Runaway Water, Solitude, and Camping

by | Jun 22, 2021 | JD, camping | 1 comment

picture pg my camper

My Jayco 16XRB


I need to go camping.It’s been a couple of months since I’ve taken the camper out for a couple of days. I need to try and do that soon. I love going to Georgia State Parks and there are a number to choose from within a short drive. And most of them don’t require me to get on an interstate. I hate hauling the camper on the interstate. My previous camper, a pop-up, was much more manageable on the interstate.

This camping thing with me started probably 10 or so years ago. The best friend and I were in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. I can honestly say it is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. During the summer differing shades of green are everywhere and so full of life. Cascading waterfalls and swift, cool mountain streams are around every corner. 

It was at one of these streams we stopped to get out and stretch our legs and let my dog, Sadie, out to do some business. This particular stream ran through a small flatland area in the mountains and there were a few campsites. We hung out there for a bit and started talking about camping. I don’t think in all our years of knowing each other we had ever discussed camping. He told me stories of his family camping trips and I told him mine. Then it hit us…we should start camping. 

We bought every piece of cool camping gear we could find. Only to find out later it was not only too much to haul around, but mostly needless. We car camped. That means you are able to drive right up to the site, 

On our very first camping trip to Black Rock Mountain State Park in the very tip of Northeast Georgia before you hit North Carolina. It is a beautiful park, reaching a height of 3,640 feet it is the highest elevation State Park in Georgia. 

I was so excited to be actually going camping on a mountain. At Black Rock, they have 1 campground with the usual water/electricity hook ups for RVs (or tent campers). It’s not easy to get a reservation there during the summer thanks to the cooler weather at that altitude. The other campground is more primitive. You have a tent pad and a shared water spigot and bathhouse. You drive downhill past the campsites and when you find yours you park off on the side of the dirt road. The campsites themselves are all on the edge of the mountain. If you stepped off the wrong side of the tent pad you’d most certainly start tumbling down a very steep part of the mountain. It wasn’t a straight drop, but the angle of descent meant you wouldn’t be able to stand up without clinging to a tree. Keep that in mind.

We set up our 10×10 tent and got our sleeping areas set up. The best friend chose a cot, and I chose an airbed. The airbed used a pump to blow it up. We got in my Jeep and went down to the bathhouse where the community water spigot was located. We had to fill our 5 gallon water container. We were pretty happy with that purchase. It held 5 gallons but it was made of a flexible plastic and was thus collapsible.

I don’t remember what we ate, but it was probably freeze dried camping meals (just add boiling water!). They aren’t the best meal, but didn’t taste bad and was just so easy with very little clean up.

It got dark on that mountain that night. Sadie had never been in the woods at night, so she was on alert the entire time. I didn’t sleep well at all because the damn air mattress kept deflating. When I did wake up in the morning I was on the ground. And it was a brand new little single airbed from a very reputable company. 

The best friend was only staying the one night, and then Sadie and I were going to stay a 2nd night. We said our goodbyes and off went the best friend leaving us alone on the side of a mountain. 

It wasn’t 15 minutes after he left that it started raining. It was a gentle rain and lovely to listen to as it fell in the thick forest. But, that meant Sadie and I had to retreat into the tent. I had a book to read so I was OK with hanging out in the tent with the rain pelting the nylon. Sadie napped peacefully.

I had little to no cell service on the mountain so I couldn’t check radar to see if more rain was coming. It was about 4 or 5 in the afternoon when the rain stopped and me and my trusty canine emerged from the tent. I decided I should probably go ahead and eat before it started raining again or got dark.

So I start getting things together. Before the best friend left he refilled the water container so it had a full 5 gallons. He left it on the small picnic table and it was in the way. The handle on the top was mostly useless so you had to make sure you carried it from the bottom. I picked up the 8 pound oversized water balloon and put it onto one of the railroad ties that defined the tent pad. You probably know where the this is going.

After I put the water container down I turned to go back to the little picnic table. I heard a thud and the unmistakable sound of the 5 gallon water container rolling down the steep side of Black Rock Mountain. Yes, dear reader, I had set it down on the side of the tent pad next to the steep hill. There was absolutely nothing I could do except stand there and listen as it went whomp whomp whomp as it rolled down the hill. Then, I heard it, a loud thud and the unmistakable sound of 5 gallons of water exploding out of the container as it burst when it hit a tree. Well, I assume that is what happened. I could hear it all, but once it started on it’s journey from the campsite I quickly lost sight of it.

There was no way for me to go down and find it and make it back up without risking some broken bones. And I’ve got the brittle bones. My doctor was once very concerned because I had broken an ankle and a wrist in a short period of time. 

Anyway, I stood there and had no idea what in the hell to do. Do I tell a park ranger? Would I get in trouble if I left it there? And then there was the fact that I had no water and nothing to put more water in. While I was worrying about all that, the water came to me. It had started raining again. That did it. I was bugging out and my first solo camping was a complete failure. I surprised myself at how fast I broke camp and loaded up my Jeep. I ended up driving to a friend’s place who lived not far away and spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with him.

Oh things got better and I ended up tent camping solo a number of times and had a blast. And, in addition, the best friend and I would go out often, too. We got pretty good at knowing what to take and what to leave at home. After a while we decided it was time to upgrade to a camper. And we knew we wanted a pop-up because it still gives the feeling of sleeping in a tent. 

We looked at campers all over Atlanta – new ones, used ones, and for sale by owner ones. We found one at a local dealer that had been used literally 1 time before being traded in for a larger one. It was still showroom fresh. But, it was more than we wanted to pay. We were splitting the cost on the camper. We actually ended up buying that little 8 foot camper. I won’t get into all the details, but while looking at a for sale by owner camper the line “where do you think they wiped the boogers” was said and that’s all it took. That was a Saturday, we bought the used camper from the dealer we originally wanted on Monday.

I loved that little Starcraft popup. It was a perfect step up from a tent. It had AC and heat. It had a sink (only cold water) and it had two comfortable beds. We took that thing all over the Southeast camping. Since there was no hot water I bought a propane powered on demand water heater and mounted it on a wood stand that I had repurposed from a helicopter engine crate. I got a little 1-gallon propane tank and thought there…we have hot water. But it turned out both the city water inlet and the fresh water holding tank were hooked into one line that went to the cold water tap. I redid the lines so the city water went straight to the hot water faucet and left the fresh water tank hooked to the cold. We then had hot and cold running water. 

That little camper survived a hit from a toppled oak tree one time. It was stored in the back yard of the best friend’s house and a tree from a neighbor’s property fell right on top of it and a shed that was also in the backyard. The shed took the brunt and was demolished. Thankfully, what hit the camper were the upper branches and not the trunk. The only damage it sustained was a puncture would to the roof from a branch. We were relived it wasn’t worse and the camper was insured. 

While, in reality, it should have been totaled out by the insurance company, and the adjuster did claim later he should have totaled it. We took it to a dealer to be repaired and it ended up sitting in the dealer lot for 3 months waiting to be repaired. They had to replace the whole roof. It had to be specially manufactured. By the time it was fixed I had almost forgotten we owned a camper. When we went to pick it up it turned out the people who did the work left it outside with the puncture wound open to the rain for 3 months. When we first opened it up at the dealer after the repair, the interior of the fabric bed roof was water stained, Badly. So then it sat some more as they had to replace that entire bunk end covering. 

That little camper served us well for about four years. It was then we started to think it would be nice to have a camper with a bathroom and shower. We started looking for something but unless we went with another pop-up, it was hard to find something with 2 dedicated beds. Then we stumbled upon a camper we had not seen before, a Jayco 16XRB, a hybrid camper. A hybrid camper had solid walls and roof, and the 2 beds fold out from each end and are just like the beds in a pop-up. We were sold. A camper with a full bathroom and with separate beds that let us still have that ‘sleeping out in the open’ feeling was just what we were looking for.

We still have that camper and I absolutly love it. It is currently parked on the back part of the property here at the house. I can actually set it up right there and camp with electricty and water, I did that once when the best friend came down to visit.

Camping is my where I find my solitude. I absolutely love going alone and being able to do what I want when I want without having to worry about what someone else might want to do. If I want to nap all day, then I nap all day. If I want to get the kayak out and go paddling I can. If I want to go explore the area I can do that, too.

I encourage everyone to get outside this summer and spend some time at our local, state, and national parks. We have a beautiful country and we should see as much of it was we can.

Jason Durden

Jason Durden


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