Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Last weekend’s camping fiasco

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Sarah and I went camping last weekend, but things did not at all go as planned. She has an excellent blog entry about it. In fact, I was stunned by how succinctly she summed up the weekend. My account will probably be a bit more narrative, because well, that’s how it usually comes out. I’ll put a slideshow at the end.

We left Friday evening. Sarah had gathered most of our stuff and loaded it into the car by the time I got home (I rode my bike to work). It still took a while to get the rest of our stuff together and run a few errands before leaving town. On the way out the front door, I jokingly asked Sarah if she had remembered the tent. She thought for a moment, and we looked in the closet to find the tent still in there. That was a close call!

The drive to Versailles is about two hours. The sun set during our drive, but fortunately, we were able to see some beautiful country before that happened. We had been anticipating this trip all week and couldn’t wait to get there — but we enjoyed the drive itself a lot, too.

We arrived at Versailles to find that the campground was full. Fortunately, I had looked up the location of Clifty Falls State Park before we left, so we drove there (about 30 minutes away) and ended up camping there. We got there just before the offices closed, and had some trouble getting them to give us a spot. Eventually, they did. We put our tent up in the dark, and we were both pretty irritable. We also had some loud neighbors, who really irked us.

There was one kid, though, who was a constant source of amusement. He’d walk across part of our campsite to go to the playground and announce whatever was on his mind. “We’re waiting on breakfast! We’re going to the park!” he said once when he walked by with a friend. Later, it was “We’re going to eat bacon! Honey bacon!” And finally, running across the site and shouting to our dog, “I’m not giving you this mushroom! I’M NOT GIVING YOU THIS MUSHROOM!”

Saturday morning, we changed our plans (I was planning to go mountain biking at Versailles at this time) and went hiking at Clifty Falls, since we were already there. It’s a beautiful state park with several waterfalls, rugged, rocky trails, and wooden platforms and steps in some places.

Clifty Falls
Clifty Falls

Sarah and Rob Stone steps

We really enjoyed the hike. We hiked trail 7, which goes from a picnic area to Clifty Falls, then over to Little Clifty Falls, and almost up to an overlook. What we didn’t realize was that the part that goes up to the overlook is actually trail 6. We thought trail 7 was going to loop around, but it didn’t seem to do what we thought. Since we were both irritable, we argued a bit about which way to go, and ended up going further on trail 6. Fundamentally, this was OK, because it was more of the same great type of trail. There were switchbacks and short, steep climbs, heavily rooted sections and jagged rocky surfaces. We were also testing out new hiking boots, and both pairs seemed to be great. Sarah’s have especially good grip — she scaled up one very steep section that bypassed a staircase with no trouble.

After hiking and tearing down the tent, we drove over to Versailles. I called Saturday morning and got a reservation for Saturday night, so we knew we’d have a place to camp there this time. It ended up costing $25 for the reservation — apparently, they charge pretty hefty fees for reservations, especially same-day reservations. The way I put it to Sarah is, it’s normally $8, but since we were in a bind, they charged us $25.

We arrived at Versailles to find the place crawling with people. The pool area was especially packed. We went to our campsite first, and discovered the campground to be a zoo. People playing cornhole, kids running around and yelling, riding bikes and skateboarding, lots of campers, and we ended up with a horrible campsite, too. We were stuck in a corner, wedged in a tiny spot between two other sites. We decided not to set up camp yet, and instead go canoeing.

We double-checked to make sure we could take Rob canoeing with us. They said it was no problem, so we rented a canoe. I had to lift Rob into the canoe, but once he was in there, he was very good. He seemed a little unsure about the whole thing, but he tolerated it admirably. As we were about to depart, a park employee asked us if we could paddle out by a paddleboat across the lake and make sure the kids on it were OK. They had gotten lost and/or stuck and had been on the lake for over three hours. Their parents were worried. We agreed. We went over by the paddleboat and talked to the kids — they said they were fine. I waved my paddle back at the park employee to signal that the kids were OK. As we paddled on, we heard one of them say, “Man … we’re never going to hear the end of this …”

Versailles Lake

After we went canoeing, we went back to our campsite and debated what to do. I really wanted to go mountain biking, but the campground really was terrible. We weren’t sure we wanted to stay there. I called one of my buddies from college and asked him to Google state forests near where we were. We’ve had great success camping in state forests. He found some things, but nothing very close. Finally, we decided to head to Jackson-Washington State Forest to camp. It was about an hour away, but it seemed like the best option. I figured I’d drive back to Versailles on Sunday and go mountain biking then.

We arrived at Jackson-Washington and were greeted by two small but very beautiful lakes and a campground with plenty of large, available spaces. We chose a spot, and we could tell that this was going to be vastly superior to camping at either Clifty Falls or Versailles. Some neighbors played music fairly loudly, but they ended up turning it off before it go too late. We pitched our tent and I rode my bike down to the office to drop off our registration and $8 camping fee.

Our night was perfect, complete with a roaring campfire, over which we cooked hamburgers (which took forever, but were delicious), and lots of just-us time. We even did a science experiment we had talked about recently, putting a paper cup with water in it in the fire and watching the water boil.

We took a walk down to one of the lakes late at night and I attempted some long exposure shots (which either didn’t turn out or were so dark that the lab thought they were unexposed film). We let our eyes adjust to the darkness and saw perhaps the most star-filled sky we’ve ever seen, complete with a few shooting stars. The moon was nowhere to be found, but it was still surprising how much we could see once our eyes adjusted.

On Sunday, I decided it wasn’t worthwhile to drive back to Versailles to go mountain biking — so I didn’t get to do any the whole trip. However, I didn’t really care. I can always go back. I didn’t want to waste so much of the day driving around, and Jackson-Washington was fantastic. We drove through part of the state forest on Skyline Drive, which goes up a huge hill and follows the ridgetop for a while, with some vistas. I wouldn’t mind cycling on Skyline Drive sometime — it’d be difficult, but it would be great hill-climbing practice, and it’s very beautiful. We stopped at a vista to get some photos. These are very different from the overlooks at Brown County State Park, where all you can see are trees and hills. We saw some farms and villages, as well as some pretty incredible natural formations.

View from a vista on Skyline Drive

After our drive and photography session, we went to Starve Hollow lake for some more canoeing. Rob enjoyed it more this time, looking around a lot and even leaning over the side of the canoe to drink. He almost jumped out of the canoe once, but I stopped him. I have no idea how we’d get him back in the boat if he jumped out. We are definitely improving at paddling, and were able to move pretty quickly and control the boat very well this time.

Resting his chin on the edge of the canoe
Rob, resting his chin on the side of the canoe.

Jackson-Washington State Forest was truly awesome. I really want to go back there soon — based on what I’ve read, it sounds like the hiking trails are excellent. We didn’t have time for a hike there this time, but it’s only about an hour from here, so it shouldn’t be hard to go back there to go hiking.

Here’s the slideshow. It contains the above photos, and others.

3 Responses to “Last weekend’s camping fiasco”

  1. John Says:

    Many times the things that go wrong make the best stories. In time they become very funny. Much more so than when we are going thru them.

    I did browse back to your previous entry biking with your nephew. That looked like fun. It’s great how kids adapt so easily and without any fear. My wife and I are the moms and pops of our kids stories when they talk about “even old people can do this. Take my parents for example.”

  2. Marty Says:

    Looks like some fine camping spots – once you get past the exorbitant fees. Great set of pictures, too.

  3. Alex Says:

    Beautiful !

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