The weekend campers arrived right on schedule late Friday afternoon, big pickup trucks with brightly colored plastic kayaks strapped to the roof. backing boxy white trailers into campsites, and then setting up their awnings and lights, chairs and tables. They are all getting ready to enjoy the next two nights way out here on a peninsula of a big freshwater lake created by the US Army Corps of Engineers, who were thoughtful enough to put a tiny campground next to the water, complete with a boat launch and a swimming beach. Down at the lakeside sites with no hookups, cars crammed with camping equipment have staked their tents to enjoy the view, unloaded their kayaks, and unpacked their campstoves and chairs for the weekend.
Saturday morning is filled with the smell of freshly cooked bacon and the voices of kids excited to hang out with new friends and explore as far as their parents will let them wander. Out my kitchen window as I was making french toast for breakfast, I saw a little boy on the loop road trying to get balanced on his shiny new bike just long enough to get himself going. He did manage it after several false starts, one foot or the other slipping off the pedal and touching the ground until that moment when the foot stayed on the pedal and he swerved to get balanced, and then off he went down the road. I smiled at how proud of himself he must be, figuring it out by himself this time, no parent hovering just behind to catch him if he started to lean too far to one side.
I’m writing this as I sit outside, admiring the lush green forest of trees and plants in front of me. Red Maple and Black Cherry mingle with oaks and pines, with Virginia creeper, alternate-leaved dogwood, Small’s ragwort, and almost-blooming rhododendrons filling in the spaces between the trees. Ever so often, a breeze comes through, gently shaking the insanely green leaves and dropping bits of last night’s leftover rain onto the awning I’m sitting under. I can see bits of blue sky and white clouds between the trees. The forecast is for overcast weather later so I’m enjoying the blue while I can.
The birds high up in the trees over my head are serenading me: Northern Cardinal, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Warbler, and the ever-present Carolina Wren. A broad-headed skink, less than six inches long, creeps along the black plastic timber that marks the edge of my site before making a leap onto the rough-barked oak tree at the corner. I watch him climb straight up that bark, a tiny mountain climber of the lizard variety. And then he leaps more than a foot to the next oak, confident in where he’s going, although it remains a mystery to me as he climbs up and around and finally high out of sight.
Below me, down the hill, boaters fly by on the lake, rushing from the boat ramp to who knows where on this sunny day. I might get my kayak in the water today, or I might wait till tomorrow afternoon, when the weekenders have left to return to their houses and jobs and lives in town. It will be quiet then, both in the campground and on the water. We’ll go from a lively campground bursting with weekenders to a handful of weekday campers scattered across four dozen sites.
You have to want to get to this place because it’s a good 30-45 minutes from the surrounding towns, up a series of winding roads that get smaller and smaller the closer you get. Once you’re made it all the way here, you don’t just drive into town for dinner. Nope, you come here to get away from all that and hang out with your family and friends.
It’s different up here, more relaxed. I forget to lock my door when I leave to take a walk around the campground loops and I don’t worry about it. No one comes up here to steal stuff. I say hello to people as I walk around, waving at others too far from the road to engage in conversation. We mostly talk about the heat and the humidity, two staples of Southern conversation.
We’re all up here escaping — at least for a few days — from the shenanigans of pop stars and politicians, the economic ups and downs, the divisions and view points that seem to be tearing us apart in America. Up here, I don’t read the bumper stickers on those pickup trucks and they can’t see the Coexist one on my trailer’s back bumper, so we’re all good. We talk about the weather forecast (a thunderstorm later, really?!), boating on the lake, and what’s smells so damn good on that grill the next campsite over. I’ve learned that avoiding politics and religion means much more pleasant conversations with fellow campers. And I’ve learned that we share a lot in common: the enjoyment of watching kids racing each other down the road, craning our necks to see that old-school prop plane flying low overhead, discussing the merits of different trailers and cook stoves, and just how to stack wood for a foolproof campfire. Up here, we’re not red or blue, well-off or just getting by. We’re just campers, enjoying ourselves, perched on a hillside above a beautiful lake, one Saturday in May.
We all come from the same root, but the leaves are all different.
John Fire Lame Deer
14 thoughts on “Weekend Camping”
You described so perfectly a ‘day in the life’ of a camper! And I love how you focused on the pleasures, and not the annoying aspects of weekend camping. The smell of bacon instead of the choking smoke of a neighbor’s fire…the joy of a child learning to ride a bike instead of the screaming hordes running through the campground…such a wonderful perspective, Annie.
This weekend up in VA is all screaming hordes (at 7:15am!) and smoky fires. Sigh!
I loved this Annie- it definitely captured why we “get out there!” Thank you.
Always amazing how those divisions don’t seem to exist when you’re face to face with someone in a setting you both enjoy. I often wonder how different the world would be if not for the 24 hour news cycle and social media.
I have to admit that as I read the opening paragraphs, there was a feeling that this was an opening chapter to what was going to be fascinating first person thriller investigation, complete with a variety of plot twists to throw us, the readers, off the scent. Love your writing and envious of your escape.
Delightful post Annie. I was with you from the start.
Love this rendering of this camping experience and though different, enjoying where the commonality exists. I always love that contrast between Sunday morning and Sunday night, though I often feel the bittersweet for the the families having to pack up so soon.
Great post. We all need to get back to the common ground that unites us and away from the mythical ideas that divide us.
Appreciate your positivity and reflections. Great job with framing your thoughts and the positive feelings and words that flow from them.
So well written. Thought for a moment I was there. Thanks.
Thank you, your comment made my day! I was aiming for just that moment.
These are the best moments one can hope for! Thanks for sharing.
Feeling the wanderlust. The tow vehicle is in the shop getting a new passenger door (one of those yellow posts in a tight parking ramp was especially vicious ). The Alto is waiting for new bearings the first week in June…. Then, we’ll be ready to roll.
This is a lovely post, Annie. Campgrounds are a nice place to meet nice people and “coexist”, even if just for a weekend.