above you can see the old and finicky green and white picnic table tarp. That thing is so old and a pain to put up, but is it useful in keeping your items and picnic table dry, so it has made an appearance in previous camping trips and all subsequent trips thus far. We brought both dogs with us. Asta is lying contently at Noah’s feet. You can just barely see Guass’ legs to the left. While camping, we went for a hike and played in the river. Guass and Asta enjoyed cooling off in the water. Noah did too, but not by choice! I think Noah’s favorite part was relaxing in our hammocks back at camp. What a wonderful weekend with my brother!

If my Google calendar is correct, then the very next weekend I went camping again. Hooray for camping! This adventure began early on Saturday morning as Tyler, David, Kenny, and I met to pick up Nancy from her parent’s house. Then we drove for what seemed like many hours (really just two, I think) to Cloudland Canyon State Park. Sadly, I do not have picture from this trip, but I can still tell you about it. This was my first encounter with “Walk-in Camping” as opposed to true car-camping where you can drive your car into the campsite. Here there was a circle of parking spots and little trails leading to sites. Since there were only a few other groups camping here, we were able to select a site close to our parking spot, but still far enough in the woods to feel secluded.

We ate a quick lunch and then hit the trails. Originally, Nancy and I had hoped to go on the waterfalls trail and the West Rim trail (the boys were completely ambivalent about any camping/hiking plans, so Nancy and I happily did what we wanted, and they followed along). However, the waterfalls trail has many steps, which is not really a problem, except they are of the metal slats variety. Poor Goose’s feet kept getting stuck in the slats. Instead we opted to only do the West Rim trail. All along the West rim were look-outs that offered beautiful views into the canyon. I think it’s the most scenic trail I’ve ever hiked. It rained on us a bit, but rather than dampen our spirits, it increased them! At least for me; I’m pretty sure Nancy would have rather it not rain. It was just as well that we didn’t hike the waterfalls trail too, because we were all tired by the end.

The next morning, Nancy and I got up before the boys and hiked the waterfalls trail. Guass was distraught at being left behind, but he would have been miserable on the stairs. The canyon was misty that morning, which added something extra magical to descending into the canyon. After the hike with just the two of us, the whole group went for a short jaunt around the backpacking trail, in which Tyler lagged behind searching for snakes and other critters. It was nice to get just a bit more hiking in before packing up and heading home. The weekend was so eventful that when Tyler and I got back, it felt as if we had been gone for three or four days rather than just under two. Despite the perceived long-ness of our trip I felt refreshed from all the time spent in the woods.

My last camping adventure to share is at Black Rock Mountain State Park. Have you noticed a trend? We like to camp at State Parks. Mostly because they are the easiest to find and typically have both camping and hiking, but also because I am a Friend of the Park, which gives me a discount on camping. Tyler, Nate, and I were supposed to go up Saturday morning and hike, but schoolwork got in the way. Instead I went up around lunch time to secure us a camping spot, and Tyler and Nate joined me that evening. I took Goose along and hiked the James Edmonds Trail, which the sign notes as 7.2 miles and “most difficult.” I concur! The hike to the summit (see picture) was pleasant. I was thoroughly enthused to be outside and hiking. I later told Tyler that I hiked uphill grinning like a loon. I did not realize just how tired I was until I started hiking down the mountain. At one point I stopped to retie my shoes and my legs were shaking from the effort of controlling my descent. I had eaten all of my snacks, but upon rummaging through my trusty hydration pack, I found a honey packet that I had stashed in there for biking. Sugar felt so good! Hiking downhill was hard; I was grateful for the last uphill climb out of the trail. I was so exhausted when I reached the trailhead. This was the first time that I’ve been as tired from hiking as I usually am from mountain biking! It felt great…. Until the next morning.

Summit at Black Rock Mountain State Park
Summit at Black Rock Mountain State Park

Tyler and Nate arrived shortly after Guass and I finished hiking. We carried our things up the hill to our camp site, and set up our hammocks and tarps in what was left of the sunlight. Tyler and Nate got a roaring camp fire going, which we cooked our hobo packs on. This is probably my favorite camping meal: kielbasa sausage, chopped potatoes, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, and Worcestershire sauce topped with shredded cheese. Mmmm, so tasty. We, of course, had the requisite s’mores and sat around the campfire. After a bit, I went to sleep, while Tyler and Nate stayed up til the wee hours of the morning. Every so often I’d wake up to the sound of them tromping around the woods looking for more sticks to put on the fire.The next morning I hobbled down the hill to the bathhouse, and oh, my legs! I was so sore. Guass happily accompanied me up and down the hill to get food from the car, as if he hadn’t hiked seven miles the day before. For brunch we made bacon and eggs on the camp stove borrowed from my parents. Then we packed up and headed home.

Each camping trip was different and wonderful. I wish I could have gone camping more often, but school and other things got in the way. Now, it is too cold for my tastes. As much as I enjoy winter, I will be happy when it warms up and I can camp again!