Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Camping Trip

It began way back when we were returning from Germany. This little voice in my head said, "Wouldn't it be amazing to buy an RV and travel to all the states while Tony is in Korea?" Reason won out, however, and we found a place to settle for a year. That little adventurous voice still called out every so often. And so, when I began to think about Spring Break, a camping trip seemed perfect.

As plans are wont to do, they meandered and changed direction like a mountain stream. What finally emerged was a 5 day, 4 night camping trip to three state parks and one special family whom we hadn't seen in years.

Oh, believe me, I had my doubts if I could pull this thing off! I have never driven anything larger than a van. I have never actually built a campfire without assistance. The weather forecast was not pretty. But excitement kept winning out over worry.

The key to keeping this trip a success was flexibility and I got to practice that even before we embarked on the journey. The RV we had rented developed a problem which required us to leave a day later than planned so it could be repaired. On Tuesday morning, we loaded up the minivan with our belongings and our spirits high and set out on our adventure. After a briefing on how to operate the RV, and taking a test drive around the block, the "Siesta" was ours until Saturday.

We set our course for Fall Creek Falls and hit the open road. A last minute decision to bring the minivan along proved to be a life saver. We found out all the hiking trails were miles from the campsite! A light drizzle had set in as we set out to explore the falls. We donned our rain jackets and away we went. We took the overlook trail, which afforded us amazing views of the falls. We made a two mile hike before the temperatures and the rain convinced us to return to the campsite.

 There we discovered that the "Siesta" still had some issues. We were unable to use the water the entire trip. We also had only one functioning electrical outlet. The others kept tripping the breaker. That didn't stop us, it only made us think outside the box for solutions.

I had premade several dinners and put them in Ziploc bags so I could just reheat and serve. We had Kielbasa Hash for dinner. The bathhouse was just across a grassy area, thank the Lord, for that was going to have to be utilized. As we headed over to get ready for the night, a light snow began to fall  quietly all around.

The morning sun revealed a light dusting of snow. We decided the temperature was too frigid for further hiking to the bottom of the falls, and prepared to journey onto our next destination, Old Stone Fort in Manchester, TN. I had gained some confidence in driving the Siesta, until I saw the one lane wooden bridge that was the entrance to the campground at Old Stone Fort. I took a deep breath, and stepped cautiously on the gas pedal. I made it!

This also happens to be where our dear friends live, so after setting up the camping site, we got in the van and headed to their house for a most wonderful reunion. We stayed until bedtime. We pulled up to the aforementioned bridge, which now had a gate across it. I sent Sophie out to inspect just how securely locked the gate happened to be. Fortunately for us, it was not Fort Knox and we were able to open the gate. We explored the trails and waterfalls the next day. It was chilly but cloudless, and we had such a great hike.

That evening, we broke our camping ranks, braving the asphalt world and ate dinner at Cracker Barrel with our friends. The next morning we prepared for the final leg of our trip, Norris Dam. This was the longest driving segment of our trip, and we arrived late in the afternoon. Weather continued to be uncooperative, so we explored the museum, grist mill, and a small portion of the trail nearby before heading back to the camper to heat up the vegetable chili I had brought.

The following morning the decision was made to cut the trip short due to the forecasted heavy rain for the entire day.  So we returned the camper and met with my sister and her family for lunch and an afternoon at the hands-on science museum in Knoxville. And now, the clean-up commences as the kids have school tomorrow and life as we know it returns. The week was a much needed break and I feel ready to tackle the rest of the school year head on.

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