Wednesday, departure day.
I'd washed all my dirty clothes and separated out what I wanted to take with me on Tuesday. TL said I didn't need to worry about packing until Wednesday morning, but being the person I am, I did about half of it, just so I could sleep! Then Wednesday morning, I finished up, a process of deciding what really needed to go with me.
At first, I had too much, and I knew I did. I wanted to be prepared, but not over pack. So it was a process of considering, stacking, reconsidering, eliminating, adding, reconsidering, etc., until I finally felt I was alright with what was there. Wednesday night at the campground was going to be normal mild weather, but Thursday and Friday nights were going to be very chilly, lower 40s and upper 30s. Yes, in Florida! But we were camping in the Panhandle of Florida where the weather is certainly milder than much of the US, but equally cooler than the Peninsula itself. More on that location, etc., later.
sleeveless tanks to sweat pants, topped off with a light but warm jacket. The clothing worked out. I had to have a mixture of warm clothing and lightweight items for the more mellow hours. I planned to layer if necessary rather than over-pack, ending up with a spectrum from shorts and well, for the most part, and I was happy with the amount of luggage I took. A backpack with clothing, a beach bag (not huge) with toiletries, reading material, binoculars, etc., and a little bag for the dogs' food and necessities. I was ready to go well before the family was, even with some last minute changes as I waited.
Kirk packed the van by himself. That's just the way he does it. We took things out to the garage, but he packs. That's not a bad deal, because he gets more things than you can imagine into the vehicle. For whatever reason, he decided to take their van rather than my truck, and we looked like something out of The Grapes of Wrath. But it worked, right down to the deck on the back with their mountain bikes. I suspect that some of the reason is that they have a DVD player in the van which kept Philip happy and occupied during the drive. Aleksis was riding with friends, so she was out of the equation. Philip is a very good child, very easy-going, but 5+ hours in a car (no, I'm not kidding!! LOL! More later!) is a challenge for most 6 year olds. I'm not a fan of DVD players in the car; I'd prefer kids see the world outside the car as we go, but I also remember how bored and whiny I was and my kids were, until perhaps eight or nine years, when the adventure of the trip, the scenery and the conversation begins to be enough to keep a kiddo occupied.
We left sometime around noon. And stopped at Walgreen for something TL needed. And at the vet since I apparently left my Advantage (bug protection for the dogs) at Scott & Connie's house. And made a big circle to return to the house to pick up the toll pass gadget. And stopped at McDonald's for eat-on-the-road lunch. And stopped for gas. Then we left. I think we were on the highway about 1:30.
The road trip was uneventful. I asked a question along the way. "Who," I queried, "picked the spot for camping and why so far away?" TL and Kirk both sort of snickered and said that it was not that it was the first choice, but because it had two camping spots left; it was simply the last of the camping available in the state! We were on our way to Torreya State Park, west of Tallahassee! Three hundred seventy two miles and five hours forty-eight minutes drive!! That's approximately a day's drive for me, and as a matter of fact, Tallahassee is where I will probably spend my first night when I leave here! Ohhhhhhhh-kaaaaaaay. Sighhhh.
We arrived after dark. The other two families were there and had sort of planned a spot for us to set up tents. Kirk and the guys went to work and within a short time we had our campground filled up, again looking somewhat like a stop-over from the Steinbeck book. We had two sites, side by side. In one was a pop-up tent/trailer, very nice, and in the second three nice tents. OK, more modern than the migrants, but still close quarters and crowded. No, not crowded, but cozy!
I got my own tent! Yay! It was a "two-man" tent! Yay, 'cause there is only me and the dogs! It is made for to very small men. Boooo!!! At night my feet touched one side or my head touched the other! I couldn't find the middle for the life of me! The tent was pretty much filled with the air mattress, and that's OK, too. Buuuuuuuut. I couldn't stand up to dress/undress. I couldn't stand up to enter/exit! I could have slept in their tent. That was an option, but then we would have been wall to wall there, too, so I chose to stay. At least Kirk and I didn't have to listen to each other snore this way! Somebody in the camp snored, big time, however! I think I figured out who, and as long as I beat him to bed, I was alright!!
Campfires were already burning when we arrived, and soon after we got the tents up and "furnished," some brats were thrown on the fire. Later the kids had roasted marshmallows ... or rather burned marshmallows, in most cases ... and after everyone got tummies full, be visited for a while and then turned in. While we visited, I enjoyed taking some pictures of the flames in the campfire. Aren't campfires ... or fireplaces, for that matter ... mesmerizing? Here are some shots. Click to enlarge them for the best effect.
While sitting by the fire, I noticed the trees and vines that surrounded the area. Very dramatic at night.
Anyway, I got into bed , ready for a good night's sleep. I was in the sleeping bag and the dogs were next to me on a comforter to wrap up in as the night cooled off. It wasn't long before we were snoozing. Then ... you knew there would be a "then," didn't you?? ... sometime later at a time that I can only guess because I couldn't see my watch in the dark, I was wakened by the pitter-patter of rain on the roof of the tent. (Does a tent officially have a "roof"?) It sounded really nice, just a gentle rhythmic report.
However (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), you might remember that Ali is afraid of thunder. And he knows that rain and thunder are related. He was getting a little edgy, eyes rolled up toward the sky and beginning to shiver. I cuddled him next to me and it helped, and just when I was about to drift off to sleep again, there was the most interesting flashing of lights. Lightening went across the sky from one side to the other, not bright and sudden, but almost as if something scanned across the sky, leaving a series of sparks as it went. It was subtle light, not blinding, and it took about six or seven seconds to pass. I was ready for a huge crash of thunder to follow, and clearly, so was Ali! His eyes were huge and his shaking was intense. But all that happened was a soft, gentle rumble that did the same thing as the light; it just quietly rumbled across like a bowling ball rolled down the alley by a child, not like the crashing, booming like those thrown by adult men.
Ah, that was over, and no more thunder followed! Whew. NO!! NO WHEW!!!
The rain came harder. And steadier. And consistently until dawn!!!
Can you guess? Do you have any idea of the next "however" or "but then" to come?
Who said that? Yep, you're right! The tent was leaking! Right into my face! Very slightly, but the occasional drip was, uh, not acceptable. I shifted myself so all I was getting was a mist. Since Ali needed to be right next to me, however, now he was in the slight drip. I pulled the comforter over him and it was enough to keep him from betting any wetter. And I laid there, considering my options.
I could go to TL and Kirk's tent. It was just six or eight feet away. But (a) getting there would leave me with muddy feet. I would have to carry the pups or they'd be muddy, too; (b) I'd have no place to sleep there and moving my air mattress and sleeping bag over would be an incredible mess. I couldn't think well anyway, because I was so irritated, so I just put my head under the sleeping bag and waited it out.
I emerged after dawn and found a couple others getting a fire started. Or trying. Of course, all the firewood was wet, but with some effort it was smoking a little. Everyone was trying to restore their living quarters. The trailer's awning had filled with water in the night and collapsed, sending water onto the second family's tent. Now, their tent was holding several "ponds" on top, and as he started to channel them off to the ground, one of them sloshed right toward the door of my tent! I grabbed the "stoop" and pulled it up so the water went under, not into it. Their tent already had water in it because a flip-flop was inadvertently left in the doorway overnight and it had channeled water into the tent! And as he was releasing the water from the top, a considerable amount ran into the tent, too! Through a mesh window!
I wanted coffee. I wanted coffee in the worst way. I was tired from lack of sleep, chilly from the dampness, and grouchy (that needs no explanation, right?). I decided to wake TL and Kirk, because they had the coffee maker in their tent. so I scratched on the tent (you can't knock on a tent!) and called out to them. No response. I scratched louder and sorta "drummed" on the tent and called louder again. Nothing. I wandered back to the group and tried to decide about my next effort.
What I decided is ... I'm the mama!! I can unzip the tent and drag them out of bed if I want!! so just as I reached for the zipper, they walked around the corner, coming from outside our camp site. Oh, they've been for a walk? or to the restrooms? No. They were in the van. Their tent was leaking, too!! Bwa ha ha ha ha!!! They had slept in the car during the last part of the night when their tent leaked enough to present a real problem for them. It was a far worse leak than mine.
Kirk got the coffee under way and moved on to the fire which was soon putting out a nice, warm radiance. Then he began making breakfast burritos for everyone. Ahhh, OK, life is good again.
The day was spent putting wet sleeping bags into the dryer at the camp's convenience area. Mine needed only to be aired, fortunately.
For the Thanksgiving dinner, we had the fairly traditional spread ... honey-baked ham, deep fried turkey, campfire-baked potatoes, fresh veggies of all kinds, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, carrot cake, etc. Yum. And especially good in the open air, which By now was drying out, comfortably warm and nice.
A couple more individual pictures. First is one of the babies, including Mai Tai, taking a rest in my tent to get away from the wetness.
Second is one of some of the kids as we walked the trail. I have to point out to Dawn that since I'm always commenting on what a model her little Jayla is, as that child poses so frequently for photos, it is a "disease" that effects many of our families, and as a payback, here is my granddaughter Aleksis. Posing? Yeah, just a little!
Mid afternoon we went for walks/hikes in various groups. The closest was Weeping Ridge Trail. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment. Be warned ... I couldn't stop snapping pictures. What follows is a selected number of photos from along the trail, Each photo will show for four seconds. There are over sixty pix, so if you don't want to see them all, it is OK. But if I know you didn't watch them all, I'll email you all 300 of them!! LOL!!
BTW, "Weeping Ridge" comes from the source of a waterfall. There is no river feeding this waterfall, but simply the water from the water tables under ground which run off and form this waterfall during the rainy season. Right now it is a small water fall, probably because of the drought in the southeastern part of our nation. Pictures of the water fall are in the slide show below.
Visit My Photos - 65 Pics
Weeping Ridge Trail