Tag Archives: Georgia

Camping: Going home

24 Oct

OCTOBER 24, 2009 — Camping in the wilderness with three small children in a tent for three days is a unforgettable experience — even though there are some aspects of the experience that are forgettable. We’re 100 miles from home zipping down I-75 at 75 mph… again. Michele is driving, the kids are in “zombie mode” watching a show, and I’m reflecting on our camping adventure. I’ve already uploaded most of our pictures to Facebook and video clips to my YouTube account.

But beyond the amazing world of digital technology, something special happens when a family spends a few days together in close quarters. You fight more, you love more and you live more.

We set out on our journey five days ago, driving 750 miles north to the Chattahoochee National Forest. We camped near Cleveland, Georgia, at Jenny’s Creek Campground. On our first night, we found our campsite around 6 pm, pitched our tent and had dinner made just before the sun faded behind the 80-foot maple and oak trees. The little creek winding its way through the camp bubbled as we worked to build a roaring camp fire. The eight-man tent was plenty big enough for the five of us. We packed in two air mattresses and a port-a-crib for Stephen. Despite a small space heater in our tent, it was difficult to keep warm. It’s no wonder. When I got up the next morning, our car said it was 36 degrees. Much chillier than we’ve ever experienced in Southwest Florida.

After a hearty breakfast of eggs and sausage cooked on our handy Coleman camp stove, we met up with some friends who live in Dahlonega, 20 miles from the campsite. We wandered around downtown Dahlonega, the site of the first gold rush in America. After lunch at a local sandwich shop, we drove up to Amicalola Falls State Park, home to a 729-foot (222 m) waterfall — the highest in Georgia. We drove up to the top of the falls, parked and walked to an overlook where we could see the falls tumbling down over the edge. We hiked down a path about 100 yards through the woods, taking in the spectacular beauty of the valley below, the misty-blue hills in distance and the changing fall leaves. It was a great beginning. After checking out the base of the falls, the afternoon was nearly done. We headed back to camp to get a fire going and make dinner.

The second night was warmer. Only 40 degrees when we woke up. Cold noses and hot coffee for breakfast! Michele blew a shoe the day before. So after stopping at Wal-Mart for some new rubber, we were on our way to Helen, a Bavarian-themed village on the outskirts of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Our first stop was more hot coffee! Then up to Anna Ruby Falls, created by two separate streams — Curtis Creek and York Creek — which join at the base of the falls to form Smith Creek. We followed the trail, a half-mile hike from the parking lot. The paved path followed the creek to the base of the falls — a truly spectacular sight.

The kids enjoyed the hills, rocks and trees. They also loved the leaves — red, green and gold. They each had a substantial stash of them leaves by the time we got back to the car. We chose to visit Northern Georgia because it is the closest piece of nature that is substantially different from Southwest Florida. The 100-foot trees, rocks, mountains, streams, varied terrain and chilly weather was just the thing. We all appreciated the change in scenery — especially Michele who has always loved camping, but hadn’t had the opportunity since we had our first child more than six years ago.

Our final night in the tent was the warmest — a low of 58 degrees. We had nearly gotten used to the camping way of life when we woke up on Friday morning. It was after 7:30 am when I heard the pitter-patter of rain falling on our roof. Time to strike the tent and break camp! Wet weather was coming. We were on our way within an hour.

It’s the little things that have made the camping-with-kids experience worthwhile. Waking up to see the children snoozing just inches away, the smell of a roaring campfire, roasted marshmallows, picking Jenna up off the ground after she crashed her bike, throwing rocks into the stream with my three kids, Stephen throwing whatever he could find in the fire and in the trash can, and watching our little two-year-old dancing to Veggie Tales music as we drove.

They say that families who grow up in small homes are closer because they have to learn to exist in cramped quarters. They’re forced to be physically closer, so they grow closer emotionally. I think that’s true, but three days in a tent is a big enough taste for me. I’m looking forward to a shave, shower, clean clothes … and my own bed.

Patrick Novecosky is the founder and editor of The Praetorium.

Camping: Getting there

19 Oct

OCTOBER 19, 2009 — I don’t know about you, but I’m still baffled by most modern technology. I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat whizzing down I-75 at 75 miles per hour and blogging. I’ve got my AT&T air card plugged into my laptop and am connected at a speed that rivals my home Wi-Fi. I don’t know how it works, but I think it’s pretty amazing. I’m no techno geek (at least I don’t think I am), but I’m fascinated by the ability to communicate virtually anywhere.

My wife, three children and I have just begun a great adventure — or what could amount to a great adventure —our first family camping trip. Jonathan, 6, is reading books. Jenna, 4, is listening to Cat Chat on CD with half an ear … bored … talking … asking when she can watch a movie. Stephen, 2, is watching the trees whiz by and singing: “Uh! Uh! Uh!” He alternately takes a basket (formerly filled with books) and puts it on his head saying, “Dark!”

White County Water Falls

White County Water Falls

We’re headed 750 miles north to Cleveland, Georgia. We’ll be camping at the southern edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest where we hope to see three amazing waterfalls, do some hiking and biking (they’re strapped to the back of the minivan), and see some of God’s great creation.

This all began about two weeks ago when, in a fit of insanity after returning home from two trips (10 days away from home), I said to my family at the dinner table: “What would you think about taking a camping trip?” Before I could make any qualifications to my query, everyone at the table unanimously shouted: “YES! When can we leave?” I’ve since learned to keep my road-weary comments to myself.

Anna Ruby Falls

Anna Ruby Falls

Then the planning began. Where to go? What to see? We’ve been in Florida for more than four years and everyone seemed bored of the flat terrain and warm weather (if you can image that). So, Georgia was it. We scoped out a few state parks online, but they all looked a little too much like Florida. South Carolina looked good, too, but a real forest was what held the greatest attraction for me at least. The others were easily swayed. They were ready for just about anything. So when we discovered that the Chattahoochee was within driving distance, we were hooked.

We aired out the tent, brought the camp stove down from the attic and borrowed a few sleeping bags. Amazon shipped me a five-bike carrier for the van and here we are. Michele and I had camped a few times before we had children. We had been waiting for the right time to go. I guess we found it.

Day One didn’t go according to schedule. We planned a 3 p.m. departure, but our minivan battery died as we were about to pull out of the driveway. When I boosted it with my car, we noticed that the battery had a three-year warranty. Lucky break. Then we read the date on the battery: 09/06. Yup. The warranty expired one month ago. Ain’t it always the way. Wal-Mart was good enough to inform me that the battery had a prorated warrant, so I ended up paying exactly half of the new battery’s sticker price.

We’ll be in The Villages in an hour, ending our first night at my in-laws’ rental property. Then an early start should get us through Atlanta before rush hour. We should be camping real hard by dinner time. God willing, of course, and our new battery keeps us going!

Patrick Novecosky is the founder and editor of The Praetorium.