Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Geode State Park: The Joys of Off-Season Camping

Cold weather camp--with lots of sun.
"You just spendin' the night?" the ranger asked yesterday when I arrived at Geode State Park in SE Iowa.

"No, I'll be staying at least two days, probably longer," I replied, and then the ranger provided details of the winter set-up of the campground--one active water spigot at the campground's entrance, electricity available at the campsites, and the vault toilet location. 

"You'll most likely be the only camper for your stay," he added, and in my mind I thought, "Yay!"

Camping in the winter season is an experience in solitude, something that is much more elusive during the active summer season. My main perception of the campground right now is one of stillness, just that, a cessation of activity. I packed up and headed out this week because the weather will be warmer--in the 30-60 range--wanting to enjoy maybe some of the last milder late-fall weather before winter arrives. Also, I'm having a tooth replaced soon, and I'm not sure how intrepid I'll feel during the multi-stage process. 

Cedar Creek, the source of Lake Geode
Lake Geode
The experience of stillness is enhanced by the mild breezes and the sunshine today, and I'm looking forward to some exploratory bike riding later on today and tomorrow. There is a multi-use trail that circles Lake Geode, so today I plan to find the trail and gain some familiarity to the area prior to tomorrow's 7.4 mile ride around the lake. The ranger mentioned he wouldn't attempt the trail with a 10-speed, but I assured him I had a bike with 2-inch wide tires. Even so, the ride will consist of about half riding and half walking, based on my early reconnaissance. 

Scouting the trail
The main purpose of this trip, though, is to rest and rejuvenate, making sure I focus on sleep, meditation, simple food, and exercise. Last year, once the ice and snow hit in January, we were locked in for at least a couple of months until the spring thaw. Even with roads cleared and temperatures a bit warmer, campgrounds were still snowed in and inaccessible. I hope this year is different, and camping is possible off and on during most of the winter. Next spring I hope to camp in the primitive section here at Geode SP with my Airstream Basecamp, using my Zamp 230-watt solar panel suitcase for power. That should be more secluded, even during the busy season. 

The ride tomorrow will probably be half riding and half pushing.
It's wonderful to be in a fully-developed, modern campground and still experience solitude. The trees in the forest surrounding the campground lean in toward the campground. The sleeping sycamores among the campsites cast an aura of stillness and silence. The gravel parking spots and the paved roads, the green picnic tables and the metal stumps of the electric hook-ups fade into the background, disappear beneath the sky. I'm tempted to say that the silence of nature embraces the campground when it's empty, but that silence is always present. We just get distracted by the human activity during the busy season--RVs pulling out or backing in, dogs and children noisily playing. The silence and stillness between all those sounds and sights goes unnoticed. 

I am the only human being in this campground. I gladly share it with the deer and sparrows. Perhaps I will become as still as the sycamores with their white and gray trunks, their faded beige leaves. With some luck and perseverance, perhaps that is in my nature.

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  1. Having sold my camper I decided to rebuilt a 1990 Jeep Comanche truck this winter so I expect to be towing or hauling something next year and enjoying this time of year as well. Your right about the aura of stillness and silence to get close to nature.

  2. That's exciting to hear about you rebuilding your Jeep! That will be a great winter project. I just got home from camping. My wife and I joked that it's a great deal to have an entire campground to ourselves for just $12 a night!