I talked my wife into camping with me this weekend. This is a big deal because the last time she agreed to camp was 1999. That trip was a bit of a fiasco as we weathered the worse thunderstorm I've ever camped in, and we had a 5 year old and a 3 year old in the tent with us.. The next morning I emerged from the tent into an apocalyptic scene with downed tents and camping supplies (not mine!) strewn all over the campground, and 80% of the campers gone, apparently having bugged out during the night. The only people around were two stoners smoking a joint on a picnic table. I'm guessing they were completely unaware of the storm from the night before.
This trip, thankfully, wasn't quite so exciting, although it had it moments.
We arrived around 7:30 PM on Friday, with the registration office at the Loft Mountain Campground in Shenandoah National Park already closed (This becomes important later). It was a perfect mid 70s and blue skies day dropping into a perfect camping sleeping weather kind of night.
One accommodation I did make for my wife was the acquisition of one of those 16 inch thick inflatable mattresses, and I must say they are quite comfy. I'm usually up at 6 AM when camping, but sleeping on that thing I didn't wake up until after 8 AM.
On Saturday I headed out to hike to the summit of Lewis Peak. It's about 9 miles round trip. It was another 75 and sunny kind of day. This views at the top are worth the effort.
I got back from the hike around 3:30 PM, and then things got interesting. Michelle and I headed up to the showers around 4:30 PM, and when we returned our cooler was missing. Then we noticed a note on the signpost marking our campsite. It said that the cooler was unsupervised, in violation of park policy, and had been confiscated. So I headed up to the park office to retrieve my cooler, only to be told I had to return to the campsite and await a visit from Park Police. An hour later, two 20-something Park Police officers show up, and after asking to remove my hands from my pockets (I am the dangerous and violent leader of an international Diet Coke and bottled water smuggling ring after all), they proceed to lecture me on the dangers of unsupervised coolers.
I'm a very conscientious camper. I clean up the campsite before bed every night, and lock all food and the cooler in the car, safe from the noses and paws of whatever might be prowling around at night. And had I known they were anal retentive about coolers, I would have complied. However, since they closed at 7 PM on check-in Friday of a busy weekend, and I got there around 7:30 PM, I had not gotten the message, nor signed their silly form that I got the message. Of course, I mentioned none of this to them. I know better than to challenge a bureaucrat with power over me, especially one with two cops at his beck and call, and I'm out in the woods without a cell phone signal. I meekly admitted that even without signing their form I should have known not to leave a securely closed cooler unsupervised at 4:30 PM for 20 minutes, in a busy public campground with people and cars passing by every 60 seconds or so.
There was $600 of insulin in that cooler. I probably should have locked it in the car before showering for fear of theft. However, in 40+ years of camping, the only people that have ever taken anything from my campsite are the authorities, this weekend. So I got my cooler back, and I got a story out of it. So yay me? Seriously, I get the concern about bears, but at 4:30 PM with as busy as that place is, there was zero chance a bear was going to bother it. A simple note reminding me of the rule they had never actually advised me of would have been more useful. They confiscated an unsupervised citronella candle from another camper, so I guess it could have been worse. Surprisingly, bears are attracted to citronella. Who knew?
There was also 4 carloads of 20 somethings that checked in Saturday after at the 3 campsites surrounding us to celebrate a birthday. They unloaded copious amounts of beer from their cars. I was expecting a night of loud drunks keeping me up, (Yes. You. Get off my damn lawn.) but they were actually well behaved. When I got up at 8:30 this morning that had already cleaned up, packed up, and split.
Even with the run in with the police almost costing my wife her perfect record, she had fun and has said she would enjoy camping again. So the weekend was a win. Will camp again soon.