Monday, August 28, 2006

Camping at Natural Tunnel

This is the first opportunity I've had to post since our camping trip to Natural Tunnel August 17 -20. Busy, busy, BUSY!

It was another great trip. Randy wasn't able to leave until Friday, so I went ahead on Thursday afternoon (after Randy's doctor appointment) and set up camp.

The weather Thursday was glorious, but hot! I was pretty tired by the time I got everything set up, but I hadn't planned to do much but rest that day anyway. It was my birthday, so a lazy evening was my gift to myself! *LOL* By bedtime, fog rolled in and the temperature dropped to a level that was very comfortable for sleeping.

It was still foggy when I woke up Friday morning, but the fog burned off to reveal another beautiful sunny day. After I'd eaten breakfast and straightened up the campsite, I took an unintentional driving tour of the area. I say "unintentional" because I was actually trying to go to nearby Duffield (5 miles away) to place a cellphone call. (That's the nearest place I could get a signal.) I zigged when I should have zagged and drove on some scenic narrow roads for a good while before I got to an area I recognized. I really didn't mind, though, because I was only killing time until the chairlift started running at 10:00 am anyway. :-)

When I returned to the park I took the chairlift to the floor of Natural Tunnel. I have pictures on Flickr (see link to the right), but if you're ever near enough to visit, be sure to add Natural Tunnel of your list of things to see. Near the tunnel is the Carter cabin, which was moved from its original location to the park in 1997. The cabin is believed to be the oldest house in Scott County, Virginia.

Randy arrived Friday afternoon earlier than I'd expected. I fixed him a quick sandwich for lunch, then we went down to the Tunnel together. Initially he seemed a little reluctant about the chairlift, but enjoyed the ride and was impressed by the Tunnel as well.

There was to be a "community campfire" in the campground that night, but a sudden violent thunderstorm rolled in just before it was to begin. We were disappointed that the campfire was cancelled, but the storm cooled everything off for another night of good sleeping weather.

After breakfast Saturday morning, we went back to the Tunnel so that Randy could visit the Carter cabin. The woods were all wet and cool from the storm the night before. When we took the chairlift back to the parking lot and returned to the campground, though, we found that the temperature had gone up considerably at the campsite.

To dodge the mid-day heat, we decided to go to Norton for lunch in an air-conditioned restaurant and make a side trip up on High Knob. A benefit gospel sing was scheduled at the amplitheater at Natural Tunnel for 5:00 pm, so we went back to the campground to rest for a bit before time for the singing. We also had reservations to go on a hayride at 7:30 that evening.

We were sitting under our shade tree, enjoying afternoon breezes, when I heard thunder in the distance. No sooner did we take care of getting everything under cover when another violent thunderstorm hit. We'd planned to be at the amplitheater when the benefit sing began, but the rain didn't let up enough for us to get out of the screen tent and into the car until 5:15!

There were several local gospel groups participating in the singing. Proceeds went to help defray medical expenses for a lady who worked for the park for many years and was going through some very serious health problems. We were surprised and pleased to see our amiable campground host, John, take the stage and sing a few songs.

Even though we were reasonably sure that the hayride had been cancelled, we left the amplitheater just before 7:30 and drove to the parking lot at the blockhouse, where we were to have met our guide. No one, of course, was there. We were a little disappointed, but when we returned to the campground John already had my refund for me. We'll make an effort to go on the hayride again later. I've never been on one, and would really like to do that.

Sunday morning the weather was foggy again, but this time when the fog lifted it was replaced by gray and threatening skies. I'd hoped the weather would clear so that the tent and screen tent would all dry out before we had to check out at 3:00. By mid-morning it was obvious that the weather wouldn't improve that day, so we went ahead and broke camp. I put a plastic tablecloth over the front seat of my car and placed the wet tent and screen tent nylon on it so it wouldn't soak everything.

We said our goodbyes to our campground host and his wife (lovely people!) and drove to Mom and Dad's house. They were in Pigeon Forge, but I called Daddy and asked if he minded if I pitched the tent and screen tent in their back yard to let them dry out. He, of course, didn't mind at all.

Just as we pulled into their driveway, a downpour struck! I barely got onto the back porch before the deluge. We sat there for about ten minutes and the rainstorm passed. We pitched the tents and headed to my apartment to unload everything else.

We were wet and tired, but all in all it was another great camping trip. The next one will be September 15 - 17; Grindstone, here we come!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We Survived

And so the intrepid campers rack up another camping trip! This time, MeggieDog went along.

She did really well, but she was so exhausted by the end of the weekend that I felt sorry for her. Randy commented that he thinks she must sleep all day while I'm at work, then goes to bed when I do and sleeps all night. I'm sure he's right.

The only really bad thing that happened this trip is that on Friday night (actually Saturday morning), Randy became violently nauseous at 1:00 a.m. I was terrified the first time it happened, because I was afraid he had cellulitis again. He wasn't running a fever, however, and seemed to feel fine when he got up Saturday morning. He ate well and felt fine all day, then the same thing happened again at 1:00 a.m. Saturday night (Sunday morning). Weird.

He felt better each time once he sat up, and became really ill again when he laid down again. Friday night he slept the rest of the night in a chair under the screen tent; Satuday night he slept the rest of the night in the car. We've come up with two possible reasons for his nausea:
  1. His sinuses were really bad; it's possible he had a touch of inner ear trouble which caused his nausea when he laid down.
  2. Last trip we had one inflatable mattress. The only problem was that it was difficult to get up and down from it. So, I bought another mattress and stacked them. It worked well, and was really comfortable to sleep on, but it felt a bit like a waterbed. Maybe the combination of sinus trouble and added motion in the mattresses caused him to have motion sickness. Next trip, I'm only going to inflate one mattress and see if that makes a difference.
Because I lost sleep two nights in a row I woke up Sunday morning with a raging headache. Even though I felt just awful, I had to cook breakfast (note to self: take some honey buns next trip so Randy can have a quick breakfast if I wake up too sick to cook), break camp, and pack the car. Randy helped break camp as much as he could, but I had to pack the car. It's really tight getting everything in my little Saturn, and everything has to go in just so or it won't fit. I've had better mornings!

Except for Randy's nausea and my headache, though, everything went great. The weather was wonderfully dry and cool (just one brief shower just after we'd set up camp Friday), and we really liked our campsite. We were able to have a campfire both evenings. Meg didn't like the campfire at all; but, then again, she doesn't like it when I have a fire in the fireplace at home, either.

Our next trip will be August 17 - 20. To celebrate my birthday, we're going to Natural Tunnel State Park. I hope we like their campground as much as we've enjoyed Grindstone. I've reserved us a spot on a hayride on the evening of the 19th, which should be fun.

I've already made reservations to go to Grindstone again in September for a weekend while Mom and Dad are camping there. If it's not too cool then, I might take Meg back again on that trip.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Waitin' for the Weekend

We're going back to Grindstone this weekend. We had such a good time on our last trip; I hope this trip goes as well.

The last time we went, I had a four-day weekend, but this will only be a three-day weekend. I think that will be fine, though.

The last trip was a learning experience, and I've adjusted what we'll take along on this trip. I'm sure we'll learn still more this trip out. For instance, Daddy and I learned some things about setting up the tent last time that will make it easier for me this time. Also, I've replaced my ancient clunky cooler with a smaller one that will work out much better.

On our first trip, Mom and Dad loaned me their old screen tent to put over our picnic table. I really appreciated it (especially since we had so much rain that trip), but it's pretty hard to set up. In fact, Mom, Dad, Randy and I all worked on it. I told them I was grateful for the loan, but there was no way that Randy and I would be able to set it up by ourselves. Randy and I planned to buy a new easier-to-set-up screen tent before our next camping trip. The next day, Mom and Dad told me that they'd decided to get me an early birthday present, a new screen tent like theirs! So now, in my closet with the rest of my camping gear, is a brand-new, never-taken-out-of-its-storage-bag screen tent. It's designed to be set up quickly and easily by two people. After looking at Mom and Dad's, I think I could even set it up alone if I needed to. I'm anxious to get it out of the bag and set it up the first time.

I'm debating over whether or not to take MeggieDog along this trip. I'm watching the weather forecasts before making my final decision. She's so desperately afraid of thunderstorms that I don't want to put her in a tent during one. If the weather cooperates, though, I might just add a small supply of Little Bites to the provisions and take her along. :-)