I was off all last week (October 9 - 13) and had decided that I wanted to make one last camping trip before the weather gets too cold.
I knew that the evenings and mornings would be too cool already for MeggieDog to enjoy being in the great outdoors, but I didn't want to leave her alone for an entire week.
My solution was to camp at Warrior's Path State Park, a mere 15-minute drive from home. I could come home each day to shower and check on Meg. I could also avoid having to pack towels and clothing for the trip.
It also solved another problem; Randy was helping his brother, Richard on a few projects. He would be able to come to the campground each evening and go back to Richard's from the campground each morning.
I'd already driven through the park back in August and decided which would be the best campsite for my purposes. I wanted a site with enough room to set up my tent that had enough room between the fire ring and the picnic table that I could put my screen house over the picnic table without risking damage from the campfire. I figured that I'd have a better chance of getting the campsite I wanted if I waited until Monday morning to go to the park.
On the Saturday before I was go to camping, I went to Mom and Dad's. Daddy had a huge stack of firewood all cut up and ready for me. He said our friend Paul (in Wadlow Gap) had some apple wood cut up for me, too. We took Daddy's trailer and loaded the apple wood. When we got back, we loaded the firewood Daddy'd already stacked in their yard.
On Monday morning, I went to the park; happily, my first choice of campsites was available. I called Mom and Dad to let them know where to find me so they could bring the firewood. They told me that Mom's sister, Sandy, and her husband, Wilton, were on their way for a visit and they'd be out after they arrived. I set up the tent and unloaded the car. I had things pretty well squared away with the exception of the screen house; I have to have a little help setting that up.
Mom, Dad, Sandy and Wilton arrived with lunch from McDonald's. We ate our sandwiches, then set up the screen house. Then we unloaded the firewood. They stayed for awhile; it was nice to sit outdoors and visit.
I planned to make hamburgers on the campfire after Randy arrived; he'd promised to be there by dark. Dark came, and Randy still wasn't there. I called, and he said he'd be leaving in just a few minutes. About 45 minutes later, I called again. He'd just left, he said, and was on his way. I knew it was about a 20 minute drive for him, so I went ahead and cooked the burgers.
The burgers were ready, and he STILL hadn't arrived. I went ahead and ate mine, because I was beginning to feel ill. Diabetics have to be careful about eating on schedule, and it was a LONG time past my scheduled suppertime!
After I'd eaten my burger, I covered his food and left it on the picnic table. I went to sit by the campfire and wait for him. While I was warming myself by the fire, I noticed movement over near my car. It was a HUGE raccoon! It looked at me, quite unconcerned, then went to the screen house. It seemed a bit puzzled by the zippered screen, but simply walked to the side of the screen and slipped under it. It was making a move for Randy's supper when I said, "Hey, that doesn't belong to you!" It looked at me, still not frightened at all, but decided to move along.
When Randy finally arrived, he was eating his stone cold supper and explaining why he was so late (couldn't get away on time, truck was out of fuel, yadda, yadda, yadda) when another smaller raccoon appeared at the screen.
After we went to bed, I fell asleep almost immediately, but Randy was having difficulty sleeping because of a train that passes near the campground very often during the night. He said he'd just doze off and another train would come by, blowing its whistle. Funny thing is that it never woke me once during the whole week I was there! Once while Randy was awake, he heard something crash out in the screen house and woke me up. "I think your friends are back," he whispered. I listened for a moment and said, "Yup, the raccoons are exploring. I'll clean it up tomorrow." I was asleep again in moments.
When I got up the next morning, I found that they'd been in my cooler. I'd put all the other food in the car and locked it up, but didn't think about them getting in the cooler. They hadn't removed anything except a jar of pickle relish, which was sitting on the concrete pad under the picnic table. They'd just rummaged around in the cooler, not finding anything particularly interesting. Other than the pickle relish, the only evidence of their exploration was two pawprints on the inside of the cooler lid.
Randy had left at 5:30 that morning to go back to Richard's. That evening, he was late getting to the park again. I said, "You know, I've been here two days, and you still haven't seen the site in daylight. Why don't you just go home from Richard's tomorrow night? I'm not afraid to stay here alone. I actually thought I would be, but the rangers are great about checking on me, and there are nice people camped nearby."
So, he called to check on me, but didn't come back after that. I actually got more rest with him going home each night, since I didn't have to set an alarm clock and could eat supper at a more reasonable hour.
The days were crisp and cool. The weather was just great Monday and Tuesday; a storm passed through Wednesday night, bringing hail to some areas, but not at the campground. The temperature dropped drastically, though, so I knew something was going on nearby. Randy called me at 11:00 Wednesday night; he had hail at his place and was concerned that I had it, too. Luckily, I'd had the foresight to take a Coffee Butler full of coffee and a breakfast muffin into the tent with me Wednesday night. When I woke up Thursday to a cold, frosty morning, I enjoyed breakfast in bed, reading a book until the temperature rose to a more comfortable level.
Even on the mornings I didn't set a clock, I woke early, reading and sipping coffee, relaxing under my sleeping bag. Days (after running home to check on Meg and shower) were spent walking a bit, watching squirrels, reading, and tending the campfire. In the evenings I'd read by the campfire until it became too dark to read; then I'd watch for the raccoons to emerge from the woods again. I sat by the fire with my camera on Wednesday and Thursday nights, hoping to get their photo. I never managed it, though; they waited until I'd zipped myself up in the tent before they ventured into the site again.
Friday morning was frosty and cold; Mom and Dad were headed to Pigeon Forge and called me to be sure I was okay before they left town. When Daddy called, it was 26 degrees! I sipped coffee and waited until about 8:00 a.m. before I unzipped the tent. It still was only about 30 degrees, but I stirred up the campfire and soon had a cozy blaze to sit near.
Check-out time wasn't until 3:00 p.m., but I had everything all packed in the car by 1:00. So, I called a Japanese restaurant in Blountville and asked them to prepare a take-out order for me. I picked it up, drove home, and was welcomed by a happy little MeggieDog.
I was so sorry to see the end of my camping week; I was especially sorry to see the end of this trip, because I knew it was the end of my camping this year. I can hardly wait for spring so I can go again. I don't think I've ever had a more relaxing vacation than my week at Warrior's Path.