Sunday, May 24, 2015

Part 2 of 10: Shenandoah in the Rain

The color, the power, the forces of nature at play.
The thunder shakes your core, the wind shakes your tent, the lightening shakes the darkness.
You are humbled by your fear,
And by how easy it is for the primary to startle you.
You grow to love the rain and find ways to enjoy it,
A tarp, a couple of chairs and a fire.
You're lulled to sleep by the grumbling of thunder through the forest.

In the morning, all is clear. 
The ashes are wet.
Rain covers the flowers and the tent.
The forest wakes up and stretches its greens and pinks.
You light a fire to warm up, dry off.

You fill your belly and start walking. 
Everywhere you look in Shenandoah, there is something new.
The birds come out, the deer families graze, the butterflies greet the morning dew.
You find mountains, hills, meadows,
But you're drawn to the mist rising from the trees. 
The low hanging fruit in the shape of clouds.

A tiny piece of the great Appalachian trail leads you to Stony Man Summit.
You see the world like never before.
Miles of sight,
Show you the forest for the trees.
You smile at the mountains and they smile back.
There is meaning here. 
And you will return next year to learn it a different way. 

Part 2 of 10: Shenandoah National Park

The Campsite.

The Life.

The Views.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Part 1 of 10: A Soul Dawn

End of all endings, beginning of beginnings,
This is a soul dawn, this one morning.
An icicle drips; your whole being celebrates.
- Ruth Hill, "Light Advancing Through Trees"

Spring carries a confidence of rejuvenation and energy unlike any other time of the year.  The spring air makes us feel like anything is possible. And it is with this "soul dawn" spirit that we set out again on our camping adventures.

Last year, we had an ambitious goal of 10 camping trips. We managed to pitch our tent 7 times throughout Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania before winter took over the forests. It was a great start. We learned a lot, were humbled by natural beauty and our own shortcomings and enjoyed every minute of it.  And now, having crossed a long winter, we are ready to start our journey again-- with the same goal in mind, the winter winds on our back and the light of spring on our faces.

Our first camping trip of the year started in Hickory Run State Park in Carbon County, Pennsylvania. This beautiful park is nestled in the western foothills of the Pocono Mountains and was almost completely deserted during our short stay.  Part of the charm of this park is stumbling across the many hidden gems of its history.  We got lost a few times in the park but the beauty of camping and outdoor adventures is that losing your way is a process of wonderful discovery.  In search of our campsite we crossed paved and unpaved roads that went around and over waterfalls. Through our meandering we discovered that we were driving around preserved vestiges of an old town that sat on the banks of Hickory Run: an old post office, chapel and house that are all now repurposed for Park Services.

Of course, the most notable feature of this park is the historic boulder field that sits at the edge of the park grounds. Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park is a National Natural Landmark - a unique geological area that was formed 20,000 years ago during the ice age.  It is an incredible sight and a challenging hike, but absolutely worth going out of your way to catch a glimpse of this landscape.

Our first camping trip of the year was jam-packed. We also were able to fit in a friend's surprise birthday celebration and whitewater rafting on the beautiful Lehigh River.  An exhausting and rejuvenating 48 hours, and a true celebration of the spirit of spring.

Part 1 of 10: Hickory Run State Park 

It's hard to accurately articulate the joy and excitement of the year's first camp. It's the feeling of being on the brink of summer while reflecting on every day of winter you spent yearning for this moment.

Spring camping is a special experience. The wilderness is waking up with hints of green but everything around you pulls you right back to winter - cold air, crisp leaves and a silent forest. 

We're excited to try new things in our camp kitchen this year.  We've invested in a great dutch oven and coal chimney and are trying different fire and heat methods to diversify our meals.  

After a long day, this lumberjack dinner hit the spot.  Pasta with cream sauce, mushrooms, bell peppers and apple smoked turkey sausage.  

I also had the privilege of introducing a friend to her first camping experience on her 30th birthday.  And we topped it all off with a tree-themed birthday cake (that I made at home, of course): a five-layer chocolate cake with peanut butter/cream cheese frosting and a chocolate ganache.  Yes, this cake pushed us over the dreaded "glamping" line, but it was worth it. :)

A little fun with the bon fire. Just add Borax.

Spring camping is equal parts inspiring and humbling.  You're reminded at sunrise - when you wake up at 6:30am to a crisp 28 degree morning - how much you take for granted walls, heat, and a warm bed.  But, when you finally manage to stumble out of that body-heat insulated sleeping back and zip open that tent, it's all suddenly worth is to be greeted by a dawn-lit forest.  Golden and glistening in morning dew.   

A beautiful 13-mile whitewater rafting trip down the Lehigh River.

A much needed break point 6 miles into our rafting trip.  We caught our breath and ate our lunches overlooking the mighty Lehigh River.

5 hours later... we are ready to get off this river.  Beautiful and exhausting, that's the theme of the first camp!

We also managed to get a quick walk around Boulder Field at Hickory Run State Park. A National Natural Landmark recognizing and encouraging the conservation of this extraordinary 20,000 year-old geological landscape.