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Fiftyfive and Fabulous on Camping
How I came to love camping!
Aside from a brief campout when I was nineteen years old, my experiences with camping truly began when I turned fifty. Rickey, (my then new boyfriend, now fiancé) had been camping, fishing, and hiking most of his life. Thank God! Someone knew how to manage things!
The plan was to drive from our home in Florida up to Pennsylvania for his college reunion and camp out along the way. Okay, I'm game. I mean what could go wrong? And I was ready for new adventures!
The first night we stopped in Charlotte to visit his friends and spend the night. They talked us in to staying a second night. Not bad, nice cozy bed and yummy dinners. When the third morning came we were off again. About four hours later we reached New River Gorge in southern West Virginia. It was beautiful, simply incredible. After exploring the gorge and visiting the viewing area high up in the trees, we began searching for our camp. We drove around and around the mountain searching for this special riverside park.
South view of New River Gorge National River
Searching for camp.
Apparently we had an old map, or it was a map for the West Virginia in Russia because these directions did not take us to where we expected. Finally after driving for quite some time and not reaching our destination, we stopped and asked a fellow for some help. He looked a bit rough around the edges, and at first I felt anxious. Don't always judge a book by its cover because he ended up being quite helpful and informed us the park we were looking for was more of a sandbar than a park.
Of course we had to check that out for ourselves, so we drove the extra forty-five minutes to locate what Rickey likes to refer to as the gravelbar. Any rain would surely flood the area. What made it even more interesting were the people . They stood silently, suspiciously watching every move we made. Chills ran up and down my spine as I told Rickey, "we are not staying here!" There was no argument.
I misjudged the last man too quickly, but these people were different! They continued to size us up as though a sinister plan was being put into place. Determined to find a shortcut to the New River Campground Rickey insisted on getting out of the car to view the map. I was shocked. With the engine running I nervously nibbled the already frayed edges of my fingernails. I kept watch, looking for any sudden movement the natives may have made in our direction. Finally Rickey folded the map and slid into the passenger seat. I pushed on the accelerator before his door closed and sped off kicking gravel up into the air.
Granny Clampett would have been a welcome sight.
Back up the mountain we drove. A the end of the first winding road we came upon a property where two very young women were propped up on top of a monster truck working on the engine. One was in daisy dukes and one in short skirt. They gave us a similar look as the murderers back at the gravelbar, so we decided not to ask for directions. Some rather burly men sat on the porch of the cabin drinking beer and watching their ladies fix the truck. More glares were shot in our direction as we sped past in Natasha, my little Nissan was not used to manning these mountain roads.
The sun dropped lower in the sky; we really wanted to reach camp in time to set up in the daylight. As we drove, and drove, and drove the paved road began to show some wear and tear with potholes and cracks. Soon it turned to rocks, and then all dirt.
We passed a small church where a woman and some young girls were unloading their van they looked at us like - "what the hell are you doing out here in that car?" But not in a mean way. It was more as though they feared for us.
Soon after passing the church the dirt path narrowed even more. There was only room for one car and it seemed as though my tires could easily slip off the side of the mountain. We both agreed it was time to stop. At first I backed up which made us both nervous. As soon as I got to a wider spot in the road I made my first and only 35-point turn. rrr-rrr, rrr-rrr, rrr-rrr. Back and forth until I finally turned Natasha around to face the direction we came from.
We safely made our way back to the church where the woman and the girls greeted us happily. They were relieved to see us alive. Okay, great all in good fun until the one daughter, probably about twelve or thirteen years old told us, "well you can keep going that way, but you'll probably drive off the mountain."
After looking at the map with us, these wonderful people got us moving in the right direction. Darkness had set in by the time we reached camp. Exhausted and hungry, we did our best not to argue too much while we set up the tent. Once the air mattress was blown up we pretty much passed out in our clothes. The next day we made our campsite more comfortable and ended up having a great second night. The weather was cool and I fell in love with sleeping outside.
Morning coffee time.
California here we come!
One year later we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway in California from San Diego to San Francisco and camped along the way, Pismo Beach, Half-Moon Bay, and Big Sur before heading out to Yosemite for a three-nighter in the rain! I must say I did become quite the camper. I love it!
At Big Sur we bought our camp site and set up. As we were in the process of cooking our dinner on the grill a couple showed up and began accusing us of stealing their site. "No, we have the lot ticket we paid for." Then the man started to become threatening. Rickey pointed out there were two more spots to the right of us that were open. The woman proceeded to sit at at my picnic table where I was preparing our dinner and began to whine that we should move and let them have it. At first I chose to let her say her peace. Then I realized she truly was a bit off, so I said, "I've had enough. You need to leave.
Campsite at Big Sur
My fiancé is pretty intimidating when he needs to be and he basically told them too bad. We bought the space and they needed to leave us alone. The man threatened us and said, "I'll get the camp ranger." We replied, "good, please do." Once the Ranger saw that we had purchased the space he immediately took them away to help them find another space.
Luckily our neighbors to the left were wonderful. The husband was an officer in the special forces, he and his wife were there with their three girls. The man reached out to the ranger and explained that the people had the camp the night before, and he was not sure they ever paid. Also that they were acting very strange late into the night playing in the water and being loud keeping his family awake.
Needles to say were somewhat uneasy that the crazies would possible come back in the middle of the night. The special ops guy told us not to worry and said he would be over to assist if there was a problem. They also loaned us a gas lamp because ours had broken and there was no electric at this site.
Camping is an incredible activity, and this incident at Big Sur was a rarity. The incidents in West VA were only because we did not know the area. The Big Sur campsite was worth standing our ground for. In the morning I waded in the water with the neighbor girls before heading out for breakfast at this cute little Big Sur cafe and gas station on the highway.