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Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 Trip


The packing for these trips is getting easier and I’m developing a system to make the packing more efficient. Now when I look at a place in the car or Scamp, I know what I need to pack to fill that space. One thing is certain, I’ve packed less. Trying to make it simpler.  This trip is going to take me out to the Virginia mountains, let me enjoy some Shakespeare, drink some beer in Asheville while residing in the Smokies. From there to my daughter’s house, in Marietta, GA, to enjoy Thanksgiving with her, her husband, and my son. I haven’t seen her since she told me she is having a baby boy at the end of March. After that I’m going south through Tallahassee to the Gulf Coast via Panacea. I’ll be following the coast to New Orleans and then follow the Mississippi to Memphis and on through Nashville and home by December 19. That’s the plan any way, let’s see what happens.
After I had considered the car and Scamp packed, it started to rain. It rained all night and very hard at times. I still had to put the bikes on the roof and last minute stuff, always. The rain let up enough so doing the last chores was easy peasy. I took a shower and hit the road at 8:30 AM. I had to stop at the Labs to give blood, but it was on the way. The trip was foggy and misty and heavy at times. One thing I’m not used to is almost seeing the gas gauge move down. It is like I have a gas leak or something. I realize as I get gas and watch the mileage, I’m fine. I’ve been driving the other car for so long I’m used to better gas mileage.
The Skyline Drive is shrouded in fog with a trace of rain. Every once and a while a clear patch happens and then back under the shroud. The view to either side is like looking into a steaming cauldron. The trees are pretty striped of leaves, especially after this rain. The leaves abandoned the trees around my house, so I knew it was time to go south. The rain helped out here at Shenandoah NP’s Big Meadows campground.  The section that is open is a third full and I find a sweet spot with access to walking trails. The rain has stopped. It is very foggy, but not cold. I’m in a t-shirt and long pants. A sweatshirt makes it more comfortable, but not necessary. I’ve set camp, turned on the heater, and made lunch.
At 4:20 the clouds cleared and I saw blue skies. Since it is getting darker earlier, I started dinner: succotash, grilled trout and asparagus. The sky was so clear, every star was visible. Fall camping requires that one be vigilant about the fire. I would have slept through the night had it not been for the wind rocking the awning. I debated putting it away and nixed the idea. In the morning, I relocated the clothesline and dispatched the awning. May need it tomorrow as I hear it may rain in the afternoon. 
I packed lunch and snacks for my hike to Rapidan Camp, Hoover’s retreat. I packed a banana, a PBJ on raisin bread, a YooHoo, a hard-boiled egg, two Nature Valley bars, and water. Hoover created this place so he and his cronies and other political leaders could discuss matters in a relaxing atmosphere that included fishing. One of the cabins on the camp is called The Prime Minister’s. Streams were created to provide the president and his guests access to fishing spots.  It is a unique camp and a precursor to Camp David. The hike took me along the AT, Appalachian Trail. I left the AT to follow another trail to Rapidan Camp. I found a silver lining in that rain from yesterday. The Rapidan River was running violently and loudly, lucky me. When I hike I have a pair of ski poles. When I hike I am concentrating on making each limb do twenty-five percent. Once upon a time I’d end a hike and my legs ached. After a time, I started using ski poles and found my legs didn’t ache. Now I feel like a hike is a full body workout. When I arrived at the Camp, I was alone. I walked around surveying ‘my’ grounds. I decided to lunch on the Prime Minister’s Porch because it overlooked the President’s cabin and most of the camp. When I went to see what time it was, I saw it was Wednesday November 11. I was doing Vet’s Day at Hoover’s Camp, Cool.  I have always loved this camp. I was introduced to it twenty years ago. Since then I have gained a whole bunch more respect for Hoover after reading the President’s Club. After the hike, I drove back to the store for supplies. I picked up more postcards, stamps, and wood; and then after getting water from dump station; I finally returned to camp. I only had a couple of hours of daylight left. I set my outside kitchen with the water, split more wood, and prepared the table for cocktails. I started a fire. I assembled some wild boar pate, rosemary crackers, and a Burley Oak beer. As I sat by the fire I wrote postcards and enjoyed happy hour. As the sun was setting the sky was gentle, not ravishing I was reminded of my recent trip to NYC where I went to a soup and salad place I used to go to when I lived in NYC. I got a chopped salad and it reminded me about how I loved them, how I was not eating as much salad as I should, so I decided then and there to eat more salad, chopped salads. So in the past week, I have been eating salad. Tonight was to be a salad. I made a monster salad of spring lettuce, spinach, tomato, celery, carrot, onion, mushroom, hard-boiled egg (from lunch), tuna, herbs, oil and balsamic vinegar. I didn’t finish dinner.  After dinner I spend some time gazing upwards, but even with a good fire and good music, I must go inside for it is getting cold out and I’m glad I’m going south. I am in the mountains so that adds to the chill, too. Being inside the Scamp is so luxurious. Read myself to sleep. The harsh winds woke me at around 2AM. I’m glad I put everything away and kept the awning down. The Scamp was rocking a bit as the wind howled and I could hear the tree limbs swaying and rubbing. I left the curtains open facing east and the sun woke me me, the wind was still howling and blowing and the morning was rough. I went out to watch the sun rise and the sky was a glorious pink and absolutely beautiful, which told me the day was going to be a challenge, but I knew that already. After enjoying the sunrise, I went back to comfort of my bed and slept till 9:15. It was grey and windy as I made breakfast. After breakfast I washed last night’s dishes and this morning’s too. I took a walk around to see the hearty souls, especially those in tents. Some young children were running around chasing leaves and laughing and frolicking as their grandparents looked on.  Since it started to rain, I decided to take a drive into the Shenandoah Valley. I went back north on the Skyline Drive to 211 and into Luray, when the rain stopped. I followed 340 South eventually to Eakins, though Stanley and Shenandoah. I passed over many creeks and the Shenandoah River until I got to 33 East and to the Park entrance. The sky had cleared and bright blue skies were finally overhead and it was filled with wispy white feathers of clouds. The passage on the Drive today was clear and those vistas were visible and I enjoyed them on my drive along the Drive.
It’s 6:23 PM. I have just finished cleaning up the dinner dishes. Everything is done from dinner. It feels like it should be 9 PM. Fall camping is different. What I like about camping is the fact that I have to be vigilant always. I have to be aware of the weather. I live outdoors; the weather is crucial. I may have the Scamp, but most of my living is outside. I have to be aware of everything from water to propane to groceries, to wood, to gas, etc. It is being constantly on. The result means that because I’m so on, I’m also on with my senses like sight and the beauty around me, sound when I hear a hawk or waterfalls or the owl, the smell of a fire or fresh rain, the touch of setting camp and the wood, the taste of food cooked outside. Since my return, I’ve read some, I’ve chatted with the camp host and his wife, I’ve puttered about, cooked and cleaned up dinner. Now it is time for a fire and to gaze at the stars. It is a brilliant evening and it is only 6:42 PM. Had a great fire and retired early. Did some reading and slept through the windstorm. When I woke people’s stuff was all over the place from the wind. Still windy and more for the rest of the day. Packed up and hit the road by 9AM. Had a lovely scenic drive down Skyline Drive to Waynesboro and a short hop to my next campground. I chose a KOA because it is close to Staunton and none of the SP’s were open. This KOA isn’t bad and I have a sweet spot pretty much alone as the big rigs go for the bigger sites. I can go where tenters would go. It’s noon and camp is about set. Off to take a shower and prepare for this big Shakespeare weekend in Staunton.

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