Camping Good, Bad, Ugly

Has it been forever since I last posted, or does it just seem like it? We’ve survived torrential rainfall, a resurgence of the Ohio stinkbug menace, and all the steamy heat that North Carolina and Georgia can inflict upon us. This is the first campground in about ten days where we’ve had any cell service or internet availability. Most have been remote enough that we can’t even pull in a radio station. We have no TV. Yes, this is camping. And we are still finding stinkbugs everywhere inside the camper. It’s creepy.

We wanted to visit Raleigh NC, primarily because it’s the State Capitol, and we do love to visit these places when we can. After a very frustrating, (missing keys!) but mercifully short drive, we arrived at William B. Umstead State Park. We were the only campers in the small (25 sites) campground. And it would have been peaceful perfection if not for the fact that the campground seems to be located adjacent to the Raleigh Airport. From 5:30am to 11:30pm, jets brushed the treetops. They say that you don’t hear these things after a while, but I guess we just weren’t there long enough for that to happen. Surprisingly, jet noise is less aggravating than all of the people-generated sounds of camping, so we got along just fine. I would camp here again in a minute – the Park is cris-crossed with hike, bike, and horse trails, and was immaculately maintained. We felt privileged to have it to ourselves.

With a bit of help from The Google, John plotted a bicycle route into Raleigh. Holy shit! We found ourselves on roads where no one with any sense would ride a bike. It was a hair-raising 15 mile ride to town. On the plus side, we passed by the Raleigh Arboretum, and stopped for a quick tour. This fleece-wrapped tree was my favorite sight.wp-image-183102475With a bit more aggravating effort, we finally rolled into Raleigh and located the Capitol building, where we freely wandered around. Stately would be the word I would apply here – not overly embellished or ornate, but very historical and governmental looking, if you can relate to that. wp-image-767911402wp-image-755679812wp-image-465779001Perhaps the most surprising thing we learned is that North Carolina claims George Washington as their own – I had always assumed that he was a Virginian. This startling sculpture of GW made us both smile – crafted by the leading Italian sculptor of the day, it definitely has a Roman ‘feel’ to it. I would have passed right by if the George Washington inscription hadn’t caught my eye.wp-image-1292580731And then, there was this other wacky George Washington….wp-image-398403310.jpgAll this history and cycling made us hungry and thirsty, so we wandered into one of the most interesting brewpubs we’ve ever visited. A combination brewery, dim sum restaurant and bookstore, Bhavana Brewery was the perfect stop. Excellent beer paired well with seafood dumplings and bbq pork bao (steamed buns). If I lived near Raleigh, this would be a frequent stop – so many intriguing items on the menu.wp-image-1627542094We fortunately found a better route back to the campground, involving the Raleigh Greenbelt, and had a terrific ride home – touring through the sculpture park of the Raleigh Museum of Art. Why didn’t we find this in the morning?

Moving on, our next stop was a campground we have enjoyed in the past – Lake Powhatan in Asheville, NC. We grabbed a fantastic campsite, and eagerly awaited the arrival of the bear which had reportedly been stalking the campground. We never saw Charley (as he had been named by the camp hosts) in the three days we were there although our neighbors reported that he strolled right behind our camper shortly after we left on the first day. Bummer!

Our short list of necessary stops in Asheville included a visits to two of our favorite breweries, who have opened large-scale operations in Asheville – Sierra Nevada and New Belgium. These two breweries could not be more different in their style. I love Sierra Nevada beers. Their brewery sits outside of town in a spectacular setting. We self-toured, since all the guided tours were booked for the day. Brewing equipment is beautiful – all gleaming and sexy. It was interesting, even though we had no tour guide.wp-image-1334030335wp-image-2002578699Friends had told us that the onsite restaurant at Sierra Nevada was amazing, and they were correct. We enjoyed appetizer portions of scallops, Mongolian beef skewers, and  duck fat french fries. Happy campers rolled back home.

The vibe at New Belgium couldn’t be more different than at Sierra Nevada. It’s much smaller to begin with. Located near downtown in an old brownfield area, it’s now a very hip-looking spot, with a huge outdoor patio, filled with folks and their dogs enjoying a beer. They’re located directly alongside a bike path. wp-image-527196700Sustainability and employee-ownership are their big stories. Plus, they have a serious connection to cycling. Can you imagine getting a custom-made bicycle on your one-year anniversary? For a moment, going back to work, seemed like a good idea. I’ve got a warm spot in my heart for New Belgium, as they have contributed thousands of dollars to bicycling in Grand Rapids via their film festival which visited our town for four years. Proceeds from the festival have gone to the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition. Although I don’t like their beer as much as Sierra Nevada, they sure have won my heart.

Wandering around town, and hiking took up most of the rest of our Asheville time. This is a very cool town, with a great bike culture. There are bikes (especially mountain bikes) everywhere. The only downside to our stay was that the heat was stifling. Our campsite did not have electric power, so we needed our solar panels to provide enough power to the battery to keep the lights on and the refrigerator running. Although there was lots of sunshine, our site was shady. After two days, we had to shut down our refrigerator and load everything into the cooler we always carry. Not a big problem, but an annoyance.

Hurricane Nate had blasted into Mississippi the day before, so we knew there would be rain problems on our next travel day, the 8th. We packed up and hit the road early, intending to be at our next stop, set up, and hunkered down by noon. Everything was fine until we arrived at Standing Indian Campground in the Nantahala National Forest. As we pulled into the immaculate campground, we were met by a ranger who informed us that the campground was being evacuated ahead of the storm. Looking back, I can see that it made sense, as the campground was located down a long winding road near the Appalachians, if not officially in them. Oh crap! Now where? Consulting our atlas, I see that there’s a Georgia State Park about 30 miles away that has a camping symbol on the map. We’ve no cell service, so we just head toward the park, hoping for the best.

What luck! We landed at Vogel Lake State Park and registered for two nights as the skies opened up. Bam! Never have we set up in such a downpour. We got the Campsh@ck leveled, and dived back into the truck for a consult about our next step. We were both drenched, soaking the interior of the truck. The decision was that we should set up our big yellow awning (you’ve seen the photos), so that we would have a spot to leave our wet clothes and towel off before going inside. If you’ve never been inside a T@DA, you might not be aware that we just a few feet of floor space, and absolutely nowhere to put wet clothes and towels. The Crankshaws rose to the occasion and put up our awning in a downpour in record time. We coaxed Jezzy out of the truck into the camper, and peeled our wet clothes off under the awning. It was ridiculous enough to be funny. (Next day, the Rangers told us we got over 7″ of rain). Once inside with dry clothes and some cold chicken we had grilled the previous day, we hunkered down with books and waited out the storm through a very long night.

Vogel is a gorgeous park. wp-image-596184130wp-image-1560159845The rain miraculously disappeared the next day, so we hiked out to view Trahlyta Falls. They were roaring! It was incredible to stand on the edge of the viewing platform so close to the foaming water.

We’re moving on to an urban adventure next as we visit Atlanta for the first time. It’s steamy hot here – with record temps of around 90, combined with a dew point in the mid 70s. More to come.

20 thoughts on “Camping Good, Bad, Ugly

  1. I live in Raleigh and I marvel at the courage (or stupidity — lol) of bicyclists on the streets. Heck the other drivers scare me in my car! Glad you found the Greenway.The NC Museum of Art is one of my favorite places to hang out. I help tend the rose gardens there.

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    • Hi Irene. We wished we had time to explore the Art Museum. But I applaud the vision of the Greenways people + the Museum people in choosing the path they did. It was a treasure.

      We cycle a lot, and are comfortable riding in traffic. But we did find ourselves (for a few relatively brief stretches) on roads which made me uncomfortable. Had we been directed to the Greenway initially, we would have gone out of our way to take that route. Next time, we’ll know!

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    • Hi Mary. Actually, I like the sound of wind better.😊 The planes were close enough that we never really had time to forget about them, and be re-startled when the next one came through. Perhaps that made them just a bit less annoying for a few days.

      Glad you are enjoying the blog. I never really know when I’m just babbling!

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      • Glad you guys enjoyed Umstead Park, even with the RDU traffic. Growing up in nearby Cary, our family enjoyed Umstead (Crabtree Creek State Park in the old days).Susan and I camped there on our first camping trip after we were married (and our last tent camping experience) and have biked and hiked there lots. Kind of a neat spot so near the city.
        Glad you made it to the Jordan Lake Jaunt.We look forward to drinking a beer or three with you again soon!

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      • Our first night there, a Ranger stopped by around 7pm to introduce himself. Said he had been in a SP in another state – the Ranger didn’t do that, and he felt that was wrong. Turns out his family was from Detroit – same neighborhood where my grandparents lived. He and I probably ran the same streets together. I loved that he stopped by. You won’t find that in MI state parks – perhaps in the state forest campgrounds, but….

        Umstead would be a terrific tent-camping spot. Bet it’s jammed in the summer.

        We’ll catch up again, for sure.

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  2. Vogel State Park is less than an hour from our house. It is Georgia’s first official State Park. We’ve camped there a couple times.

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    • Isn’t Vogel great? We knew we were fairly close to you, as we passed Lake Lanier. We checked in on the fly, and spent most of the next day in recovery mode. The amount of water coming over the falls was impressive – all the photos and postcards we saw showed a very beautiful, dainty waterfall. This was crazy!

      Hope you didn’t have any storm damage. Did you get 7″ of rain too? Are you familiar with Standing Indian? It was gorgeous down there.

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  3. Your story about the jets coming and going at the airport reminds me of all the times that I managed to find a campground with train tracks just out of sight of the campground, but definitely within earshot when the express freight came rumbling past at 2 AM in the morning.

    I liked the tour of the state capitol building, I think that you summed it up quite well.

    The brew pubs also sounded interesting, but they’re trendy, and I don’t do trendy. ;) I’m a camp out in the middle of nowhere type of person. Well, except for the ever present train tracks.

    In a way, the rain was fortunate, as the waterfall was really impressive. But, I know how miserable it can be to get soaked while camping, I’m sure that the awning made things a little better. Stepping into a tent while soaked seems to only make everything in the tent wet.

    I’m not sure why any one would want to go to Atlanta, but it’s your trip. ;) If you go through Charleston SC, be sure to check out the botanical gardens there, if you have the time. They’re spectacular, although you may be there at the wrong time of year. My brother lives near there, and when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom, the sight is something that you’ll always remember from then on.

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    • Hey Jerry. I do think it’s true that a people tune out some of the everyday background noise of the places in which we live. But, short term – the initial shock of being so close to the airport was still jarring. That said, I would prefer it to gas-powered leaf blowers.

      We are beer lovers, as you may have surmised. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are not just brewpubs, but huge breweries. The facilities are beautiful, and interesting for beer drinkers, but I can see why they’re not on your radar.

      Holy shimoly – that was some impressive rain. It would have beat a tent down rather quickly. On top of the high heat and humidity, we’ve had no breeze. Everything we own is sticky, and smells (just a bit) like wet, terrified dog. There doesn’t seem to be much relief in sight.

      Why Atlanta? The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum was our main quest, plus the lure of another state capitol. We really didn’t avail ourselves much of the other unique sights.

      We’re in Savannah for four nights, then on to Charleston. Although it’s not azalea/rhodo time, Thanks for the tip on the botanical garden. They are one if my favorite destinations.

      Hope you get some good fall weather coming your way. I hear that it has cooled down there – finally!

      Thanks for reading, and taking the time for such thoughtful comments.

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  4. Wonderful post! The George in the state house indeed resembles a Roman with Abe Lincoln’s face! I have to give it to you two (three) with all that rain and little power…..I guess I’m done with out my creature comfort camping! Safe travels and send more blogs! John & Sandi

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    • Hi Sandi. The problem with camping 1000 from home is that once the bad weather comes, our options are limited. No self-respect Ingrid hotel would have taken us in, sopping wet with our stinky, wet dog. So, you do what you gotta do. If you could have seen us though, it was pretty funny. The only positive thing was that it was so warm, the rain wasn’t cold at all. And it came straight down!

      I’m ready for a few creature comforts though. Maybe mama needs a spa day. Ha!

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  5. We had that same problem with jets overhead at a Las Vegas RV park. I was getting sick and even though we were assured the jet noise would stop at 11, I guess there were no restrictions on UPS, FedEx, et al, jets which roared all night. The next day we decided to leave early and at the desk asked the woman about the jet noise and she said “Noise? I don’t even notice it anymore,” And those jets were almost kissing the treetops!

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    • Wow. I can imagine that Vegas airport would generate lots more noise than Raleigh. But I’d rather hear the jets than leaf blowers, any day. Finding nice campgrounds close to big urban areas is challenging. The one we’re in now near Atlanta is great, Stone Mountain Park.

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  6. When i look at the fleece tree I see legs and boots (unwrapped limbs) stretching up to the sky. Neat! I must say neither photo of George Washington resembles anything in my grade school history books. Hahaha! The high temps are everywhere these past few weeks. Can you believe we haven’t even turned our heat on in VT? It was in the high 60’s today-sweater weather. Crazy

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    • Hey Ellalou! After seeing the fleece tree, I’m sad that we had a very sad, aging dogwood removed from our front yard this summer. Putting a wrap on it would have been much more fun.

      I think that heat wouldn’t be so bad, except for that fact that the air is dead calm. Without a lick of breeze, things are very uncomfortable. Makes me laugh to think that we brought our winter jackets along.

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    • Hi Dave. We nearly rode the Tobacco Trail when we were at Jordan Lake. Heard good things about it, but never made it over there. We use Google maps for navigation, and sometimes their bicycle routes are flawed – when we plotted our return trip to the campground, it routed us along the Greenway, which was perfect. That left us with several miles of gravel roads to navigate through the Park, but that was fine with our mountain bikes.

      Sorry you and Sheila won’t be in Charleston. By happy accident, well meet up with the Caravan for a few days there. Have fun moving!

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