My favorite season to go camping is fall. Summer tents get very hot, spring can be tick/mosquito heavy. Bugs aside, spring camping is a close second, assuming you’re the type that enjoys being outdoors. If you define nature as lawn care, preferably done by someone else, camping would obviously be the furthest thing from relaxing or enjoyable, so if you are one of those, you may want to leave my blog before the nature-y pictures make you itchy.
We decided to go on a camping trip for my brother’s birthday this year, but this presented a couple problems. The choice was made only a week and a half ahead of time, and though it was easy to reserve a site (weirdly, not many people want to go camping a few days after snow) it wasn’t enough time for people with jobs to prepare the time. Also, while it was a beautiful weekend in spite of the snow earlier that week, it was a beautiful APRIL weekend, a bit colder than any of us were really equipped for.
So we decided on a day camping trip instead. The woods in spring are still brown, with shocking bursts of green popping up from beneath the dead.
We started the day with a hike. We pretty much had the trails to ourselves; I think there were maybe 5 other groups on the whole site. We went to Findley, because it’s relatively close, and a decent park for the distance. Partway through our hike, Matt, Jack and Kim apparently had to pause and pose for a Jay Crew Catalog (above).
I am not a power hiker. Amy and I kept trading places at the back, because we were the ones with cameras. The thing I love about hiking is it gives you the chance to really look at things. I consider myself an artist, and that’s supposed to mean I’m observant, that I look at the world through some special filter. In truth I spend much of my time in day dreams, and often don’t look at the concrete world at all. I have to remind myself to look closely, to see beauty. I think that’s why I like taking pictures. Simply having a camera hanging around my neck forces me to notice things, to see how fascinating something as simple as dirt can be, the intricate patterns made by tree branches.
The best parks have some kind of water feature. Findley has a lake, and a dam, which is for some reason more fascinating than the lake.
Maybe it’s the way the man made elements intersect nature, the industrial concrete against the lines of the trees. I’m not sure it would be so striking with the trees fully greened. I like the starkness.
But then I’ve always been a huge fan of visual contrasts between life and death. Structure and disorder. I also find myself concentrating on the simple shapes, and lines, almost to the point that I hardly see what I’m actually looking at. Not “can’t see the forest for the trees,” I can’t see the trees for the lines.
This only comes in waves however, so I do still get a chance to enjoy the nature walk. It was crisp and sunny, I’m glad I dressed warm, in a long sleeved t-shirt and fleece jacket. It’s easy to either over or underestimate the temperature on a early spring hike. It looks sunny so you think it’s warm and you freeze, or you remember it’s actually pretty cold, and end up sweating from the exercise.
I stole this photo idea from Amy. I waited until she moved into frame and all five of them were well down the trail. My friends eventually got used to me lagging behind.
Whenever you go camping or hiking, it’s a good idea to take along a pair of extra shoes and socks (if you’re going multi-day camping, MORE than one pair of extra socks). Especially if at the end of the hike you come to a river between you and your campsite. You find a log bridge. Ignoring common sense, you start tentatively to cross it. It’s pretty sturdy, so you walk more confidently, and as you get to the end, Jack says, look out, it’s slippery there. Just one more step before you jump onto the ground. Like I said, extra socks.
We sort of overestimated one day’s food, but we ate more of it than could be reasonably expected. It would be nice to claim that we earned it, burning off the calories on our rigorous hike, but since I was the one wandering at the end, taking pictures of interesting tree bark, I wont even try.
No camping trip is complete without cheesy-injected goodness (pork franks with cheddar). We also brought along food for foil wraps, the holy grail of camping food. Most people probably know what a foil wrap is already, take random roasting veggies (potatoes, onions and carrots are the best staples), some meat or not as you prefer (steak works best, but I don’t eat beef so I used pork, which is a little less tricky than chicken) wrap it up in thick foil, and stick it on the embers (not fire) for 30-40 minutes. Salt, seasoning, herbs, and olive oil can all be a nice addition, but it tastes good without.
Jack and Kim didn’t really believe us about the foil wraps. Kim’s surprise when she tasted the contents was worth the 40 minute wait.
For dessert we had apple crumbly things. Again with foil, a bunch of oatmeal at the bottom, apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and lots of butter. It’s got fruit in it, so it must be healthy.
It was hard to see by the time we got to the foil wraps, and it was extremely cold even a few steps away from the fire. We had a good fire going though, which kept at least one half of us nice and toasty. I was actually not as cold on this trip as I have been on some others. Maybe because I expected this one to be cold, and dressed warmer than I usually would.
Day camping isn’t quite the same as a weekend long trip (or week long trip if there’s time) but it was surprisingly relaxing. It’s not something that would occur to me most of the time, and now I hope it will. Sometimes a full out camping trip is just impossible, but a lot of that time, fitting in a day, or a half day is way more doable. And definitely worth it.