My blog is about my experience learning how much I don't know by learning new things, and sharing them with others. I have a lot to learn, and I hope others can learn from my mistakes and my successes. Nature is a great teacher of wisdom.
Again this weekend we decided to pack up and head out. This time there were three of us, as my sister, Jeffery... Er... I mean Olivia, decided to go as well.
So we looked at the map of the National Forest, and found a couple of "official" campgrounds. We visited one called Turnipseed Camp. This campground was really nice, but there were a number of other people there and we were aiming for more of a wilderness camp. So we aimed for another camp called Tree Farm, which was also on the map.
When we got there, we were looking to the left of the road, but we only found a small track which went off to a dead end. So we sorta wandered around until we found, on the north side of the road near the entrance, a large open field. There was no sign, but we figured it had to be the campground.
We pulled the Jeeps (we brought the red one with us too) around to the back of the field between some trees. The field is arranged in a circle around a large clump of trees. Dad set to gathering some wood, and Olivia and I started setting up the tent. We brought some wood with us, but not enough to burn all night and the next morning. Our tent is a large Ozark Trail 8 person tent. (The one I previously referred to as a tent-mansion) While I don't believe you could put 8 people in there, it is pretty big. It does take up a fair bit of space in the Jeep, but would sleep a fairly large group of people comfortably. It'd probably fit without issue on a cargo rack of some sort.
After that, we started a fire between two large halves of a stump that someone had put there in the past. The pile of sticks we acquired made for a large, hot fire. After building up the fire, we started to cook a few things. We had burgers and salmon.
The burgers were great, and the salmon was pretty good too.
The place where we camped was toward the middle of the National Forest, with many miles of wilderness on all sides of it. We heard almost no manmade sounds the whole time we were there. At most, we heard three airplanes all night. We saw lights of one car, in the distance. So we were very much in the middle of nowhere. It was almost unsettling, the lack of noise in the night. There weren't really any crickets or birds either, which I think is due to the cold and isolation.
The field was nice, but there were low clouds and strong wind, which caused the temperature to drop quickly. It didn't get too unpleasant near the fire though. Inside the tent it never got cold, at least not to me. My Coleman sleeping bag kept me very warm throughout the night as well. I think all three of us had the same type of sleeping bag. Olivia also brought some blankets from home... and then disappeared under them. Dad's sleeping bag is the blue one.
I slept fairly well, the only problem caused by the things on my mind. I think that is one of the best things about camping, being able to think. It clears your mind, to get out of cell service, break your routine, and breath some clean (if a bit smokey ) mountain air. To not be able to do things you are told you have to do, and only focus on what you need to survive. It is the spirit of adventure, ultimately, to reboot yourself. To do something you wouldn't normally do and clear your mind while leaving normalcy in the dust and live on the edge, if only just for a little while. It sets things back to balance. This helps you to feel better, to be more efficient when you do return to civilization. Balance, I think, is the key to life. You have to find balance in all things to be successful, I believe.
The next morning, I woke up first and started rebuilding the fire. Father woke a few minutes later, and started making coffee. I made grits again, and Olivia made a pig in a blanket meal, and dad ate cheese and bread.
It was still pretty dark when I got up around six o'clock. The clouds were rather thick.
I took a panorama shot of the whole campsite:
Some time after breakfast, we packed up the tent and other gear:
We had my Jeep loaded, but it all actually fit in there pretty well.
Then we headed off into the forest. There is a large paved highway in the middle of the forest, highway 281, which the campsite's road exits onto. It seems sorta random, when you drive on many miles on dirt roads and then, suddenly, there is this nice, paved, highway. It goes from Cheaha to Adam's Gap, but neither of those roads are close to the quality of 281. So it seems very random.
A short distance down this road, we went back onto the Duck Nest Motorway, a two track dirt road that leads back to Oxford.
This road has a stretch which has very steep drop offs next to the road.
Before long, we arrived home. It was a great campout. The location was good, if a bit difficult to find. The two Jeeps had plenty of space. Our equipment worked really well, and all packed well. The weather wasn't great, but it added to the experience. I think enjoying these events is more psychological than physical. If you try to enjoy it, you will.
So last Friday, my father and I loaded up the Jeep and took to the forest without much of a plan. After wandering for a while, we ended up traveling along a ridge just south of Cheaha State Park, known as Kentuck.
We stumbled across this campsite, a clear cut area just off the main road.
Good view, huh? So we set up our tent-cots, (more on those later) and set to making a fire. We filled the rear floorboard of the Jeep with split wood from home, but we did not really use it much. Since this area was clear cut, there were many sticks and logs scattered about which we could use.
I was using my phone GPS to figure how far we were from the town below. 8 miles or so.
At first my Dad and I both were nervous about cooking with an open fire, I never had, and Dad hadn't in years. But it ended up working out really well. Just before this trip I had purchased a metal grate which is used over the fire as a grill. Seen here making coffee the next morning:
We used it that night to cook four fillets of salmon, which ended up tasting pretty good. I put all four on a metal plate, which made it where the spot closest to the fire cooked the fish while the other three spots just warmed them. Then, after the piece on the hotspot was cooked, I moved it aside and placed one of the others there. It worked well, the two fillets I ate tasted great, and Dad says his did as well. While on the topic of cooking, breakfast the next morning went well as well. After Dad brewed some coffee, I boiled some water to make cheese grits in.
The grits were great. I was really expecting them to taste burnt, or watery, or otherwise bad, but they didn't.
The location was great as well. The Talledega National Forest is a great place to live near. Specifically, here on the ridge, the wind was enough to keep the gnats away, but not quite enough to be a problem to us. As I said before, the view was great. I could see my hometown clearly, looking like a small pocket of civilization surrounded by wilderness.
This trip was our first time using tent-cots. They fit well in the Jeep, much better than our enormous eight person tent-mansion that we have used in the past. I hope to get a roof rack soon, and they will fit better there. They are really nice. They are warmer than a normal tent, and actually fairly spacious inside. They only took a couple minutes to set up, and even less to take down. Plus, they kept us a little above the ground, which was nice. It is like having your own personal pod to escape to, yet you are still fully in nature. They do have a few drawbacks though. I left one flap open, so I got pretty smoked. Also the dew formed on the roof, which was absolutely frigid in the morning. They really wouldn't work for groups larger than two or maybe three either.
So all in all, this was an awesome camping trip. Everything worked out well, the location, the food, the Jeep, the tents, everything.
Some random pics for your enjoyment:
Here is one of Dad, cause he's not in any of the others. (He took most of those pictures)
The new purpose of my life originated in Memphis TN, with a little ministry called StreetReach. Working there I found Jesus and decided to fully surrender my life to him. Long story short, a friend of mine started a similar ministry here in intercity Anniston, called Renovation Ministries, in which we run backyard Bible clubs with the kids there. That has taken up the majority of my time recently. More on this later, trust me.
The idea for this blog came from a camping trip last Friday, and one a few weeks before that, where I went on camping trips based on my Jeep. Both trips were in the Talledega National Forest, an enormous stretch of forest a short distance from my home.
The first camping trip was intended to be myself, my brother in law, and my nephew going on a camping trip in his Land Cruiser and my Jeep, but things did not go according to plan. Sometime around halfway through the trip, his radiator blew. (He is the president of a Land Cruiser Club, so he goes to all of their off road meets, and so his truck has been through a lot.) So we loaded all of his camping gear, and the three of us, into my jeep. It was a little bit crowded.
But we made it work anyway.
My brother in law, who is an excellent chef, cooked steak, mac & cheese, and potatoes on the fire.
It was a great trip, during the course of which we traveled something like 50 miles offroad.
I learned that there is more space inside a Jeep than most people think. Also, if you are camping in a rocky area, watch out for scorpions. This campsite was on a ridge which runs down the middle of the forest, and there were many rocks. This site was directly on the Pinhoti trail, a short distance off the main road. We did hear a few vehicles during the night, but not many, and they did not seem to notice us. The view was really good here, what you could see through the trees that is. There were very few signs of civilization.
All in all, it was a good trip.
I'm breathing new life into my old blog. I had actually totally forgotten it existed, but I decided to start a new one and noticed it here. So i renamed it, re-purposed it, and am now intending to focus on camping from a vehicle. Since I last posted, many, many things have changed. I am now in college, my Jeep is bigger and badder, and my life has new purpose. In no particular order.
Technically I'm still in high school, but through dual enrollment all of my classes are at Gadsden state community college. I decided to do this so I could get a better understanding of what the next few years of my life will be like. I am taking some of the basic classes; English, Biology, Math, and History.
History is my favorite class by far. But enough about me.
My jeep has grown, I now am rolling on two inch bigger tires, a locker, a lift, and some other goodies. pic below: