Camping trip over: back to the Real World

September 30, 2008 at 12:12 am (Uncategorized)

Well, I’m happy to say that my first camping adventure with LabGirl turned out to be a success – we both had a really nice time and a lot of well-deserved R&R.

Actually it was kind of interesting just how hard it is to “shut down” once you get so accustomed to constantly juggle dozens of tasks every single day; to just kick back and relax and not be thinking “I need to be doing something right now. Even if it’s outdoorsy stuff, shouldn’t I have a sort of schedule of outdoorsy activities? Isn’t it wrong to just kick back and do nothing?”
Well, I’ll tell you, that feeling takes a little struggle to get past, but once I did, and I was able to spend time just relaxing, taking in the sights, going for a couple of leisurely strolls, sitting by the campfire, and so on – that it did my stress levels a world of good. I completely forgot work existed for nearly three days, and nearly did the same with school, although I wasn’t able to get completely away from it as I had a reading assignment due monday that I had to take time to do during the trip.

Anyway we pitched our (borrowed) tent at a little privately owned campground a bit west of here called Emerald Acres. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I made the reservations without ever seeing the place, going only by a few small and fuzzy photos on their extremely amateurish web site.
I’m happy to report that I was quite happy with what I found. The site was wooded, fairly large, and I was glad to see came with a couple of picnic tables on the site. Although there were three or four places where I could see fires could be built (due to previous use), there was also a pre-made fire ring; it was rather crappily made from broken pieces of cinder block, but at least it was made.
Everybody seems pretty friendly, in fact a couple of the folks in one of the trailers across the road came over a couple of times to say hello and even gave us some of their firewood when they saw we were running low (side note: Yeah, I’m suddenly wanting a truck again, wasn’t able to get as much wood as I would like into the trunk of the car). Very relaxed rules-wise, no strict check-in or out times (at least there wasn’t for us during the current off season), alcohol OK as long as you keep it on your site, quiet hours start at 11. About the only thing I saw them strictly forbid in the camp is guns.
They’ve got a fishing pond (and it was mentioned that they sometimes will have stuff like family-oriented fishing contests for prizes and stuff) and a swimming pond, a playground for the kids, etc. Not much in the way of day-to-day scheduled activities for the kids and so on like some of the huge chain campgrounds have – you have to be willing and able to entertain yourselves here – which honestly is exactly what I wanted.
And the cost for a tent site? $15/night. Seriously, that’s really hard to beat.

We were able to get the tent together fairly easily, though I’m glad the assembly was demonstrated to me beforehand as even after that there was a couple of spots with the rain fly covering the main tent that I had trouble remembering how they went together (in fact it was partly due to LabGirl figuring it out on her own that we got it together correctly).

We brought an air mattress I had sitting in storage, and my dad lent me an old car-lighter powered air pump he had in the garage – which I found out didn’t work for jack after getting there, so thankfully I had also borrowed a couple of thick sleeping pads that we ended up using instead. The pads weren’t bad as they were pretty thick, but I don’t think my back could handle more than a couple of nights on them – if I go again I’m pretty sure I’ll want to get the mattress working. And our $15 WalMart sleeping bags worked great – in fact it wasn’t unusual to actually feel too warm in them (well, OK, at least on night two. During night one, although the tent was warm at first, I had forgotten to close a 4″ or so “vent” I had left open in the rear entry door, and that little opening allowed it to get very chilly in there by the early a.m.).

Also among the borrowed goods were a propane stove and large “mess kit,” and a propane lantern. The stove worked great, in fact I think I’d probably prefer it over campfire cooking (with exceptions of simple stuff like heating hot dogs, etc). The lantern also did a great job, throwing much more light than the smaller battery-operated one we had did. It did, however, nearly cost me my eyebrows – I noticed that one of the wires leading to the electronic ignitors had popped loose probably due to the casing being twisted in sort of a funky direction sometime earlier, so I played with it a bit and got it hooked back up, and then tried it out: well, the gas comes out of those little lantern pipes faster than I realized, and it was sort of like – *turn on gas*…click ignitor…click…click…click..FOOOOOM! Uh, yeah, thankfully the glass globe surrounding the burners was in place and kept the resulting fireball at bay, otherwise I’d probably have come up with much less facial hair. The resulting, revised procedure had become – *light long match*…*put match up into globe through tiny access hole in bottom*…*turn on gas*…*touch match to burner*.
But man, did it do a great job once it was lit. I was also happily surpised by how long one of those little canisters of propane lasts – I brought three on the trip, and didn’t completely use any of them – I think the only one that even came close was the one I was using for the stove, which got a lot of use, and also had been used to test another grill a few weeks earlier. The lantern was burning brightly for at least a few hours and there still seems to be plenty left in that tank as well.

At least for our first trip we kept our meals pretty simple – for dinner on the first night I made chicken breasts cooked in salsa, for breakfast the next morning I made up pancakes (really handy – those new “shake and pour” bottles of instant pancake mix) – making a mental note to try to next time remember to bring butter and bacon, and that the camp toaster I bought would have been much cooler if I had remember to bring bread to toast in it.
Lunch was a pot of good ole’ Dinty Moore beef stew, and then made dinner by roasting hot dogs over the campfire. The following morning we had another round of pancakes.

We relaxed, chatted, went for walks in the woods, caught a glimpse of a deer, played card and dice games by lantern light, spent time on a swinging bench staring at the stars (far enough away from the city lights that for the first time I actually got to see the Milky Way with my bare eyes – my God it was an amazing sight, and next time I’m going to try to remember to pack a telescope and a star guide) and generally had a really wonderful time doing not all that much at all.

This was LabGirl’s first camping experience ever, so I wasn’t sure how she’d come through, but she said that she had a really great time (even though mosquitoes ate her alive – poor girl) and would love to do it again sometime.

I have to agree, and am already looking forward to going again next year, and we agreed that if we were lucky enough to be able to talk friends into going along as well it would just be all the better.

We did take some photos, which are here if anyone is interested.


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