After soliciting advice from friends on where to go car camping, we ended up spending the whole weekend at Carolina Hemlocks campground, about 45 minutes from home. It isn't that we don't like people, but I will say that the backcountry camping/backpacking sort of camping is generally more up our alley. That, or places like ones we found out west years ago on Bureau of Land Management land, where you pull up in the middle of nowhere Utah to the most amazing (and free) established campsites, complete with fire pit, picnic table, and giant boulder upon which to run and play and ride your (now adorned with a kid seat and not used on any kind of trail whatsoever in probably about a decade) mountain bike.... but there's not a whole lot like that around here. So. We braved the land of weekend warriors and rvs and were quite pleasantly surprised with this Forest Service campground on the South Toe River. We even ended up having awesome neighbors with a couple of girls Claire's age, and they all played wonderfully together. On the other side of us, there were some guys who got the guitar (and loud voices) out around about, oh....... 11pm. And somewhere on the far side of midnight I went over and respectfully requested an upcoming encore, being sure to tell them that I'm not really an old crab, and that I do like David Bowie and the Beatles and Pink Floyd, and everyone else you've been playing..... but please guys, you know, the kids and all..... They were very nice and seemed genuinely surprised to see another human being, so maybe they'd forgotten about the tents just a couple dozen yards away through the trees. And after that they played quietly and conversed at acceptable 1am (or so) campground voice levels.
Okay, so maybe I am an old crab. But not really.
I'll also mention that our camping trip got off to a slow and uneasy start. I had us nearly all packed up and ready the night before, but then papa got home around 7:30am after a night of no sleep because a truck turned over on the highway and basically he and his crew had to shine lights for the guys trying to turn the truck over (not even up all night for something 'fun') all night long. So yeah, he wasn't all bright eyed and chomping at the bit to "go pay to sleep on the ground by loud people in rvs". But. He got a little sleep, I packed some more, and after a bit more (ahem) deliberation, we were off. Got there, claimed one of the few remaining sites, and settled in. He on the hammock with a book and a beer, she finding new and interesting ways to use a crazy creek chair, and I setting up house.
She and I explored the river across the street for a bit (the campground is, interestingly, split by Hwy 80, a windy two-laned but much traveled mountain road, into a lower campground right on the river but with little privacy between sites and an upper wooded campground) and came back to find a snoozing papa. We snacked and played memory and then woke him up during dinner preparations. Eat. Sleep. (kind of, remember the guitar guys..) and the next morning it was up and at 'em, and then a drive over to explore Burnsville, NC. There was a craft fair going on.
I bought a couple handwoven rugs. He was like "that's frivolous, we don't need rugs" and I was like "but the guy is really nice and I already told him I wanted them and they are a good deal and a home needs rugs". So I got them. They are both greenish. But different greenishes. One reminds me of the ocean, the other reminds me of the inside of an avocado mixed with some lime. Color-wise, not the flavor. Obviously.
There was a band, an awesome band (I mean come on, look at her percussion set up!), playing in the town square. Hot Duck Soup was their name. Claire decided she was a big fan and danced herself crazy on the little dancing stage. We only heard a few songs, but I left thinking I want to have a big party someday in a big field and rent a big tent and set up lots of little tents for folks to sleep in and have Hot Duck Soup come and play. You are invited.
En route back to the campground we stopped to check out a swinging bridge we'd noticed on the drive to town. We later learned that two such bridges were built in the area years ago when the river flooded from a hurricane.
Here, Mike is thinking he is so hilarious, making the already very wobbly bridge super wobbly just for me. So I'll have more fun crossing it, I guess. Always so thoughtful, this one.
Claire fully embraced the wobble, and ran back and forth, back and forth.
Back to the campsite. Beer. Playing with neighbor friends. Hot dogs and chips and other junky camp food (but you know, the "healthier" versions of junky camp food, of course) since our search for a restaurant in town brought us into many places with limited "festival menus" of this wrap or that barbecue sandwich. And we like menus with choices, you know? Or, there were of course corn dogs and waffle fries and other things from those big greasy fair trucks. The ones with the very loud and bright signs that all look the same and all sell the same stuff. Not that I can't appreciate greasy and fried, because I can. I definitely can. But, well, anyway.
More river exploration. With campground friends and borrowed tinkerbell life jacket. Very cold water. Papa helping rescue stranded tubers (as in, people tubing that were stranded on rocks, not as in potatoes). Papa bravely swimming in the frigid water and bringing Claire out to join him. Me, finally getting the nerve to jump in, and literally cannonballing into the river. Feeling exhilarated and brave but not so much like a prolonged frigid swim, we headed over to wade in shallower water. Snacks. Crayfish hunting. I found a cool rock. Kindling collected on the way back to our home base.
We bought wood. I've never done that before. Not that I can remember. But we did and it was kinda wettish. So it was a good thing I carried an enormously large armful of kindling back with us because we pretty much had a prolonged kindling fire that was kept going by a couple of damp but tenacious half-burning logs.
We introduced her to the fun of writing with lights and fire. But kept it at lights for now.
A better night of sleep. A morning of oatmeal and birdsong, packing up and last hurrahs with neighbor girls. A half-mile hike to a waterfall on the way home,
and then a "quick" adventure to check out a campground that lead us curiously continuing on up the gravel road past the campsites. Way, way on and up and over and around the mountains. "Wonder where this will take us?" we asked each other. So you know, we kept on. And then, funny thing was.... well it kind of popped us out on the road the campground was on (the one we stayed at all weekend, that is, not the one we had gone to check out), just a few miles south of the campground. So. Back down that very long and windy road (Big Ben, Parliament...) and back home.
I think my favorite part was being without cell service or anything to plug in for a few days....
weekending with amanda