As I stated in my last post, a successful camping trip depends on two things- preparation, and the weather. We have developed a fairly organized method of packing that we have perfected since we downsized from a mini-van to a "cross-over" vehicle to save gas (Making final preparations, right). We use a Sears rooftop car carrier that we have now had for about 12 years, to give us more room inside the car. The rooftop carrier holds our tents, air mattresses and sleeping bags and our camping chairs and tarps (for the appearance of any inclement weather). In the car goes a plastic container with locking lid for all our packaged food ingredients, another lidded box called the "chuckwagon" that holds all out camping pots and pans and food preparation equipment, and then another container that holds all the camping related gear (tent stakes, lanterns and flashlights, camp axe, matches, etc.) The last thing to be packed is the cooler which holds frozen bottled water (cools food and provides really cold water for hiking, excursions), all food ingredients and meat (frozen) and staples like butter or cream cheese, and snacks like hummus and pimento cheese all sealed with my Foodsaver (keeps air and water out). Our fully packed car is pictured left.
Over the years, we have developed a list of must-haves for packing- PAM makes cleanup of camping pans much easier, different sizes of Zip-Loc bags (for leftovers), extra batteries (for everything), a hammock (we have a great Mayan hammock that we ordered from Hammocks.com and tree-straps that allow you to hang it wherever there are two trees), and our luxury item, a queen-sized camp bed that folds up to a 12x12x36 case with wheels (the older you get the harder it is to get up off the tent floor). We have a propane camp stove that is almost 12 years old, a propane lantern (great for lighting up the entire camp site area to minimize chance of falling over the many trip hazards in the wilderness) and a bag full of water shoes essential if you want to traverse creeks, streams rivers and lakes with slippery rock bottoms! We also have a tent that is a large cabin tent with clear skylights that give you the feeling of sleeping under the stars without the bugs!
We packed up the rooftop carrier the night before and only had the car to pack early Friday morning with a target of leaving by 8 AM to get to Crabtree Falls Campground by noon (we were out of the driveway by 8:30!). As I stated in my previous post, we have been going to CTFC since Molly was about 2 years old (she is now 12!), and going there is like going to visit family. Their motto "Just west of nowhere, straight south of heaven" pretty much captures camping at Crabtree Falls Campground. Dave and Sue Mathes are the owners, and they treat their campers like family. The campsites there put the emphasis on the natural beauty on the banks of the Tye River, with trees preserved in favor of concrete pads to provide campsites that surround you with greenery rather than concrete and satellite dishes. Sue and Dave have a camp store, a game room (pictured left-very popular during bad weather), restrooms, a playground for kids and a bathhouse, but there are no swimming pools, or satellite TV, or organized activities (except Sunday chapel for those who want to attend). But frankly, who needs them? There is Crabtree Falls to hike, rock-hopping on the Tye River, sitting around the fire, great places to go about 30 minutes away like Saunders Brothers orchard and farm market (home of the famous peach slushie!) or if you want company, you can go up to the camp store and talk to the proprietors or their daughter Christy and her son (he's the little bald one with the really cute smile!) They can tell you the best places to go, how to get there, tell you all about the area, and funny (and some not so funny) stories about their experiences as the owners of this family campground.
Another thing we really like about Crabtree Falls is the weather. Usually you can go in August and the nights will be cool enough to sleep comfortably and the Tye River is still bracingly cool. However, this weekend was supposed to be unseasonably hot, with chance of the tyope of afternoon thundershowers that come with those temps. Yet we were not deterred. The chance to relax in the mountains was just too appealing, and unless they were calling for a constant deluge, by God, we were going!
The drive was relatively uneventful, we were on the road before Friday tourist traffic was bad, so we made good time. We stopped at Saunder's to get some hot pepper jelly (it turned out that they had mild pepper jelly and peach-jalapeno (we opted for the latter to go with our goat cheese on crackers) and Asian pears, and then hit Thai Siam on the way up the mountain for lunch (incredible authentic Thai food in the middle of nowhere) and we at the campground by 11, and had camp set up by 12, thanks to exceptional camp set-up specialists Bridget and Molly. While Gavin gathered wood, unpacked the car and got the fire going (maybe a bit redundant at 90 degrees, but a tradition, all the same) the girls and I set up the tent, inflated air mattresses, set up the camp kitchen, and otherwise made our home away from home. It was a great start to a well-earned vacation, and while a bit later in the season than usual, a great first chapter of our 2007 camping experiences.
Coming next- Adventures in camping (and of course, the food!)