The past 24 hours haven’t been great for us. Late start, poor planning, lack of supplies, windchill, and “emesis is my nemesis” pretty much sums it up.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I had reserved a spot at Don Carter State Park in Gainesville, GA for Friday and Saturday night. Shane normally does the booking of parks but I picked this one and got it paid for in advanced. The website says they have 41 Tent, Trailer, and RV Campsites. It is right on Lake Lanier so that means it should be beautiful and there are 4 miles of hiking trails and 8 miles of paddling trails. Nice. Our plan was to drive up after work on Friday, spend the morning hours on Saturday in Dawsonville, and then the afternoon hanging out and hiking in the park. Sunday we would hike a bit before heading home.
Thursday night we ate dinner out with Shane’s dad and our daughter and then had to do some last minute shopping. Lesson Learned: Don’t wait until the night before to go shopping. We arrived home late and still had to pack our car with our supplies, including the few essentials we had just purchased. While Shane packed our camping supplies into our new larger storage container (with wheels), I ransacked our house looking for my missing sneaker. How I manage to lose one shoe is beyond me. Clothes were flying and I was fussing, “who took MY shoe?!” Oh yeah right, there are no kids left to blame except Julia whose foot is 3 sizes larger than mine. After 20 minutes I gave up (I still haven’t located the shoe) and decided to take my Chuck’s instead. Tossing them on the table with our backpacks, I went outside to help Shane. It was close to midnight when we finally settled down for bed. The next morning we hastily packed the last essentials into our backpacks, packed the cooler, grabbed our coffee and rushed off to work.
We live 35 miles South of Atlanta. I work 21 miles from home on the Southside of Atlanta and Shane works on the Northside. (See map) Because he drives right past my work, we carpool. His workplace is only 14 miles from me, straight through the heart of downtown Atlanta. On a good traffic day, it takes him over an hour to drive those 14 miles, on a bad traffic day…. 2 hours or more….. yeah… Atlanta traffic sucks.
For this camping trip, we had made plans to camp at a park that is 45 minutes Northeast of Shane’s office. (red arrow) However, because I work south of him, he had to drive South through Atlanta, after leaving work at 5 P.M. fighting Friday night traffic to get to my work at 6:20 P.M. 14 miles… an hour and a half… We then turned right back around and drove Northeast. Why doesn’t Atlanta have better public transit? A train ride up to him would have been awesome! Interstate 285 runs in a circle around the city of Atlanta. If you are OTP (outside the perimeter) of that expressway it means no transit for you. My job is 1 exit OTP. So down he came and back up we went.
I changed out of my work clothes and into my comfy duds along the way, reaching into my backpack for the last bit of wardrobe, my sneakers… Whisky Tango Foxtrot where are my shoes???? How the heck did I NOT pack them?? Still sitting on the table at home I suppose. So I guess I will spend the weekend in my Tom’s.
It was well after dark when we arrived at the park. Shane swears that the people up there were drunk when they created the road system because there isn’t a straight stretch of road to be seen. I was navigating by GPS on my phone and the curves were making me a bit nauseous. Shane was flying around the curves and my stomach was flying into my throat.
We arrived at the park and found the gate to the campground locked. Thank goodness the park office called us earlier during the day and provided us with the entry code. We crept through the RV park that was very very crowded. The park is pretty new and the newly planted trees are small and you could see and hear people talking around their fires. Some fire pits were even directly across from one another so people were kind of staring at each other’s camp spot… awkward. We were looking for an open spot and it was slim pickins. Out of 41 spots, we saw 2, and neither looked inviting. Slots were literally packed in along the road through the campground. This campground is not meant for tent campers it seems. Every spot was a pull through for RV’s which meant the RV is basically parked in a curved half moon driveway. There is no seclusion which we think is important while tent camping and every one is right on top of each other.
I am not kidding guys, the one slot we found was running parallel directly in front of another RV and was sandwiched between the RV and the road. All were completely asphalt. How the heck do we stake down a tent? Shane called the number provided and asked where tent campers are supposed to camp. The lady matter a factly told him, “Tents camp where RV’s park.” So we went back and looked again. It was pitch black out, the moon was hiding, and all we saw was a 6-foot wide patch of grass separating two drives that ran parallel. I got out of the car and walk over to the picnic table and there was pea gravel around it with a fire ring. No room for a tent though. Shane called again. She stated, “move the picnic table.” What?
Even if we did move the table the gravel area was no more than an 8’x8′ area. If we put the tent this close to the fire ring it could burn a hole in it from sparks. We drove around a few more times trying to find a secluded spot but the only 2 spots were literally out in the open with these flimsy little trees offering the only coverage. This photo shows one of the lots. Trust me the pea pebble area that we saw was smaller than this. It was a perfect square 8X8 at best.
We decided to leave.
Turns out the park has primitive non-electric walk-in camping spots that we could have stayed in if I had done our research and if the lady on the phone had offered this info. Lesson learned Shane should book the campsites.
Shane said we would find a hotel but I was determined to camp. I pulled out my phone and start trying to find a place for us to stay. My head was aching, and I was hangry. Shane was just plain ole angry. Frustrated is an understatement.
Hold up! Bolding Mill Federal Park is near! We were going to stay there a few weekends prior but had to cancel due to a family medical emergency, so it was fresh in my mind. So off we went. We found a nice spot at Bolding Mill, it was also crowded and the spots were still pretty close to each other, but this was an improvement on Don Carter State Park. As we pulled up the guy right beside us was sitting out at his fire pit and I am sure he was thinking, “what are these idiots doing camping in a tent in 35-degree weather.” He watched with amusement as we bundled up in our jackets and gloves, put our headlamps on and started unpacking in the pitch dark. Darkness is no problem when you look like Gaean Moliere from Disney’s Atlantis Lost Empire.
Up went the tent and out came the supplies.
Uhhh… We forgot to pack firewood. The temp was 35 degrees and it was going to get colder. That’s ok! My man is a manly man! With his camouflage beanie cap loosely resting on his head, poking way to high, and his headlamp on, off he went in the dark woods with his handheld chainsaw slung over his shoulder. Dead sexy…
I tiptoed into the damp grass in my canvas shoes hoping not to get the cloth wet and started collecting brush and sticks to help light the fire. Yeah..nope.. that didn’t work. Have you guys ever wore fabric shoes in the damp grass? It isn’t a pleasant feeling. My feet became wet and cold and I began to imagine what they were going to feel like in the cold damp air tomorrow morning.
It was almost 10 P.M. so we didn’t need a ton firewood, just enough for a few hours. Tomorrow we can buy some at the office. It will be ok.
Shane managed a pitiful little fire from the wood of a downed tree that was a bit too green, and we finally sat down to relax. We roasted weenies over the fire and I placed my feet on the firepit to try to dry them. It was cold. Number two problem: It was cold! I sure wish I had a ratty old blanket to put over my legs while we sat by this minuscule fire. My head was pounding, I just wanted to crawl into a sleeping bag. I huddled closer to the fire. Did I mention I was cold? We sat for all of 30 minutes until I couldn’t stand it any longer and I announced that I just wanted to go lie down. Shane said he would blow up the mattress and we could go to sleep. I felt bad because I know how he loves to sit at the fire and talk long into the night, but I was cold, my feet were wet, I ate a hot dog for dinner and my head was pounding.
Number three problem: Remember the essentials we purchased from the store the night before? They apparently weren’t packed. This includes batteries for our lantern and air mattress inflater pump. That’s Ok! Shane puffed and puffed until the mattresses were full. Lesson Learned: Fran should always pack the camping supplies.
Sleeping in the cold is actually pleasant. We had a great idea to buy heated blankets to put over our sleeping bags and they kept us nice and toasty which brings me to problem number four: We were nice and warm as long as one of us woke up every 2 hours to turn the heating blankets back on because the suckers had an automatic turn off. Shane did the honors throughout the night, while I stayed snug as a bug in a rug, I didn’t even know this was a problem until the next day actually. What a guy!
Problem number Five was the real kicker…
I woke at 6am to a quiet forest. Birds hadn’t even started chirping. I could hear the leaves dropping on our tent and the wind was whistling through the trees and whipping the tent. It was cold. Very cold in terms of a southerners blood. Just at the freezing point. My face was cold but I was all snuggled up under the blankets and warm. It felt amazing! But my head was pounding. I knew this pain instantly as one of my migraines. They are new to me, just over the past year, but they are debilitating. I closed my eyes and prayed that the nausea would recede and the pain would subside. No such luck. I didn’t want to wake Shane to ask him where the keys to the car were, but I knew I needed headache medicine. I laid there for another hour until he started to rouse. Shane went and collected me some Excedrin Migraine and my anti-nausea medicine and I laid there for another 20 minutes just hoping it would stop. Poor Shane just sat around outside in the cold air waiting, no wood for a fire and it was a cold 33 degrees out. Finally, Shane decided we should pack up and head for home and I agreed wholeheartedly. I just wanted my bed in a dark room.
I managed to sit up and roll up our sleeping bags but that was about it. I left poor Shane out in the cold to pack up by himself. He told me to get in the car and I obliged. He basically threw everything into the car in a heap including the tent.
The big problem here: Remember these people don’t know how to pave a straight line. Nausea from a headache combined with the swerves of the road got to me and as I was retching I thought, “well ain’t this just swell.” Shane was doing his best to drive slowly and carefully but a car was on his tail and I knew I was going to barf. I was crying, “stop stop stop” and he was yelling, “I can’t!” As my body started the reenactment of Mount Vesuvius he pulls over to the side of the road and I open the door and stumble out into thick wet grass that was up to my rear. Great.. now my pants are wet along with my shoes. I have puke down my sweatshirt and I have no idea how I am going to make the 2-hr trip home. Thank the Lord in heaven for the tiny little pill call Zolfran. I took a second one hoping to stop nausea and vomiting and thank the Lord Almighty in Heaven it also knocked my pukey butt out, only to awaken as we were pulling off our exit ramp to home.
I don’t even remember climbing into the bed at home really, and I slept the rest of the day and most of Sunday blissfully in the comfort of my own bed. When I awoke I saw the true destruction of Shane packing up by himself in 33-degree temperatures. The tent was in a heap on the garage floor, not even remotely close to being put in its case. The air mattress still with the last bit of air laid deflating by its side. Because of the cool temps, the cooler still had ice in it, but the food was taken in and put away. Shane did the best he could under the circumstances.
We both made mistakes on this trip and we learned from them, but bottom line is sometimes things don’t work as you plan and you just have to roll with it. What you can’t control is sickness. If it is going to come, you just have to wait it out. Anyone else out there have an experience like this? Tell me about it in the comments to ease my pain.
Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all