Sunday afternoon we left for our first ever camping trip together. A string of events had pushed our departure back to Sunday mid-afternoon, so we were eager to get to our campsite and set up our tent. Then one of our front tires shredded about an hour out of town. After a little finagling Allen got the baby (emergency) spare on, and we limped on towards Walmart to find a new tire. Sunday afternoon where else you going to go? We arrived at Walmart around 6:00. They finally find us a tire that fits. Then they finally decide to actually put it on the car. Something over an hour later we pull out of a (now mostly dark) parking lot and turn left just hoping we can figure out how to get to the park from there. Maps don't work. A sign pointing left with the words "to Mt Cheaha St Park" does. We bump along through rural Alabama for awhile before we come to the park. A little more bumping and we come to a campground with a gate and a one lane road leading out of it. We decide to head onward. We finally arrive at a sign with the blessed words "camper registration" emblazoned on it only to find no one there and no night drop. Instead a sign instructs us to wait for the ranger on security patrol. Fortunately that's not a very long wait. We toddle along according to his instructions only to find that the ridge top he recommended for tent campers is very dark.Very. And this is our first time. We keep going until we find a lit area in what turned out to be the trailer area of the campground. At the time we didn't care. There was a bathhouse across the street and a light on a pole a few yards away. Since it was by now completely dark we settled for visibility and began to lay out our tent. I will say that except for the fact that tent pegs that bend and get caught on a hundred small rocks so that you can't bang them in the ground are a temptation to profanity that no good Christian girl (or guy) should have to face in the dark at 40-50 odd degrees, the tent went up very smoothly.
Allen set up the guylines and hacked at a few (fallen) branches for a fire later, and I mixed up some breakfast hash (since by that point we weren't waiting a couple hours for a proper supper to cook) to scramble up in my dutch oven. Lesson one about dutch ovens. Let them warm up a mite before putting food in them. Everything stuck that night I didn't. Nothing stuck the next morning when I did. It was good though all the same. Not but that we probably would have eaten it if it wasn't very good. We were pretty hungry by then. We couldn't figure out the camp stove that night, so tea had to wait for the morning. We did, however, get a decent fire going. Thank you Dad for all the times you showed us how to build campfires!
Then we turned our faces towards the drafty nylon cave that was to be our night's shelter. Did I mention it was cold? The low that night was in the upper 40's. Also it was very, very windy. We had the side of our tent momentarily reaching out to embrace us more than once that night. Praise God though that everything held. Also praise God that one of us thought to bring our little space heater with us. I know; I know. That's cheating. You have to remember that for the past maybe 14 yrs I hadn't been out in anything other than an RV, and before that it was a pop-up. Drafty tents in late October just weren't part of my upbringing. Or Allen's. So we turned the space heater on our heads and covered up with several blankets and managed to pass a tolerably comfortable night. It was still chilly and the wind was louder than an RV generator, but we did fine. Next time though I hope we remember to bring our pillows :D
The next day was absolutely gorgeous. While I started some hash Allen heated up some water for tea on the camp stove. There's something very soul satisfying about walking down a camp road through the woods with a mug of hot tea in hand and an oven on the coals back at the campground. The leaves had just started to come out in brilliance. All around you could see green woods punctuated by scarlet leaves or dappled with yellow ones. If the weather is nice we just might give this a go again in the next week or two and try camping on the ridge top. There's one site in particular with the most magnificent view imaginable in a camp site. However, it's pretty wide open, so I don't think I'd hazard it unless the wind is rather calmer than it was Sunday night.
Anyway, that is the story of how we slept out in the cold and had a really good time.