Monday, November 5, 2018

Fall Leaves and Camping, Please

It's late October, just past the harvest moon, fifty-five degrees, and the trees are in full reds and yellows, the sky blues and grays, and the fire is a quiet companion as I sit and write at my camp at Jefferson County Park, a campground just four miles from my house. In the first half of the month, my wife and I spent five nights at this park; now we are spending four nights, enjoying the mild fall weather with our new tiny trailer.

It seems to be hard to beat fall camping, the smells of the season a richness of completion and satiation, the summer ended, the seed sown, and the squirrels busy stuffing themselves prior to the first snowfall. No bugs! Mind if I repeat myself? No bugs, no bugs! No flies and mosquitoes or ticks. This fact alone is worth wearing thermal underwear.

I stop writing and gather sticks from the surrounding campsites to feed the fire and conserve my firewood. Of the twenty-five campsites in this small campground, we are the only campers resident, although an RV down the way and a 5th-wheeler around the corner are parked here, the owners probably waiting for the weekend. The campground closes at the end of October, so we'll see if there is a last-minute scramble this weekend prior to its closing. I doubt it, and it's unfortunate that so many are missing this mild weather and this easy sliding of fall into winter.

Owning a tiny trailer really extends the camping season. Wet weather or cold weather are much less of a challenge--or should I say that such weather becomes an enjoyable challenge rather than a survival experience? If I had to characterize camping in our tiny trailer, I would describe the experience as having a home away from home, a familiar living environment out in nature. Relaxing in nature in our second home, the Green Goddess.

This is different than my bicycle camping trips, where the focus is more on the day's journey, the sights and sounds of the road, the experience of the body working well as I travel up and down the rolling hills of Iowa. Camping on a bicycle is reaching the campground, setting up camp, eating, showering, and joyfully climbing into my one-person tent and resting. Usually, also, this experience includes some pretty hot weather during the day.

Here at Jefferson County Park with our tiny trailer, my wife and I hike and enjoy the campfire, I enjoy cooking more complex meals with toaster oven or Instapot pressure cooker, or on our induction burner or Coleman propane stove while she works. She enjoys getting away from the office, and I enjoy familiar routines engaged in outside. Soon it won't just be cold; it will be damn cold, so we're enjoying our time outside and together.

Bicycle touring is epic; tiny trailer camping is bucolic, or if not that, then rustic. And autumn is a quiet time, past the summer busyness of the family vacation season, past the time of two nights out and go home. My wife and I are fortunate that if the phone signal is strong, she can work at camp, so we can camp during the week. Combine weekday camping and off-season camping, and the experience is idyllic--not too cold or hot, not too crowded, everything in moderation except the beauty of the season.

Yes, fall leaves and camping, please.

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