Camping It Up

I broke my camping duck a couple of weeks ago. Which isn’t to say that I hadn’t partaken of many of the activities associated with it before – y’know, setting up tents, cooking by campfire, and such like – but when I was a Brownie I used to get sent home in tears on a regular basis when it came to the very idea of spending the night away from home. So that weekend marked my first one actually spent under canvas. Except it was two nights, and it was under whatever polyester-y stuff they make tents out of these days.

We left after work on Friday, which had me ever-so-slightly stressy, since “after work” to everyone else means “immediately”, and to me it means “a least two and a half hour, after you leave the state you work in, get through the state you travel through, and arrive back in the state that you live in”. And I hate being the late one and the one that holds things up, but it’s become slightly inevitable. So we set off ‘after work’, in the loosest sense of the word, and made the ninety minute drive to Stokes State Forest.

We arrived after dark to find dinner already being made by the light of a head torch, like some kind of outdoorsy picture of a 1950s suburbia where the housewives wear North Face and technically aren’t really house wives on account of there not being any house.

After an 11pm dinner, and 11:30pm washing up session, because we were in bear county and we didn’t want them coming after our pickernick baskets or faces, we went straight to bed. The temperature dropped to four degrees over night, which was lovely on two counts.

  1. It was cool. For someone who’s been (probably too) vocal about my dislike of the hot weather over the past couple of months, it was lovely to spend a while being able to see my breath.
  2. I had the best army surplus sleeping bag. It was designed both for the purposes of surviving a Siberian winter, and also for making the occupant look like the fifth member of Oasis. It was khaki, it zipped up to my face, and it looked very much like something parka-y that a Gallagher might wear while beating up another Gallagher.
We cooked pancakes over the camp fire the next morning. We were in severe danger of having to let go of our newfound ruggedness when we were initially hampered by some wet wood (that’s what she said). But eventually we got things going to the point where sugary breakfast goodies were possible.
After that we headed out to hike a trail up to Sunset Mountain Lookout. If the amount that I’m relishing sounding like the lovechild of Bear Grylls isn’t coming through loud and clear right now, something must be wrong. So hiking and trails and shiz.
The path we were walking on was part of the Appalachian Trail. It stretches from Georgia to Maine. People walk the entire thing, and it generally takes roughly a year. We walked for maybe 90 minutes, stopped to eat our packed lunches, and walked back. But that definitely qualifies me as a person who has hiked the Appalachian Trail. And so I claim bragging rights for life.
Once we got back to the car we went back to the woods and played board games by the fire. And cooked by the fire. And ate by the fire. And toasted marshmallows by the fire. And then got bored of marshmallows and played with the fire. There was very little else to the evening besides playing, which I think is perfectly reasonable.
The next day we were up and out early, choosing not to light a fire and, instead, to get our last rugged camping breakfast at Jumboland – a diner up the road. Because sometimes even Bear Grylls would enjoy a cushioned booth seat and a plate of junk food, outdoors machine though he is. It seemed rude not to.

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