Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Camping Trip

Memorial Day nears and we're going to camp in the Smokies for the weekend. I bought a dome tent from REI last year, fully intending on using it, but this trip will be the first time I pitch it outside the living room.

The Smokies are usually crowded with tourists this time of year, but there is an excellent campground about 30 minutes away from the tourist-trap town of Gatlinburg (according to my research) that is not often full. The have 156 sites, 25 of which are reservable. They are all reserved already, so we will take our chances on getting what is left. After talking to the ranger on duty at the campground, I may go up early on Thursday and have my wife meet me on Saturday morning.

I haven't slept outdoors in decades. We have a couple of decent sleeping bags and I splurged on a ThermaRest closed-cell sleeping pad for me, while the wife will have to suffer with a full size down mattress pad. The campground has restrooms and running water, but no hot water, so I picked up a Solar Shower for $5.00. We'll see how well that works. There are businesses that rent showers right outside the park, so if we get too steamy on a hike, I guess we can drive out to hot showers if need be.

Cooking will be greatly enhanced by our new Coleman grill/stove. It has a small burner and a large grilling surface and runs on propane. I bought a camper's percolator for my morning coffee and plenty of Starbucks Cafe Verona. We will be staying in bear country (there are aproximately 1,800 black bears in the Smokies), so our food will have to be stored in bear-proof containers as supplied by the park. If we have to do it the old fashioned way, I have been reading about how to rig a counter weight system to hoist the food out of a bear's reach. That goes for anything that smells good - ketchup, toothpaste, deodorant.

Other new gear includes a rechargable Coleman lantern, with AC and cigarette lighter adaptors, so we will have safe, renewable illumination after sunset. Especially handy for midnight trips to the restroom.

All of the campsites are shady, and that's a good thing since the forecast is mid-80s to 90s. It's always cooler in the mountains, and probably a little chilly at night.

By starting out "car camping" we can bail any time we want, and there is less stress of forcing a good time out of the weekend if the weather chooses to not cooperate. My mother-on-law lives 45 minutes away fom the camp grounds in case of emergency or the need for a free shower. Eventually I'd like to do overnight trips into the backcountry, but for now, just spending time in the mountains will be enough. I have a 9-week tour coming up and this is my last chance to rough it in the woods before I rough it on the road.

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