Saturday, May 12, 2012

Opening Night at Matthew’s Arm

I’ve enjoyed my 2 camping weekends so far, but it’s always hard to spend the whole weekend away and come back Sunday and not have time for weekend stuff like laundry, cooking and doing nothing!  I was thinking that one night camping trips would be the perfect way to get the best of both worlds – camping Friday night, a hike Saturday and home Saturday night, then I’d have Sunday at home! 

This weekend’s trip was rather spontaneous, I didn’t fully decide I was doing it until Thursday!  I’m a member of The Bull Run Mountain Farm’s CSA and they are having a special shareholder’s event tomorrow and I wanted to go.  The farm is out west and by coming to Matthew’s Arm in Shenandoah for the night I was going to be able to get in a Friday Night Hike AND a night in the RV AND hit the farm on my way home AND I’d be home Saturday night and have Sun to catch up on stuff!  When I realized that Matthew’s Arm, the closest campground in SNP was actually open (tonight is the 1st night of the season) that sealed the deal!

Part of what made this doable was that I didn’t have an RV chores to do – it had water, didn’t need to be dumped, had fuel.  Getting ready Thursday night was very easy! Took less than an hour!  The biggest thing that slowed me down was that I’d brought the bedding/towels home to wash and hadn’t done it so had to wait for them to dry. Hopefully unpacking will be just as quick – it was last week! If the packing/unpacking process is down and dirty then a one night trip will probably become a regular thing!

I left school at 3:15 and got out to the park rather quickly.  The 20 miles of Skyline Drive were way easier this time than it was the last time!  Much more comfortable driving on hills and such! On my way in I discovered that I had full cell phone signal at the overlook that was walking distance from the campground!  YAY! 

I pulled in the campground and started scouting sites.  I was one of the 1st to arrive so there was plenty to choose from.  Most of the campsites are identical so the main thing was finding one that was mostly level.   I selected one that looked nice and level and backed in.   When I got the RV all the way on the site I pulled out the level and it turns out the site wasn’t at all level.  Oh, well, there were other choices and I needed the practice backing up!  So I pulled up and tried the one next to it.  This one I got a bit confused by the angle – campsites are typically angled to help you park, I have a very hard time with this as I always turn the wheel the wrong way and end up going in the grass.  I’m pretty good at backing up at a right angle so you’d think this would be easier!  I’ve kinda learned that if I can see the campsite in both mirrors then it’s time to go straight back.  Anyway, once I got myself into campsite #2 I discovered that it was even less level than the one before.  So I pulled out and tried a 3rd.  This time I went for one on the other side of the road – this time I was going right, which is how I go when I back into my parking spot at home so it was a bit easier.  3rd time’s a charm because this site is perfectly level! :-)

When I jumped out to check the site number for the registration however I discovered I was in the “reservation” section!  My site was available tonight, but not tomorrow night – phew, good thing I’m leaving by 10 am tomorrow!  Both sites on either side are reserved for tonight.  It’s 9:23 and my one neighbors just arrived – the others aren’t here.

On my way back from turning in  my registration I walked the other loops and found lots of great sites, some, at the top of the hill even have “wifi” because my phone gets a signal there!  I marked those on my map for next time.   Of course it’s real easy to walk up there.  That’s a big plus for both Matthew’s Arm & Big Meadows, cell phone signal within easy walking distance.  At Elizabeth Furnace I had to walk 5 miles up the mountain before I got a signal!

The next order of business was dinner.  I’d brought leftovers from the week and I needed the generator to run the microwave and I’m not allowed to run the generator after 7 pm.  I really wanted to walk up to the overlook for the sunset, or maybe just before the sunset so I was feeling crunched for time!  I ate quickly and reviewed the map and then set out about 6:30.  6:30 comes so fast at home and seems so late! Time seems to slow down when I’m camping!  I hiked about 3 miles between 6:30 and dark!

The hike was nice!  It wasn’t too hot and the sun was shinning!  I hiked a bit on the Tuscarora Trail, which is the same trail I’d hiked on last weekend – it’s a long distance, 200 miles I think, trail that goes over the other ridges and into PA.  When I reached the overlook I could see what I think was Signal Knob where I’d hiked last weekend.  At the overlook I checked Facebook and email and downloaded twitter to read later.  I also enjoyed some “belated birthday cookies” one of the wonderful K teachers at school made me!

I decided to hike back via the AT to Skyline Drive.  I was worried it was going to get dark and I decided the AT and Skyline Driver were better places to walk in the dark and there was no real chance of getting lost.   Turns out we were still a good hour from sunset – it was about 8:15 before the sun set and after 9 before it was truly dark!  I enjoyed the walk down the AT and found a rock outcropping that would have been perfect to watch the sunset but I decided not to stick around. 

When I got back to the campground a lot more people had arrived!  The place was hopping!  This campground is a totally different camping experience from Elizabeth Furnace!  Lots more people, lots less privacy!  It’s not bad, in fact in some ways it feels safer for a single woman.  Although that could be because Shenandoah is kinda like home, but also it just seems like more people around is better.  Not that Elizabeth Furnace was unsafe, it was just isolated.  Also here they don’t lock you in at a certain time, while I like that I can bail out in the middle of the night if I need to, I probably won’t like it when my neighbor arrives at midnight.  And if I need contact with the outside world I can walk up the hill and get on facebook!

As I was walking back in I could hear screams of children playing at what sounded like the site next to mine.  Turns out they are 2 sites down, but you can hear them from pretty much the whole campground.   No idea how many kids they have but it sounds like about 100.  I’m kinda wishing I’d brought the Ritalin Salt Lick, I’m sure even the parents would appreciate it!  I will say though as much as screaming children aren’t what I want to listen to while camping, I AM glad that the parents brought them out here!  Quite honestly I’ll put up with the screaming since I know how good it is for the kids!   The parents are trying to keep the kids entertained – they had a campfire story telling/talent show and then I believe they were getting ready for bed.  It was getting cold so I closed the door to the van and I can no longer hear the kids…either they have gone to bed or this thing has some incredible sound proofing!  Last weekend I was serenaded by frogs as I typed my blog, this week screaming kids.  See what I mean about totally different camping experiences!

Not sure if I’ll take a quick hike before I leave tomorrow or not, the farm thing is from 11-2 and the farm gets crowded, not sure how to time it best so that Roxy doesn’t cause a huge bottleneck – not sure if earlier is better, but then I’ll get stuck in there or later…oh well…we’ll find out!

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