Not all summers are jump into the sunshine, swimsuits on (or off), covered with tanning butter. Yet, rain or shine, there is always something fun to discover if you let yourself be open to chance. It’s funny, I keep reading articles like “Spending time in nature boosts health, study finds” along with books about forest bathing, “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams and I just can’t help but think that the outdoors is good for people. If nothing more than to reconnect with each other outside of everyone’s patterns, responsibilities, and routines.
So I went back up to Freedom Valley again this weekend. Which should be my last car camping trip as I set my goals back onto my list of backpack overnight hikes I plan to roll with through late July. Friday night was sparse as rain was called for through the weekend. The pool party, as advertised, was already being rescheduled. I’m all for hanging out by the pool when covered with SPF 30+ these days, but I just got a new tattoo a week ago and not having the temptation to submerge in a public pool was probably a good thing.
Once I got setup in the already wet and saturated tenting area, I got my fire lit and settled into the business of reading a book while relaxing fireside. I met a couple who were both sanitation workers in Columbus, garbage collectors, at the shot party. I had brought some craft brews from a place called Seventh Son Brewing so I abstained from the hard liquor that was going around as usual. Abstained but I lifted my can with a holler as everyone else did while throwing back the shots together. It always feels like a celebration up there. But yeah, so I paced slowly that night and enjoyed the conversation with the couple. Both really thoughtful, fun, slightly nerdy and down to earth guys.
After the party, I meandered down to my campsite and the low burning remnants of my fire. I turned in a little after midnight as a buddy and his friend showed up and we hung out for a bit. Sleep is always a great outdoors for me. I think it’s the ambient noise. We had a few showers though which was kind of a treat in a way though. Lazy light early summer rain. The kind I really enjoy running in outdoors on the multi-use trails near my home.
Morning came. Made coffee with my French Press rig that fits into my Jet Boil cooking system. It actually makes pretty decent coffee. While I tried to start the fire, it was very wet at this point and, while I got it lit it never truly got hot enough to cook over. That was one of the points of this trip. I brought a steel fire pit grilling grate with me, a new spatula and skillet with some eggs, low-fat chicken sausage, and hash browns. Instead, I gave up the goat and drove 20 miles to the closest town to go to Bob Evans and then to Target to get a super cheap sleeping bag as I forgot mine. This, given what was to come Saturday night through Sunday, was not a bad thing. Down does not fare too well in wet conditions. You could sort of tell something was in the air by the look of the ducks and seeing the cows on the farms I passed by all hunkered down into groups taking as much shelter together as possible.
There were two friends I ran into that night whom I’d met with a mutual friend of ours last year while we were camping. I like to think of these guys as goth-hippie-crafters with Etsy shops. We stood around their fire, which they kept going strong through the day, as it was sort of getting chilly and felt like imminent rain on the horizon. People were talking about “should I stay or go” because of the flash flood watch and the history of flooding in the tent valley area. We chose to stay.
Laughs, beers, and conversations were had by all. I started to feel like turning in though so I departed, battened down the hatches and fell asleep around 9. I woke up at about 10 pm to a steady strong rain that was falling which nearly immediately put me back into the sleep I’d just poked out of. The rain kept up all night, heavy at times, through the morning. Looking around, I could see the drainage ditches being breached by water and the area behind us near the river was rising pretty quickly as well so I decided to high tail it, along with at least 10 other campers, before things got complicated.
On the way home I thought about the past several years of going to places like this, State Campgrounds, National Parks and Forests and just sort of felt really grateful overall to have the chance to enjoy the outdoors again. Meeting new people. Sharing what we have with each-other while away from home. For laughter, campfire and, yes, rain. It was kind of nice to see that campground settle down into groupings of people sheltering in the storms that passed through while still having fun all the way through the weekend.
All my gear has been hung out to dry. All I need to do is repack it and then shift toward my backpacking inventory. I plan to try a single person trekking pole tent out for the first time next weekend. A hiking buddy of mine gave me his prototype. The plus here is that it’s half the weight of my own single person tent thus reducing my base weight. The campfire ring grill experiment will have to wait for at least 3 weeks if I remember my schedule right. I have trips to Hoosier National Forest and some State Parks with hiking trail backpack loops coming up to look forward to on the agenda.
Of course, my mind is now zooming in on the week ahead and all the salads and greens I need to consume this week as we got a ton of those now from Yellow Bird since it’s the late spring early summer harvest season. And, for the first time ever, figuring out what to do with garlic scrapes! Story to follow.