My Eagle scout friend Jody (whose ceremony I attended nearly 30 years ago) planned a family camping trip to Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest GA for his birthday weekend, so being a good friend, I invited myself (plus my 3 children, wife, and dog) to join. We enjoyed it so much that a couple weekends later, we did it again, this time at DeSoto State Park by Fort Payne, Alabama (just east of Rome, GA), but this time, we didn’t bring dogs (but added our friend Jim Bob). So, after spending most of my 4+ decades not camping, we went twice in 4 weeks. Covid camping. Sounds illegal, right?
At Cloudland Canyon, we each had primitive sites on which to erect our tents (his family’s site was about a half mile through the woods from ours), so we set up our big tent for the children, and the smaller dome for the 2 adults. That afternoon, we hiked about 7 miles around the rim of the canyon and to a waterfall that was supposed to be full of water but was instead just a trickle, thanks to the lack of rain in August. We enjoyed multiple vista viewing points and spending a few hours in nature on a quiet Saturday afternoon.
That evening, the 4 grownups had mason jars of cocktails my bride pre-mixed as the 5 children made s’mores, and it was a great way to bring in Jody’s 45th year.
A few weekends later, we drove up to DeSoto State park on a Friday afternoon. This time, it was my family of 5, Jody + his 2 daughters, and Jim Bob + his 3 children at a group site. We left the dogs at home but all brought mountain bikes, as this state park has lots of trails of varying levels of difficulty, and they can be accessed right from the primitive camp sites.
It was nearly dark when our family joined the others Friday evening (thanks to President Trump’s landing at Dobbins, where I needed to get for a generator and mountain bike rental), so we cooked some meat and had cocktails by the campfire til after 1am. When the children woke us before 6am, well, we were glad to have Deathwish coffee beans provide energy renewal.
We tried a group bike ride, but Jody’s tire blew on a particularly rocky section of the trail, so the kids rode, and the adults rotated riding with listening to college football at the campsite. I brought a couple smoked pork shoulders, and Jim Bob grilled wings at the picnic area down the gravel road from our site as Jody made the sauce, finishing just in time to watch the Alabama – Missouri game on the ipad.
Sunday, we struck camp and drove fifteen minutes south to Little River Canyon for a short hike, where I saw a van down by the river, and I missed the motivational talks Matt Foley used to give us on SNL.
Whenever I pause to think about things for which I’m grateful, having close relationships with my childhood friends is right up there behind having good health. I love that we can get together for a weekend in the woods with our children, sometimes with our dogs, sometimes with our spouses, and sometimes with bikes, but always with great food, laughter, and spirits. I love being able to create good memories and leave recharged for reentry into Real Life 2020.
I mean–look how happy all these children are! Considering they spent most of their free time constructing a tarped-off area behind their tents for pooping in the woods, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Pooping in the woods is fun, I hear! I wouldn’t know. My sphincter puts emotional barricades across my rear exit as soon as I start hammering in tent stakes, and such barricades stay until I return to my Japanese toilet with integrated bidet at home, whether it be a 2-day or 3-day weekend. Is just The Way of My Bowels. I’ve learned to accept it.
Hopefully, we can continue these short trips into the wild even as temperatures drop and leaves change (as long as I can get a signal for the Alabama games, of course). As fun as such time is in Summer, I love the prospect of going when bugs and lack of showering are less bothersome! And maybe…just maybe…if I practice the act of immersing in forest bathing enough, I too will be able to drop trou in the woods like my carefree children.