Sunday, May 17, 2009

A crash course in camping

I was hoping for a pleasant, relatively uneventful night, since it was my first real night of camping. The only camping I had done prior to the other night was in the backyards of friends' homes and once at a white-water-rafting campground (with porta-potties on the site.)
Although the day turned out to be beautiful for our hike, the evening wasn't so forgiving...

Katy and I had spent a good portion of the afternoon hiking through the Shenandoah, taking in the vast beauty of the forest. The shades of green blanketing the forest were truly breathtaking. I had never before seen the beauty in moss-covered rocks, natural flowers and geometric angles formed from fallen trees. We feared our walk might be spoiled by bad weather, but the sun shone thru and the weather was perfect for our 6.5 mile loop.

After our hike we were left with just a handful of daylight hours in which to find food and get our campground set up. We cruised into a nearby town, grabbed some hoagies and made it back to the park by 7pm. Katy decided it was a better idea to camp “back woods” as opposed to at a camp ground; I had little say in the matter since I was not so keen on the differences. So, with the tip off from a camping store employee we set out on the Appalachian Trail to find a spot to set up shop. After about a mile in we found a little patch of flat ground just a few yards off the main trail.

The first thing I did was pull out my camera out; the first thing Katy did was pull the tent out. She took a brief look at the sky, listened to the faint roar of thunder and said we should get the tent set up as quickly as possible. I set my photography urges aside and worked beside Katy to pitch the tent. It’s a good thing I already did a test pitch in my Boston apartment before this moment; within five minutes we had the tent erect. No sooner than did we put that last stake in the ground did the sky open up and start pouring rain. And so began my first night of camping in the back woods of the Shenandoah National Park during a severe thunderstorm.

Katy may not agree on the level of severity of the thunderstorm, but to me it was severe. I was already not a fan of thunderstorms. We sat inside the tent, eating our hoagies and playing cribbage until it was time to sleep. Sleeping however was no easy task. Bright flashes of lightning illuminated the sky and roaring thunder ripped through the ground we slept on. At times lightning struck every minute and thunder lasted for ten seconds. Although the rain was consistently loud I did hear faint footsteps outside the tent and hoped it wasn't a bear sniffing out the few pieces of fruit we kept in the tent, or worse... These were not ideal conditions for a ‘first time’ camping expedition.

Supposedly I fell asleep, although nothing about my sleep was restful. I awoke to the sound of whistling winds whipping through our campsite. Katy woke up soon after me and with a hint of the sun rising we decided to pack up and hike back to the car. The rain was gracious enough to hold off until we got back to the car, but then started up again. Although Katy refers to our camping adventure as “fun” I consider it as more of an interesting and educational experience.
(Katy taking off the rain fly in the morning)

I know now that it’s not practical for me to go camping alone – not even at a camp ground – and hiking alone is also out of the question. During our daytime hike we passed by a large group of redneck men and the banjo tune from Deliverance kept playing in my head - that put me on edge. I do love nature and being outdoors yet it does not come easy for me – if you knew my utter disgust for all insects, including butterflies, you would understand. If it weren't for Katy I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to go camping at all. I just hope I can find a friend or two to enjoy the beauty of national parks in the west with me.
Stop #1: Brighton, MA
Stop #2: Clinton, CT
Stop #3: Brooklyn, NY
Stop #4: Leonardtown, MD
Stop #5: Charlottesville, VA
Stop #6: Shenandoah National Park, MD
Stop #7: Charlotte, NC

I left Brooklyn last Sunday (Mother’s Day) and spent the whole afternoon driving down to Leonardtown, MD. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and I took two-hour pit stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore, which are both lovely cities. I finally arrived in Leonardtown, MD late that evening and was fortunate to stay with Josh, Katy’s brother. In the days to follow I spent time with Josh and his roommates and spent an afternoon in DC.

I was excited to walk around the National Mall in DC since I had never been before. I started out at the National Gallery of Art and admired paintings of Geogia O’Keefe, Jason Pollack and Philip Guston. The museum closed at 5pm and I was left to meander around the mall. I did a seven mile loop around many of the national memorials and took a brief nap at the Washington Monument (those benches are really comfortable!) As the sun set I made my way back to the airport to get Katy.

Katy flew into DC from Tahiti after having spent six weeks sailing from Honolulu to the open waters of the French Polynesian. I was really looking forward to seeing her and hearing about her adventures. I was especially looking forward to see whether or not she had shaved all of her hair off on her adventure across the equator. As soon as I found her at baggage claim I ran up to her and removed the hat she was wearing to discover a few inches of hair still left atop her head. Crossing the equator for the first time entails some playful hazing, which includes getting your head shaved. Katy requested a few inches of be left on her head and it looks great on her. It was good to see her and have her join me in the epic road trip.

In our time remaining in Leonardtown we laid on the beach and walked around Soloman Island.
(Me, Josh, Jen and Katy at Soloman Island)

We took off, en route to Charlottesville, VA to visit Ryan. Ryan lives in a beautiful town complete with a bustling, cutesy downtown; his town is in close proximity to good wineries too. We got Ryan to play hooky on Friday and we all went wine tasting. We started out at a couple of beautiful wineries and ended with a not so nice one. Nontheless we got full pours at this last place, a fresh baked loaf of bread and smoked cheddar and sat out on the porch to take in the winery landscape. We thought it was a good time to leave after we heard a loud and closeby gun shot. The owner of the winery came to apologize to us on our way out - she said they had been trying to kill a squirrel. A squirrel. Sure. I'll buy it.
After Ryan's and the night at Shenandoah, Katy and I drove down to Charlotte, NC to visit Pat last night.
Next stop - somewhere on a beach in South Carolina...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Al! I just discovered your blog. It sounds like you are having an incredible time! I would be TERRIFIED in a tent during a thunderstorm, I would have slept in the car. Anyways, good luck to you guys! I'm excited to read about the next adventure. :)