Why fall camping is the best

13 Nov

This past weekend, Eric and I realized we had a 4-day weekend (well, he had to use some PTO…) and we had not taken our fall camping trip this year.  So on a whim we booked a site at the only park nearby that even still allows tent camping this late in the year–Allegany State Park.


We’ve been there before, and we didn’t love the sites–very crowded (we’ve gotten spoiled backpacking and camping at Indian Lake Islands).  But we figured at this time of year, we’d deal with fewer campers, and sure enough when I booked there were a handful of cabins that were reserved in the loop, but not one tent site was taken.  Shocking.  No one wants to tent camp in mid-November?!  So I booked the site smack in the middle, site 12, so we’d have plenty of space on either side of us.


We pulled into the campground check-in, and the guy at the counter said “You won’t believe this, but we actually had a drive-up registration for site 13 today.  Sorry.”  I must have made a face (I mean really the WHOLE campground and you are RIGHT next to us?!) so the guy said, “Tell ya what–why don’t you just move to another site.  Whichever is fine.  Drive around, check out what’s left.  Sites 16-20 are all pretty private though.”


Awesome.  We drove into the loop and quickly picked site 17, a larger site with a huge stack of pre-gathered firewood from the previous campers.  The sites were all along this creek that was moving pretty fast and making lots of noise.  Not another soul in sight–even the cabins that were in use were so far away that we couldn’t see their lights or hear them at all.  It was fabulous–all the privacy of backpacking with all the creature comforts of car camping.


We set up the tents, Eric got the fire started with the hot coals leftover from someone else, and we realized that there wasn’t much daylight left…my planned hikes would have to wait for the next day.  We drove around to collect some firewood, came back to the site and relaxed.  I read some books, he read some magazines, Picasso sat like a king in his chair.  I was shocked to be wearing an Omniheat baselayer shirt, hoodie and running tights (plus a fleece blanket wrapped around my legs) and not be cold at all.  We had a roaring fire, had pie iron pizzas for dinner, and went to bed relatively early–I think it was around 9.  By that point, it had been dark for 3 hours, we’d been talking all afternoon/evening, and I was exhausted–I think I’m still fighting off some post-ultra sickness.


kind of nice to relax

kind of nice to relax

I woke up at 3 am and thought it must be so much closer to daylight because our tent was completely lit up by the moon.  It was kind of creepy actually to wake up and have it brighter than it was when we’d gone to bed.  We got up to go to the bathroom, and when we came back in the tent, I was a little chilly.  Apparently I told Eric, “I’m cold. Time to snuggle now.”  I don’t remember that at all, but he wrapped an arm around me, I pulled Picasso into my other side, and I fell back to sleep pretty easily.  I couldn’t believe how warm the Omniheat sleeping bag Eric got from Columbia was.  It was COLD–like into the 30s–but I was only chilly when I first got into my bag.


We got up around 7.  It was kind of nice for it to just be the two of us, and this is when I started to really realize it–as Eric made me a hot chocolate and kissed me good morning.  We’d had a nice, relaxing, quiet evening, just the two of us, and it continued into the morning.  We were on the way to hike by 8ish.  The plan had been to hike 3 different sections of the North Country Trail to find the lean-to’s in the park and investigate them for future backpacking trips.  We hit the trailhead for Trail 1 (Mt. Tuscarora Firetower Trail), which we planned to take to the NCT, then backtrack.  The first 3/4 mile was straight uphill, and we had to stop 2 times to shed layers.  We hit the fire tower and kept rolling, chatting the whole time about future plans.  The trail was tough to find with all the leaves, but it was well marked.  At the junction for NCT, we saw what we think must have been a weasel…something small and black, running fast along the ground.  Sadly, it’s hunting season, so Picasso had to be leashed, and we were trying to be somewhat noisy to make sure we didn’t get shot at…


proudly sporting my #TrailsRoc orange...good for not getting shot at!

proudly sporting my #TrailsRoc orange…good for not getting shot at!

As we hiked the NCT, we found some seriously muddy sections and searched for the lean-to.  We hiked and hiked and couldn’t figure out what the problem was…til I looked at the map again…and realized we’d gone the wrong way on the trail.  I’m not really sure what’s up with the NCT and Trail 1 at Allegany State Park–all I know is that the 3 times we’ve been on either of these trails, we’ve been “lost”–Once because someone leading us stopped following trail markers in favor of a game trail (we ended up getting out ok after meeting another strange lost hiker), once because we didn’t look at a compass and walked the WRONG direction on the trail (which turned out to be just fine), and now this time because I didn’t follow the map correctly.  I was pissed at myself because I am normally really good with maps (or so I like to think), but then I realized that had I not messed up, we would’ve missed some really cool sections of trail including some pretty bridges, most notably this one.


We turned around and hiked back to the car, and Eric started getting attacked by these weird fly-things.  They were flies, but they’d lose their wings when you pulled them off.  Then they latched onto his shirt and crawled sideways–like a crab.  Neither of us had ever seen anything like them, even though we spend so much time in the woods.  I biffed a bunch off of him, and we later researched them to find that they are called deerkeds, parasites that latch onto their host and suck blood and are active late fall.  Nasty.  We ended up finishing the 8.5 mile hike around 12.  We were both starving.  We ate lunch in the back of the truck.  With full bellies, we both looked at each other and decided to call it a day, thereby making this our laziest camping trip ever.  We went on a search for Mike’s Hard Lemonade that took us through some little towns til we made it to Salamanca.  We collected a crap load of fire wood, then relaxed by the fire again.  I was super warm all night.


Tuesday morning, we woke up, and Eric’s stomach was in rough shape from some bad beef jerky.  We decided to forego another hike in favor of checking out Thunder Rocks, a cool section of rock formations left by glaciers.  I’ve never seen it without people there–it’s a pretty popular place to go, especially with kids because you just drive up and climb around.  We had it completely to ourselves, and it wasn’t the first time that we commented how creepy it was to be so alone in a park that is normally pretty popular.



It was awesome to have the park to ourselves.  It was even more awesome to spend so much time with Eric, alone.  We had very limited cell coverage, and it was good to just hang out, talking about where we see ourselves in 5 or 10 years and how small the world really is and other romantical topics.


I’m sad that camp season is over.  But we’re already plotting a full summer of additional camping trips and new adventures.  I can hardly wait.


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