One year after his camping experience at Vogel, padawan David Allen has learned
absolutely nothing, zero, zilch, nada new about camping. He has been sent to the State Park system
to learn from Campmaster Steve Blackston…
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (ha!, I’ve always wanted to say that!), there is a
strange disturbance in the Force as Mrs. Conversaving packs many, many, many
boxes for the upcoming camping trip…
My loyal readers (all three of you) will recall my family’s camping experiences at Vogel “Bear Food” State Park last year. Even though I was a mere camping novice then, everything went fairly well – no bears were seen, no banjo music was heard. Sadly, a year later, I am still a camping novice, but then, it would be a pretty boring blog post if all I did was write about a successful, uneventful camping experience. That is why you people read these camping posts – for all the little camping bloopers and offbeat observations, right?. If you wanted to experience “successful camping”, you would watch Bear Grylls or Survivorman or one of those other yahoos on TV.
So, without further ado, my camping observations for 2013:
THE PREMISE. The premise for camping, flimsy as it is, still remains the same – to get back to the simple life. Of course, to do this, you apparently must pack all of the stuff in your house and take it to the campsite, in order to make 3 days worth of simple life “smoother”. Those cross-country, conestoga wagons that the pioneers camped in must have been huge, because I could barely see out of my rearview mirror due to all the “simple” stuff in the backseat.
THE PLACE. Last year, it was Vogel State Park, in the north Georgia mountains. This year, it was Roosevelt State Park in the hills of west Georgia, near the town of Warm Springs, and only about 30 miles from our home. Warm Springs, Georgia is known far and wide as former President Franklin “Dee” Roosevelt’s (F “Dee” R for short) favorite spot to take a bath. (It also proved to be my middle son’s favorite spot to go wee-wee on trees. Warm springs, indeed.) In fact, you can’t throw a campfire marshmallow without hitting a statue or sign or something that references FDR in this area. (Encouraged by this, Hot Springs, Arkansas is preparing a tourist attraction there, touted as former President Clinton’s “favorite spot to take a shower”.) Roosevelt State Park is just as beautiful as Vogel State Park, but with less intense wildlife. No chance of bears here – the Secret Service rubbed them out a long time ago. No, here were only “basic” kinds of wildlife – squirrels, chipmunks, smokers, motorcycle riders, possums, and armadillos (which are basically just possums with armor plating).
THE CAMPERS. Last year, it was Mr. and Mrs. Conversaving, the Conversaving kids, and Mrs. Conversaving’s parents, sister, and brother-in-law. This year, the Conversaving crew went with our good friends, the Blackston family. The husband, Steve, can best be described as a “camping master”, the man who taught Bear Grylls everything he knows. (In fact, it was Steve who suggested the nickname “Bear” to the former “Groundhog Grylls”.) Within minutes of reaching our campsites, Steve had pitched our tents, unloaded a cord of wood, and made a roaring fire in the shape of a perfect pyramid. We scoffed at the sissies in the RV campers all around us – they just didn’t understand the “simple life”.
THE WEATHER. According to the folks at Accuweather, the inventors of the “above average hurricane season”, the weather was supposed to have been mild with a “chance of rain”. So, it came as no surprise that on day #2, we were inundated with typhoon rains which lasted the better part of an afternoon. A dose of family togetherness is great, but an afternoon of family togetherness confined to a vinyl tent during a rainstorm is not so great. At some point, we heard a “thunking” sound and saw the shadow of what seemed to be a large man wielding an axe right outside our tent. To our relief, it turned out to be Campmaster Steve creating drainage ditches in the ground to divert all of the standing rainwater around our tent. You go, Campmaster Steve. After several hours of intense rain, when even Campmaster Steve began to look worried, the bad weather magically stopped, and we resumed the simple life.
THE FOOD. Probably the biggest difference between last year’s camping trip and this year was the food selection. Several months ago, my wife joined the latest healthy eating craze made popular by the book “Trim Healthy Mama”. The “diet” has been a great success for many. My wife alone lost 8 pounds in about 6 hours. The secret lies in the eater recognizing appropriate times in the day to eat “E” foods (Energizing), “S” foods (Satisfying), “FP” foods (Fuel Pull) and “P” foods (Poopable). (I’m kidding about the P foods.) Anyway, buoyed by her success, my wife was determined to not gain back any weight during the camping trip. I tried to convince her that campfire hot dogs and marshmallows were both energizing and satisfying, and that they were both pulled from fuel (fire). But I was unsuccessful and the “alphabet” foods were packed with all of the other simple life stuff for the camping trip. I grumbled that in the real simple life (the 1800s), there were only two types of food – “S” foods (Shootable) and “P” foods (Pickable), but this argument fell on deaf ears. If a husband squawks in the forest, and no one wants to hear, then……………………….well, you probably aren’t listening either.
THE MAIN EVENT. The other main difference between this year’s camping trip and last year was the reason for the trip. Last year was just about roughing it and family togetherness. This year the camping was centered around an actual scheduled event, the Geocaching Mega Event, to be exact. For those of you who don’t know, geocaching is a hobby that involves using a GPS device and certain clues to locate hidden or buried caches. Often, the caches have little items in them that the finders can trade for other items that they may possess. Geocaching is just as popular and satisfying and energizing as healthy eating, but with the benefit of knowing that your prize will not be more wheat germ. Campmaster Steve Blackston was a veteran of many a geocaching hunt and we followed him to the various planted caches around Roosevelt State Park. Thanks to him, we each got a handsome medallion, which signified that we all met the minimum State requirements for geocaching. If only camping gave out some sort of award for the experience. (Oh wait, they do – its called scouting.) I was really surprised at the hundreds of people that turned out for the event. I had no idea that that many people were into geocaching. It reminded me of Comic Con, except that the geocaching people actually had color in their cheeks from being outside, instead of being curled up on their bed in their pajamas reading comics and periodically feeding mice to their pet python.
Say what you want about camping – at least it gets you into the fresh outdoor air. The pioneers appreciated this too. So when his Kentucky neighborhood got a little crowded, Pa would get that far away look in his eye and say “Ma, let’s go on a camping trip, say to…….Oregon. Let’s get back to the simple life.” And so, they packed up the ol’ conestoga and went camping. And on a cool autumn night, around the campfire, you could hear them sing:
“S” food goodies last all night…
But we may not, if the Injuns strike…
Oh, de doo-da day
Goin’ to rain all night
Goin’ to rain all day
I bet my money that Dad snaps first…
My brother says no way….
Will there be a camping episode 3? Of course, if my wife has anything to say about it. I guess to a woman, camping is a lot like childbirth – its messy, its tiring, unexpected things happen in the middle of the night, and you forget about your past experience and look forward to it all over again. And as long as I can enlist the services of Campmaster Steve Blackston, I can comfortably remain a camping padawan…