The damp camping gear has been hung to dry, unconsumed food put away and my duffle is mostly unpacked. All this plus a campsite teardown, a coffee stop and an almost 2.0 hour drive home… before 11:00 am. We are, at least I am, home for a few weeks after a very wet night in the Big South Fork.
The trip materialized about a month ago when friends Bob and BJ extended an offer to our Tuesday hiking group to join them for some days of camping in the Big South. We would be a group of eight, three couples in campers, and John and me in our large, roomy car camp tent. Three couples (including John and me) were on the Florida trip. The fourth couple, “The Canadians”, were friends of Steve and Karen who had met them on a recent vanning adventure to Baja, Mexico. Good group, fun adventures ahead!
The three camper couples arrived on Sunday and enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day, John and I arrived on Monday under mostly cloudy skies. Rain was eminent, light in the late afternoon and heavier overnight. This was a shift from an earlier version of the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday forecast when the heavier rain was predicted for Tuesday night. Nevertheless, we were trusting of our equipment and naively thought that an overnight rain would be restful. As seasoned backpackers, we should have known better than to rely on equipment that had not been rain tested.
We hurried through camp setup and lunch to get in a bike ride before the afternoon rain. Our campsite, A36, was the starting point for the ride, a route that took us through the campground, onto Duncan Hollow Rd, to the end of the road where we circled back. We also looped through camp areas B, C and D looking for our friends.
Duncan Hollow Rd is a mixed surface of hard packed dirt, small gravel, larger, loose gravel, potholes and even a couple of small sand pits. The road is somewhat downhill on the way out, therefore slightly uphill on the ride back. This was my first cycle on gravel since my front tire got into a patch of loose rock on Bald River Falls Rd. In that situation, I fell and my head bounced on the pavement. Hurray for helmets. Unlike that ride, I am now sporting a gravel bike but my anxiety for this ride was still a rollercoaster.
We felt sprinkles of rain off and on during the ride but not too serious. Just minutes after we arrived back in camp, the first wave of rain arrived. Like the rest of our group, we decided to take some downtime, change clothes, read a bit and maybe take a short nap.
Shortly before the dinner hour, we received a text to join the camper couples at Bob and BJ’s campsite where appetizers were being served. We met the Canadian campers and learned that they are spending two years in their RV, crisscrossing the US and Canada. Lots of conversation ensued, much centered around campers and travel.
The rain held off (temporarily) as Bob cooked black bean and beef burgers on the grill. This was our second burger feast prepared by the Perlacks and honestly, I was impressed, I thought the first feast could not be topped. They prepared not only burgers and fixins’ but pasta salad, corn on the cob and brownies. The Canadians (Sue and Henry) contributed coleslaw. The rest of us did appetizers. A good meal and very enjoyable evening.
Somewhere during the evening, rain arrived. We squeezed under the Perlacks camper awning and around a picnic table. Karen brought out a deck of Exploding Cats cards and explained the game. She and Steve felt this game would be easy enough for those of us who are not regular card players. She was right, I even won a hand. I don’t brag about this lightly; I never win at cards.
With a pause in the rain, the evening broke up around 8:30 pm. We drove back to the tent and omg! Water was dripping from the ceiling onto John’s therm-a-rest, lots of drips!! His therm-a-rest was wet. Mine was still dry and I suggested we move things around a bit to get out of the obvious problem areas. “It will be ok.” But it wouldn’t. We looked between the fly and tent, found massive drippage and realized that it was never going to be ok in this tent during a rainstorm. The heavy rain was yet to come, so we started moving our belongings to the car.
As we picked up our things, we discovered that other items were wet too including the rug, some stuff sacks and such. With the exception of a few odds and ends, we cleared out the tent. More importantly we flattened the back seats and stretched out our therm-a-rests and sleeping bags to make a bed for the night. I thought John would be too tall for the back of the Subaru but he fit, just barely.
Not long after we folded ourselves into the back of the car, rain moved in for the night. The intensity varied but the rain did not let up. At times lightening flashed in the windows. When we slept, we slept really well, but we were awake, a lot. As John said, if we were 18, this would be romantic, but at 68, we were tired and wished for sleep. We were one of only two tents in the 49-site A-loop. It felt a littled deserted and creepy.
Finally, first light arrived and the rain had temporarily subsided. We wiggled out of our sleeping bags and crawled out the back-side doors. John immediately headed to the tent and discovered it had seriously flooded. Clearly not moving to the car when we did would have resulted in a cold, wet night.
We didn’t consider staying a second night, we pack up and left. The weather forecast predicted afternoon clearing, but our tent would not likely dry enough to sleep in. Neither of us were in for another night sleeping in the Subaru.
We packed in record time, forgoing coffee and breakfast till we arrived in Oneida. John strapped the wet, sandy bundle of fabric, also known as our tent, to the car roof. All of our belongs felt damp.
So that wraps up our 20 hours in Big South Fork. All in all, we had a good time, bicycling and spending time with people we enjoy. Maybe, if we camp again in the rain, we will have a camper too.