Saturday, February 5, 2011

Still Not Sure of the Wisdom of This ... But I Did It & It Was a Glorious Evening / Camping #8

November, 2010

It's now mid-November. I'm committed to continuing the challenge of sleeping outdoors every week-end, but there are man-made obstacles. Open campgrounds are scarce, particularly ones within a short drive from home. I'm not ready for backpacking, especially this late in the year. I start researching private campgrounds and send numerous emails trying to find a tent campground that is still open. The issue with many sites is that they want to provide showers and bathroom facilities. Most are not designed with heat. Therefore, they have to close them and winterize them or the pipes will burst. I don't actually need water/heat facilities, but am stuck.

I find a private campground in Pennsylvania, within a 2-hour drive. From the website and email correspondence, I have no idea what it's like. I can't find reviews or any mentions of it on other websites. But off I go. I'm familiar with the local area, so I'm content with the drive. And it's close enough that if things don't work out right, I can .... just drive home!

Off the main road, I turn down what looks to be a state park undeveloped road. Surrounded by forest, I go downhill for maybe a mile or two. So far, so good. Definitely getting away from civilization. But then I turn a bend, and spread out before it is something that looks like a dumpsite for RVs. There's a huge field of old, dilapidated RVs one next to another.

This is not looking good .... But the road is narrow and winding. I can't turn around. I have to follow it to the end, where I plan to then turn around.  Continuing downhill, I see an area off to the side that looks like tent sites. I finally make it down into the campground area and it's huge. From what I can see from the road, there is very wooded tent area, maybe enough for 30 sites. Then a bathhouse and large field - the size of several baseball diamonds. Then an open swath of land for a power line cut, and a few rows of the junk RVs. Beyond that are several "streets" of permanent RV spots. At the farthest end is the office and campstore, a pond and picnic tables, a kids play area, a pool (closed for the season), the owners' house, barn, and assorted other materials of a busy, outdoor life. The place is huge.

I'm a bit unsure, but decide to go into the office and explore a little. The woman managing the place is just the sweetest person. She seems a bit surprised (like so many others before her) that I'm camping alone. But she warms to the idea and is thrilled. She loves to camp and hike solo, but haven't met many other women who also enjoy outdoors stuff alone.

She re-assures me about the tent camp area so I decide to give it a try. And I'm so glad I did.

I had the entire tent area to myself. The sites were a good 1/4 mile away from the rest of all that RV stuff. The campground was surrounded by state preserve land - all forest. I felt I was as back-country as being at Greenridge State Forest. I've been kind of assessing my comfort level and like to be within "whistle distance" of help. I was NOT in "whistle distance" of anyone.

Since the days are now so short, and I arrived rather late in the afternoon, I hustled to get my tent up. I had packed food that was simple to warm on my Esbit stove, rather than having to get a fire up and going, and maintaining it. I felt a little uneasy being so isolated in a forest that I didn't know well at all. I had no idea of opportunities for human or animal wildlife. I crawled into the tent early, did some reading,  and fell asleep.

At some point, I was woken by what I thought was a headlamp aimed squarely at my tent. I grabbed my glasses, whistle, keys, and phone -- ready to make noise, scream, or try to get away. I unzipped my tent and the bright light was ... a brilliant full moon.

I don't know why I didn't take any pictures, but it was one of the most incredibly beautiful sights of all my camping trips. Surrounded by tall, tall pines. Their shapes silhouetted in the moonlight. The bright moon practically lighting my campsite. Hundreds of stars twinkling in the clear sky.

Then I saw a shooting star! The night was cold, below freezing. But I tried to stay outside as long as possible, mesmerized by the night time beauty.

Now, not only is my goal to stay outdoors as much as possible, but I really want to make sure I'm camping when there is a full moon.

The next day started cloudy and cold. I had somewhere else to go for the day, so I packed up early. But before leaving, I explored the tent area. The site I selected was a few feet off the main tent loop. But there are two other sites, down deep in the woods. Several hundred feet off the main loop. In fact, one site I don't think I can get my car too. I'd love to go back there, but I need to find out what the human creature behavior is like at that campground before I go that isolated.

Saying good-bye to the owners and the nice lady I met the day before, the owner showed me three other sites, in a completely different area of the grounds. One was likely 1/4 mile walk from the office; can't get my car there. I'm eager to try that one!

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