While on almost all occasions I view my spendthriftiness as a positive quality, occasionally it gets me into trouble. Such was the case with our winter camping excursion last weekend. Instead of a being a smart wife and demanding that on our short break we go to a nice hotel or ski lodge, I (of all people) suggested that we go camping. Now, my main motivation wasn't just to save money - Todd loves the outdoors and camping and backpacking and climbing mountains. And I love Todd. And sometimes camping is fun. And the weather was suPPOSed to be warm that weekend. So we decided that it would be fun to go on our first camping excursion together. Todd also promised me that his tent was soooo warm and toasty that we would be roasting inside, no matter how cold it was outside. Yeah right.
So, on Thursday night, we packed all of our gear up. On Friday morning, I went into work for a little while, and then that afternoon we were on our way to Shenandoah River State Park (the National Park is closed for camping right now, and they don't allow fires. Like I was going to go winter camping without a fire).
The state park was very posh. They even had carts at the campground so you didn't have to lug your stuff to your campsite. Here is Todd with our stuff:
And here is our campsite. What you can't tell by looking at the tent is that it is 90% mesh. Oh sure, there is a "rain fly" covering the mesh tent, but that's basically like having a colored Ziploc bag over a mesh tent. So while it looks like it may have been a warm tent, in all actuality, it is a see-through open tent with a gigantic, colored sandwich bag over the top...so basically we were sleeping in the open air.
After seeing the state of the tent and after setting up camp and hanging around for a while with no fire, I was basically frozen to my camp chair.
Todd, on the other hand, was running around, happy as a clam, taking pictures of the lovely surroundings. Exhibits A and B:
Things really started looking up when the fire got going. Here I am again, in roughly the same position, but with more of a real smile. This is mostly because of the blanket and the fire. Todd made a good point that we should take a moment to thank all of the quilt providers in our lives for our survival on this trip. If it hadn't been for my Mom's jeans quilt, this quilt I got from Young Womens, Todd's quilt from his mom and sister that used to reside in his Jeep in high school, and the new strip quilt that Dad made for Christmas, we would have FROZEN TO DEATH.
Another thing that greatly boosted both of our spirits was dinner. We made tinfoil dinners. Secret ingredient that made ours delicious - McCormick Grillmates seasoning. I owe that idea to mom.
I will now pass the torch onto Todd to finish the rest of our trip. I only have to make one caveat - I know I look ridiculous in the majority of these pictures. Todd and I were realizing that I have made it to that point where I don't care how ridiculous I look as long as I'm warm. When we have kids one day, they will look at these pictures and say, "Mom, what are you wearing?!" And I'll say, "I don't know. But I was warm."
The night wasn't THAT cold, but at one point, Becky, quite seriously, asked if there were a chance we could wake up in the morning with frost bite on our exposed faces (in spite of my reassuring words that we'd live, as would our faces, she slept with her head under one of the quilts all night). Anyway, it was a beautiful morning, and to bring home the point that camping doesn't necessarily mean ruffing it, I brought along my cast iron skillet and made some delicious sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwiches. Becky was a dear and completely broke down camp while I was cooking (later, she admitted that it was in part to show that she could be a good camper, but more importantly, she did it all so that she could get out of the cold faster!)
Once everything was packed in our car and the campsite looked as if we hadn't been there at all, we drove to a little point on the East side of Shenandoah National Park in order to climb one of its classic peaks: Old Rag (short for 'Old Ragged Mountain,' it being one of the few mountains in the area with exposed granite at the summit). This is on the must hike list for anyone who lives out here or comes to visit the East. They say that more then 150,000 people make this hike each year, and that anytime that it's not averaging below freezing temperatures, it's so crowded that you can find yourself waiting in a line for an hour to get your turn to make it through a segment of the trail. Here's Becky at the trailhead.
It really was a gorgeous hike, the first few miles gradually climbing through forest, then hitting switchbacks that get you up and onto the ridge. We made a few stops in order to snap a few pictures (and rest our burning legs and lungs). We even came across (er, or were passed by) several other groups who were kind enough to take our picture.
Once you make it onto the ridge you can see why this is such a well hiked trail. Not only do you get spectacular, unobstructed views, but there is a lot of scrambling involved. Up and over boulders. Down, through narrow cracks. You spend as much time scurrying along on all fours as you actually do hiking.
Looking up the ridge to the summit.
Me, taking great pains to get to what I thought was the summit, only to discover the true summit a little further along the trail.
Becky, on the actual summit, accessed by a much more straightforward trail.
The five mile hike that took us off the summit and back down to the trailhead was for the most part an old fire road. We were able to hike out fast and comfortably and enjoyed the last of our afternoon in the park.
Final thoughts: I love my Becky. She gets full credit for proposing a camping trip that wont easily be forgotten. Also, she was a trooper. There are some really pretty places out here, but maybe we'll save our next camping adventure for weather that doesn't require five quilts, down sleeping bags, long underwear, fleece, and beanies.