This is a repost of an article by Katie Johnson about fall camping. The leaves are changing in the New River Gorge. Let this inspire you to get out there and enjoy the season!
We had twenty-four hours: 3pm to 3pm and we needed to get out of the house. The falling leaves were whispering to our woodsy souls. “Escape,” they said. “Now while you can. Go!”
So we packed. “Simple” was our theme: a few potatoes and an onion, some apples and nuts. We had a couple of fishing poles. A couple of backpacks. A water filter and one pan. We had a lighter, knife, rope and a tent fly, no tent. We loaded the dog, Canon, and bikes.
When I signed the kids out early from school they asked, “Why are you here now, Mom?”
There was some tension at the trailhead, figuring out how to strap everything onto our bikes and selves. “Wear all of your clothes,” I told one of the kids. We rode the gentle grade on a gated road along the Cranberry River. In less than an hour we found a spot.
Logan and I gathered firewood. BJ and Laurel cut poles and built our shelter. They used the rope to tie the fly to three poles balanced on each end which supported a head beam. We had our shelter. We went fishing. Trout was the planned staple. Between the four of us we caught one. We cooked our potatoes, onion and our fish on a fire. We drooled around our little pan. I made the kids sit still, nervous that someone would dump it or fling dirt into it. It was dark now and we divvied up the goods into four piles and ate with our fingers by firelight. Food never tasted so good, even without salt. The trout was big and we sucked every bit of meat off the bones. Our little fire died and we went to bed.
With fleece jackets for pillows we snuggled while I told stories. The four of us shared two sleeping pads and two sleeping bags. It was raining in the morning so we played Uno. The dog’s big body stayed outside in the drizzle, but his head was on my lap under the fly. I’ve never enjoyed Uno so much as then, in our little home by the river. Time stretched out in our favor. For brunch we enjoyed each other and our apples and almonds. When the rain stopped we designed a bike course through little half-pipes made by the river at higher water. We did laps trying to better our time until it was time to go home. I had to be at work. On our way back, with the truck in sight, a small bear ran out in front of us. Canon treed it.
That was it, short and simple. Barely remarkable except that it is one of our most memorable camping trips. “Remember that tent we made?” Remember the best trout ever? Remember the rain and playing Uno? Remember that bike course? Remember the bear?” I think of all of the days that zoom past and are lost even to my kids’ elephant memories. I wonder why this short trip stays with us? It was nearly five years ago and when I asked them which camping trip I should write about they both agreed that the one trout night on the Cranberry was one of the best ever.