In September, we drove to Tennessee where we joined our son and his family for camping at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains. We hadn’t done much camping in recent years, but we had past experiences to draw on. My husband has fond memories of backpacking trips in the Rockies. We had both experienced bivouacs, courtesy of the US Army. And, we traveled and lived in a motorhome after moving from Fort Leavenworth KS while waiting to move into a house on Fort Bragg, NC.
After initially closing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Parks were reopening. And, being outdoors is preferable to inside gatherings, according to CDC guidance.
It took some planning, organizing, shopping, and borrowing to assemble needed gear for our adventure. But it was all worth it for a chance to visit with the grandkids. With overnight stays at the beginning and end in Gatlinburg, TN, we took advantage of the hot tub, pool, and shower before heading to Cades Cove. The Campground lived up to its website promise: “combines the feel of primitive camping with the modern convenience of flush toilets and drinking water.” It certainly made us appreciative of our usual amenities, like having cell service closer than a 30 minute drive.
Camping requires a thoughtful approach to gear, systems, and attitude. This is the checklist I developed for our adventure.
|Cleaning: dish soap, rags, paper towels, wipes|
|Comfort: chocolate, book, coffee/tea, wine, fire supplies (lighter, matches)|
|Food & drink: stove, cooking (pot, skillet), kettle, eating utensils, easy meals, snacks|
|Fun: bikes, kite, hiking poles, frisbee|
|Health & safety: make sure someone knows your itinerary, first aid supplies, whistle, hand sanitizer|
|Illumination: flashlights, lanterns, headlamps, and, candles|
|Navigation: maps and compass|
|Protection: shelter, sleeping bags, air mattress, tarp, canopy, seasonal clothing, sunscreen, citronella, hat, bug spray, hand sanitizer|
|Tools: screwdrivers, pliers, scissors, box cutter, duct tape|
Was it worth it? Absolutely. We got to read lots of books with the kids, work on art projects, go on nature hikes, and bike the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road. The only negative side effect: a bad case of RV envy, especially while cooking and making treks to the rest room in the rain.
Pioneer days observations & after notes:
* Organized: pack stuff in labeled bins, keep track of car keys, mats to keep dirt out of tent, drying rack
* Proactive: think ahead to facilitate problem-solving
* Redundancy: air mattresses & pumps, lighters