So we had our camping trip this weekend! Sharif and I left on Friday morning for the wilds of West Virginia, hiked to a campsite, stayed there for two nights, then hiked back on Sunday. We got home Sunday evening.
That is the extremely short version, which leaves out all of the water.
And really, you could say that water was the defining attribute of the weekend. We still enjoyed ourselves and managed not to be miserable for most of the trip, and we're definitely glad we did it, but wow. It was wet.
It was drizzly and dismal for our whole drive on Friday- damp when we loaded the car, chilly when we stopped for breakfast outside Frederick, foggy as we passed through Cumberland (home of Dr. McNinja!) It wasn't actually raining as we made our bumpy way into Dolly Sods, up the narrow unfinished road along the side of a mountain, but we were basically navigating through a cloud. We reached a trail marker and parked the car shortly after a group of about eight people arrived at the same area. So we ended up sharing the trail for a little while. We had rain jackets and all of our things were packed in plastic bags and we weren't at work, so spirits were high despite the weather. For a long time, the trail was basically a giant bog. We worked our way through carefully, trying to find solid ground as much as possible. Of course, that didn't always work, and I ended up in water (or mud) above my ankles on more than a few occasions. We left the other group behind at one trail split, as they looked at maps and conferenced. Shortly after that, we had to wade across a river, and any bit of dryness that remained in our boots and socks was officially obliterated. Not long after that, we had to cross it again. All told, we hiked almost four hours that day- through mud, up and down hills, across rocks, through woods and meadows. It drizzled some but was mostly just foggy. When we reached the river for the third time, we walked along it for a bit and found a campsite in an ideal spot. It was near the water and sheltered by trees, there was a fire circle, and there was a nice clear spot for a tent. We claimed our space. Put up the tent (so easy and quick! Go LL Bean!). Gathered some firewood. Took forever to get a fire going. But Sharif persevered, despite the soaked wood, and eventually he managed an entirely respectable flame. Finally, we got to settle down to eat a much much appreciated meal. (We bought a bunch of military rations, since they're light, take up so little space, and require no preparation. Also, turns out they're tasty enough if you're only eating them for a couple of days.) As we were eating, we gained some company. The group that we'd encountered that morning ended up in the exact same place as us, albeit a couple hours later. They walked about a hundred feet further into the woods and set up their camp there. We weren't really wanting neighbors, but they were friendly when passing and otherwise kept to themselves, so that was OK.
Sleeping was about what one expects on the ground in a sleeping bag, but I was tired enough that I did manage some hours. It was misty again in the morning, and everything was wetter than it had been before, so it had clearly rained harder during the night. The fire-starting process began again, and eventually we were able to make tea. That was pretty great tea. While we were sipping, our neighbors packed up and left. From the snippets I overheard, it seems that they'd planned to move on to another campsite that day and make a three-day circuit, but instead decided to just head straight back to their cars. We wished them a cheerful farewell.
The bulk of Saturday was spent babysitting the fire. We couldn't really leave it unattended, and we definitely didn't want it to go out, so we had to stay close. It was OK, though. We each managed to do a little solo wandering in the beautiful wilderness around us. And it was relaxing just to sit by the fire and only have to worry about making sure there were enough sticks around. And the afternoon was actually mostly dry. The sun came out for a little while, and we even saw a patch of blue sky before the clouds took over again. When it got to be dinner time, however, it started raining for real. We ate huddled in our rain jackets, getting colder and getting miserable. Around 7:00, we decided that it wasn't worth it, and we retreated to the tent. Once we were in dry clothes and stretched out, listening to the steady raindrops on the tent, it didn't take long for us both to fall asleep for the rest of the night. Early bedtime! And we didn't get out of the tent until almost 9:00 the next morning. I guess we were pretty tired.
The rain was much lighter when we woke up, and we were able to pack up with a minimum of difficulty. We were wet and dirty, along with everything we had with us, and we were ready to go home. Of course, the trails were boggier and the river was higher this time around, so it was tougher going. And the rain, though light, was still there. But since we were already wet through, we found we were actually moving much faster. It's not useful to spend time carefully working your way around a puddle when your boots are already as wet as is possible. We made good time, and after almost two hours, we found a path that would take us up to the road, avoiding the worst parts of the swampy areas that we remembered from Friday. We took it. It was tough going, steeply uphill the whole way, mostly through streams of water that were using the footpath as their most convenient route down. It stopped raining before we reached the road, though, and as we turned to walk along the road, we could tell that the sun would be making an appearance as soon as we reached the car. We weren't sure how far we ended up from where we had parked, and it was maybe twenty minutes before we found the car. And once we did, the blue sky appeared. Right on schedule!
We changed into what dry clothes we had, and we sank gratefully into the cushioned car seats. I had an extra pair of shoes, at least, but Sharif just had to be barefoot for awhile. This was a problem, as we were quite hungry, so we actually stopped at WalMart in the first town we came through, and I went inside to buy him some cheap ($1!) beach shoes and a dry pair of shorts. Once we were both fully clothed, we stopped in Cumberland (home of Dr. McNinja) for a good lunch. Since the fog had lifted, we were actually able to see the beautiful scenery on the way home, and we also saw four rainbows along the way! We were tired and sore when we got home, and the shower felt SO GREAT.
Though it's easiest to talk about the rain and the discomfort, it really was mostly a good time. And we're making notes to help us be more prepared, so that next time will be even more enjoyable. Yay camping!