15 September 2009

Headed for the hills -- part III

The rain (which turned to a heavy, intermittent mist by then) and the dark made it difficult to see, especially since I wasn't exactly sure where I was supposed to be going. I knew this much, however: Our destination was just beyond the bridge over the New River -- or so showed the satellite view from Google maps that I checked before we left Birmingham. Sure enough, we found the bridge, and were over it before we knew it.

I peered out the windshield, searching for a sign or some other indication that we actually were where we wanted to be... and then, glory! The headlights caught a neatly-lettered sign off to the left of the road: New River Campground. I slowed, turned in, and pulled down a steep drive to the riverside. The office was closed, but we were fortunate to find a woman -- I assumed she was an employee -- who told us where we to go. We drove slowly down the one-lane road of hard-packed dirt, past a few scattered tents and a couple of large RVs humming in the darkness until we found campsite number 25, the one to which we were assigned. At last, we reached our destination.

I felt we were quite lucky because the rain had pretty much stopped for the moment, but I was still quite eager to get camp established -- there was no telling when the bottom might fall out. We got out of the station wagon and quickly surveyed the site. It was bordered on the front by the camp road and on the rear by some trees and the steep bank of the New River which gurgled happily below. A large oak tree stood at the front of the site. A picnic table, lantern stand, and fire pit completed the scene. We had no immediate neighbors for the night.

We opened the hatch of the station wagon and began pulling out our equipment. Lighting was the first issue to address: Jean grabbed the industrial-size flashlight while I set the two Coleman lanterns to blazing. Next, we both worked on putting up the canopy over the picnic table so we could have at least some shelter should the rains start again. It's a brand-new piece of equipment, so there was a bit of a learning curve involved (directions are not always easy to decipher, especially by lantern light), but after a few minutes we prevailed.

At that point, the knowledge that we had at least a little bit of shelter lessened our sense of urgency enough so that we could actually start the vacation part of the trip -- which, naturally, involved alcohol. We pulled out the cooler and I opened a bottle of chardonnay for Jean before cracking the top of an ice-cold High Life for myself. We clinked our beverages together and then leisurely got back to work.

We knew we wouldn't have a whole lot of time for dinner (what with all the driving and setting up camp, not to mention the threat of more rain), so we prepared accordingly, bringing charcoal and lighter fluid with us on the trip. After a few minutes, I had the coals blazing and I turned my attention to setting up the tent. As I wrestled with shock cords, poles, stakes and the air mattress, Jean was preparing a fantastic dinner. It wasn't long before our tent was up, tilapia kabobs were sizzling on the grill, and Jean and I were able to sit back and relax and enjoy ourselves. In less than half an hour since our arrival, we turned an empty campsite into our home away from home.

To be continued...

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