Day One Notes
“Well, here we are, the entrance to Bear Food State Park.”
“Vogel State Park” my wife corrected.
I have to admit that the park entrance was much prettier than I imagined, with a nice lake, a quaint little beach area, and a pleasant visitor center with real wood paneling. After we checked in at the visitor center and chatted with a few other happy couples, we proceeded to our “Adventure Campsite”. After a couple of twist and turns, we came across a large group of dirty, hairy looking people. Apparently, these were PRIMITIVE CAMPERS, and I had been advised at the visitor center not to make direct eye contact with them. A very serious park ranger doused them down with some sort of white powder and sent them back into the woods. That was our only experience with primitive campers.
“Pioneer campers” my wife corrected.
I suppose by now that you think I am a complete camping novice, but this is simply not true. Back in the 1970s, when I was about 5 and you probably weren’t born yet, my family used to camp on occasion at Lake Allatoona, north of Atlanta. I don’t remember much about it, except one momentous camping trip when we found a litter of stray kittens out in the woods. They were in pretty sad shape, and we took them home to take care of them. After we cleaned them up, we realized, to our horror, that they were actually the children of primitive campers. Embarassed, we returned them to the woods.
Anyway, back to Bear Foo-, I mean Vogel, State Park. On our way to the campsites, we rounded another curve and were met with the following sign:
OKAY, THE VISITOR CENTER WAS NICE, BUT THIS IS SERIOUS NOW.
IF YOU PROCEED FURTHER, YOU EITHER HAVE A VERY DETERMINED SPOUSE
OR YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR A LONG LOST RELATIVE AT THE PRIMITIVE
CAMPGROUND. THE WATER WILL GIVE YOU BEAVER FEVER, AND THE
BEARS WILL KILL YOU WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST HESITATION.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
My sister-in-law had arrived at the park before us and had already chosen three very nice campsites beside a creek, labeled A, B, and (you guessed it) C. Nearby was the Jerry H. Sandusky Public Bath. Campsite “B” apparently stood for “Babbling Brook” and “C” stood for “Calm”. Campsite “A” stood for “Acid Reflux”, and, naturally, my wife and kids chose campsite “A”. Speaking of acid reflux, we soon had our inaugural camp meal, that old Native American favorite, hot dogs and chili. Everyone thought it was pretty good for camp food, except for my mother-in-law, who thought it tasted “scorched”. The park ranger had warned everyone that a black bear had been seen in the park raiding coolers, so we had to lug all the food back to the vehicles and lock it up when the meal was finished. After the tents were pitched and the dishes were washed, it was 7:00 pm and already dark. This meant it was time for that other favorite camping pastime – SLEEP.
That was quite possibly the longest night of my life. Earlier, I had seen several newlywedish couples that seemed happy on their camping experience, but when you add three kids to a tent, happiness is not the result. Our young daughter would become fussy about every two seconds, and my wife became so tired after a while that she would just mumble something every time our daughter cried out. Eventually, our daughter fell asleep, only to be awakened again by the sound of a pine needle falling on the top of the tent. At some point in the night, the following sound was heard approaching from the east: RAH, RAH, RAH, RAH, RAH, ROOOOOOOOGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!! I was too scared to move, but I deduced that it was either a motorcycle gang going through the park, a tractor trailer on the highway, or some unfortunate camper’s chili kicking in at the camp next to us. Mercifully, dawn came – about 12 hours later.
Day 2 Notes
We were awakened to hot chocolate and “breakfast sausages”, which looked amazingly like the leftover hot dogs from last night. Everyone seemed to enjoy the breakfast, except for my mother-in-law, who thought that the hot chocolate tasted “scorched”.
I asked several guys at the Jerry H. Sandusky Public Bath what that loud noise was last night, but they seemed to be reluctant to talk.
We found a nature trail close by and thought it would be fun for the kids. It turned out to be a hike up the side of a mountain, complete with treacherous tree roots perfect for tripping unsteady toddlers. Our daughter honored this by falling down approximately twenty-seven times. We saw numerous plaques along the trail, describing the types of nature that you should be able to see on the trail: chipmunks, owls, squirrels, primitive campers, and foxes. As it is with most nature trails, we didn’t actually see any nature. (On a side note, I did learn from one of the plaques the source of the word “Appalachia”. According to early settlers, the Indians used to throw “apples at ya”. Learning opportunities are truly all around you.)
After a delightful lunch of hot dog fritters with a ketchup reduction, we decided to drive to Helen, a delightful little tourist town which hosts “Ocktoberfest” every year. The main goal of Ocktoberfest is too get as drunk as possible without drowning in the Chattahoochee River. But seriously, Helen is a very cute reproduction of a pre-Hitler German village, with lots of interesting shops and activities. Among the most notable that we encountered were a breastfeeding woman with absolutely no modesty and a man with a bunch of parrots that would perch on your shoulder. Parrot man also had a few pet dogs walking around with tip jars strapped to their bodies. After Helen, it was dinnertime, and we found an authentic Native American pizza shop. We all decided that it was pretty good pizza for north Georgia, except for my mother-in-law, who thought it tasted “scorched”.
Night two with our daughter in the tent was much improved. However, in the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of what I thought was rain drops hitting the top of the tent. I felt no rain outside the tent, but I could swear that I saw several bears and primitive campers having a slapping contest.
Day 3 Notes
Due to family considerations, we decided to spend the day, and not another night, in the mountains. My mother-in-law decided to cook breakfast for us, and we all agreed that it was the best breakfast that we had ever had (although, I privately thought it was a little scorched). Later, we traveled to Dahlonega, Amicolola Falls, Burt’s Pumpkin Farm, and Ellijay. My wife thought it would be a great idea to take advantage of everyone’s exahustion and irritability and try to take a Christmas card picture at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm, even though, last time I looked, pumpkins have nothing to do with Christmas. Surprise, surprise, it was a disaster. I tried to hide behind a tree, but my wife eventually found me and involved me in the pictures also. At one point, she actually handed the camera to our 7 year-old nephew (who accompanied us on the trip) and asked him to take the Christmas picture. Later, my wife had the audacity to say that I looked a “bit cross” in the pictures. Discernment is truly her gifting.
And so, our adventure camping trip came to a close. We followed the same tradition that all campers observe when a camping trip comes to an end – we stopped at a restaurant and got some real food. Surprisingly, I would actually return to north Georgia and do it all again, when our daughter gets a little older. Besides, I heard a rumor that my long lost uncle may be a primitive camper up there somewhere….