We spent the weekend camping at Red Top Mountain State Park, and if I can say one thing for North Georgia, it's that they do their nature up right, son. This is the first time we've gone camping as a family, but Red Top Mountain on Lake Allatoona, less than an hour north of Atlanta, was impressive--gorgeous, seemingly remote without actually being so, and (to my inexperienced eye) incredibly well maintained.
The pictures kind of make it look like we trekked out to the middle of Nowheresville, but it was hardly a survivalist exercise--there were park offices and picnic shelters, bathrooms and showers, even a mini-golf course near the campground rental office. There were a range of different sites available, but the one we got had a fire ring, a water pump, concrete picnic table, raised tent pad, and two electrical outlets. You know, so we could plug in our Wii.
(To be clear: we did not really bring a Wii. It was nice to have power to pump up the air mattresses and charge our cell phones, though.)
The kids obviously had a good time, and were a little crestfallen this morning when we got ready to go home. Given the effort of getting there and setting up our campsite just so, I can see the argument that going for just one night is a waste, but I just did not want to shower at a campgrounds, and 24 hours was basically my aseptic limit. Maybe next time we'll stay for two nights. Maybe.
The hobo stew was a great success, to the point that I'm thinking I might just make up similar packets to stick in the oven for the kids' dinners on nights that I'm working late. Someone in the previous entry's comment section pointed out that I had folded my packets wrong, but I'm pretty sure that there's not that much nuance to the fold--the main goal of a hobo stew packet is just making sure that your ingredients stay in and that the ashes stay out, and that you you a thick enough foil (or enough layers) to make sure that the packets don't rip when you flip them. I put precooked chicken-herb sausage, peppers, roasted corn, potatoes, and butter in our packets--there was a little sear on the sausage in the end, but unsure of the timing of the cooking process (in particular the potatoes, which were raw and take longer than anything else), I leaned towards going a little over on time.
The night was fitful at best. Joe an Mack both snore (I'm aware that a two year-old probably shouldn't snore, but he's had a stuffy nose so I blame that--I also would like to throw it out there that I don't know a single anesthesia provider with a family member that snores who has not tried to do a chin lift/jaw thrust on them at some point) and Cal, while silent, sleeps with the ponderous and deliberate pinwheeling motions of one doing somnambulist Tai Chi. So there was the snoring and the kicking and the air mattress adjustments and the crickets and then the more snoring, until finally, at some point, it became morning.
All in all, camping was actually pretty fun. Things I'll remember for next time:
1.) Bring a change of shoes for everyone. It would have been nice to have slip-on shoes at the campsite for getting in and out of the tent, and besides, Mack walked through so much water and mud that his shoes were completely soaked through.
2.) Christmas lights! Once it started getting dark it got, like, really dark, and I saw that some of the more experienced campers around us had strings of Christmas lights that they used to ring their tent sites. Not only did it provide great ambient light, but it looked a hell of a lot more festive and warm than our two puny LED lanterns and Cal's tiny headlight.
3.) Less food, more drinks. I brought a lot of food (thinking, perhaps, of the Donner Party), but knowing that there was water on site, I only brought a mess of juice boxes and some milk for the kids. The water that came out of the pump at the campsite looked clear and smelled fine, but last I checked you can't see Giardia (colloquially known as...snerk..."Bever Fever") with the naked eye, so we boiled all our water before drinking any, and the kids were not really wild about drinking warm water.
4.) Our own stash of firewood. Joe made a last minute trip to the hardware store to get a couple of cords of wood, which was lucky because it had been raining the few days leading up to our trip and though it was sunny all weekend, everything on the ground was damp. We brought three bags, but we used it all up and we were only there one night. Add to that point: more kindling and an extra one of those Bic firestarter sticks probably would have been a good idea too.
Anyway, it was a nice weekend. Now that we have a little more of a system down (not to mention most of the gear), we'll definitely be back to camp by Lake Allatoona again--and maybe next time, we'll get there early enough to get a campsite directly on the water.