One could argue that this was glamping, not camping, since we had nearby bathrooms and a big trailer present with all sorts of amenities such as a freezer and folding tables and limitless coffee, and one might be right. However, glamping brings to mind thoughts of glamor and ease, of sleeping in dry, cushy beds piled high with pillows, and lounging in king-sized lawn chairs with the sun glimmering through the trees at just the right temperature as one sips an icy lemonade.
That is most definitely not what our weekend was.
So here’s how it went down. Every few years, we gird up our loins, pack the flashlights and the fajitas and the frisbees, and the church goes camping. There’s a spot at the foot of Mount Mitchell that we love for the purpose, as it is far enough back in the mountains to lose all cell service, but still comes equipped with bathrooms for the toddlers (and me) and doesn’t require a hike to get there. This year the forecast predicted a few thunderstorms, but no big deal, there is a pavilion there, and we were bound to have a good time anyhow.
It’s a beautiful place really, tucked beside a rushing mountain creek, complete with waterfalls a hop and a skip away, and plenty of walking paths- flat ones for the less vigorous ones, and steep ones for Those People.
Lyn and I arrived late Friday evening, hastily set up our tent before darkness fell, and settled into our chairs by the fire for an evening of chatting with friends, telling scary stories with the night noises surrounding us as one must do when huddled by a flickering campfire. We crawled into bed way late and slept mostly alright. So far, so good.
The next morning dawned, cheerful and gray, with the (much too) happy morning people bouncing about the place and the rest of the world sitting silently around the campfire with their coffee. After a lovely meal of breakfast burritos and homemade yogurt parfaits (we sure eat well when we camp), we set about our day. A few brave souls hiked off into the forest to climb Mount Mitchell, some of the otherwise athletically inclined set up a volleyball net, and I accompanied a little group on a walk, as there is little I like better than gentle mountain paths wending along noisy streams and over wooden bridges. We walked a few yards off the trail to the waterfall above, and I got my first splash of the day when a large rock was plunged into the creek beside me. Alas, it was just a portent of what was to come. As we continued walking, a drizzle commenced, thickening into a heavier shower, fortunately slowed by the trees but still moistening our shoulders.
We made it back to camp as the rain stopped, a bit damp but not with dampened spirits. Then it was time for the next thing; every year a group of people drives to the top of the mountain to fetch the ambitious hikers so they don’t have to walk the 6 miles back to camp. We ride on the back of trucks with the sun and wind in our faces, and it’s always a lot of fun.
I rode along to the top of the mountain, since I always like to see the view up there. Hah. The mountains were enshrouded in mist, and we couldn’t see much beyond our own tiny little knoll. So we wandered back to the parking lot and sat on the back of the truck, waiting for the last hikers to make it, and laughing at the four ten-year-old boys who sat in a row, regaling us with stories. As the last people came, the rain began to fall, a steady, drenching kind of rain. It didn’t look like it would let up any time soon, so the decision was made to brave it instead of waiting out the storm.
We crammed onto the back of the truck, tucking little boys under the cover in the front, and arranging our legs over firewood and under fishing poles until we were a tangled puzzle of people. We were as packed as the proverbial sardines, not even leaving room for everyone to sit down properly, and so began our long drive.
For forty minutes we flew along, the pouring rain stinging our faces, blurring our vision, and raising goosebumps of gold medal proportions. Our legs grew numb, our hair straggly, and chilly rivers of water began running down the bed of the trunk, drenching the last remaining dry corners of us. Jokes flew about as fast as the rain, and we laughed until our sides ached at the predicament we were in.
At last, as we rounded the last few corners before camp, the rain let up and the sun shone down on us as if to say, “Hah, gotcha!” We arrived at the soggy camp, miserably chilly and soaked, to find the fire just a few smoking sticks, and best of all, our tent had failed at its task (You had one job!) and our bedding was calmly sopping up the largish lakes on the floor of the tent.
We hauled the dripping things out to dry under the now-gray sky, a vain endeavor if I ever saw one, changed into clothes that had somewhat escaped the torrent, and kind friends loaned me a blanket and a corner of a tent to sleep in, where fortunately the rain did not find me.
Sunday rolled around at last, and after lunch, the sun finally deigned to shine a few feeble rays upon us grateful folks as we packed up camp and dabbled in the creek before heading home with our cars stuffed with smelly wet things.
We stopped at a coffee shop to unwind after our weekend of “unwinding”, and as we sat on the patio with our drinks, a gentle sprinkle commenced, driving us under the scant umbrella. A fitting end to our wet weekend, indeed.
But will we go again next time there’s an opportunity? You bet we will, because that is the beauty of memories- the bad fades, and it all becomes a hilarious adventure once the goosebumps diminish and the bedding has dried.