16 June 2008

We Attempt Camping

New Tent
The 2-person tent we bought for Kilimanjaro.

On Friday afternoon we packed up and met some friends at the Big Meadows campground in Shenandoah National Park. It was hot and muggy in D.C., but cooler and crisp in the mountains. The weekend started off great with relatively no traffic and easy tent set-up. We got the fire started and ate lots of yummy camping food. We drank and chatted around the fire. It was not raining and not freezing, so sleeping in a tent was much more enjoyable than the last time I camped.

Saturday dawned warm and sunny. Mike and I were up first and went for a short walk. The deer have lost most of their fear of humans in the campground and they wander through at all times of day. The ones with fawns are a little more cautious though, and about a mile from the campground I saw a doe and the littlest fawn I've ever seen. It looked small enough to scoop up in my arms. When we got back from our walk everyone else was up and we fired up the grill again to cook breakfast. More unhealthy, but totally delicious, camping food.

Hatchet Spatula
No spatula? Try a hatchet.

Our mission for the day was to hike to a waterfall and then splash around and swim in the water. We hiked and hiked and it was getting warmer. We got to the falls... and you couldn't go in. First, there was no access to the water. You watched the falls from an observation platform. Second, there were signs up all along the trail that the water is contaminated so don't go in it.

The hike back to camp was uphill and the weather seemed even hotter and more humid than the walk down. We could hear thunder rumbling in the distance and tried to remain optimistic that storms would go around us. Tensions were starting to rise between the six of us. I was trying to power through the negatives (heat, no waterfall swimming, bugs) because I'm keeping my Kilimanjaro objective in mind and was trying to stay in the spirit of "Well, that's camping".

After a lunch of sandwiches we decided to check out the visitors' center. We had nothing else to do for the afternoon and it looked like a shower was headed our way, so some time indoors wouldn't be the end of the world. We bought a couple bottles of wine there and popped into the restaurant for a snack while a wicked thunderstorm raged outside. But the storm passed and the sun came out and we began to think that maybe the worst was behind us and the evening wouldn't be a rainout.

Nope. Another storm came through once we were back at the campsite and the area totally flooded. A thick fog rolled in and we could barely see each others' tents. The wind blew the rain sideways into the shade screen we'd set up over the table. The three wives retreated to cars for the worst of the rain. Thunder clapped and lightning flashed all around us. It just wasn't pleasant any more and the tension between some of the husbands and wives was getting thicker.

But just as quickly as it came, that storm blew out too and the sun came back. Someone in our group walked up to the ranger station for the evening weather report. Four or five more hours of the same kind of passing storms. That's it. Time to pack up. It was about 5:30 Saturday afternoon. It looked like we'd be spending the night in our individual tents or cars rather than sitting around the fire chatting and drinking, so it seemed pointless to stay just for the sake of it. We packed up during the brief dry spell and left just as the next storm started spitting rain on us again.

For the record, I told Mike that I would have toughed it out through the rain if that's what the group consensus had been. But I was also happy to be clean, warm, and dry and in my own bed by 10:00 that night.

Just before the downpour started.

More photos on flickr.

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