Camping at Jack Hill State Park (Gordonia-Alatamaha)

Part 2 of 2

We left home on Saturday, September 19, around 1:00 after making sure all our gear was packed and we had food and anything we could possibly need. We’d been waiting to make sure that the rain was going to hold off, so we didn’t have a reservation, but we weren’t concerned because it didn’t appear that the sites were booking up, which was exactly true and we got the site that we wanted when we arrived.

Once we got to our site, we first got out and took a look around to see how the site was situated. We had a little parking pad near the driveway through the sites, and then some long steps down to a sandy, level pad for pitching tents. It looks really nice for putting tents on because there’s no roots and it’s nice and soft and flat. And there’s a big post with a hook for hanging trash and stuff up off the ground. There’s a hookup post with running water and some electrical outlets right next to the tent pad that I was surprised to see — I didn’t think there’d be power at the site. Off to the side there’s a fire ring and a picnic table up on blocks on one side to keep it level on the slope up the hill.

More importantly for us, there were a lot of good trees for hanging hammocks. Sometimes it’s tricky finding trees that are big enough, close enough but not too close, in a grouping so we can hang our hammocks near to each other. But this site had a couple of options. I think the one we chose was a little bit too close together for my hammock and I got a little bit more sag in it than I’d want on a regular basis, but I didn’t really realize that until much later — about 2:00 am, to be more precise.

But once we’d determined where we’d want to hang up our hammocks, we put down a stake to hold the dogs in place while we did set-up. It’s really not super complicated and we had a lot of time before dark, so we took it slow. But at the core, all we had to do was hang a strap around a tree and then clip the carabiner from our hammocks to that strap at a distance that makes a comfortable angle for the hang of the hammock. It was nice out, so we didn’t even bother with the bug nets.

In reality, we also had to get the dogs situated — we ran a line from a couple of stakes and clipped leashes to the lines so they could go up and down the campsite. We brought a couple crates so they’d have a space to hang out if they got cold or just wanted to hide away.

We brought our own firepit because we have a really cool one that we never get to use at home.

Biolite firepit that we got during their fundraiser on Kickstarter for significantly less than they sell for currently.

We hung tarps overhead in case it started to rain in the middle of the night – we set them up and then pulled one side back so we weren’t completely covered but we’d be able to set up really fast if it started to rain. This also involved using a new piece of hardware that I picked up that removed the need for using knots. You can just use this “loop alien” to create tension on the line and then it’s super easy put up and take down, especially if you’re not good at knots.

I also bought an underquilt recently that I hadn’t had a chance to use, so I had to figure out how to connect it to my hammock. Plus I put a ridgeline over my hammock so I could hang stuff and also because I’m trying to figure out the right amount of sag for my hammock hang.

And just because this isn’t something that we do a lot of very frequently, there was a lot of figuring and re-figuring and getting stuff from the car and putting stuff back into the car because if it rained, we’d want things packed up where it’s dry.

So, let me just interject at this point that when we left, the forecast for rain was 10%. We did not expect it to rain. But there were a lot of clouds and there’s been a lot of rain lately, so we were distrustful of the weather.

Once we were finally settled, we sat back and read for a while, just enjoying ourselves and the weather and being outside and away from town. It was awesome. We went for a little wander with the dogs and met a couple who go RV camping with their parrot, who was very calm. They said that he’s always calm when they go camping, much more so than he is at home. Justin thinks it’s because the poor bird is terrified for his life and mentally just repeating “Something’s going to eat me!!” while eyeing the skies.

Our cozy little camp set up.

For our dinner, we made sandwich melts with meat and cheese using a pie iron that I don’t think we’d ever used before. I burned mine terribly on one side, definitely overestimating the time needed, but it’s a learning experience! (The dogs had their usual dinner, but Nivis wasn’t very excited about it.)

And then we cleaned up the food, packed up everything that we wouldn’t need overnight into the car, and settled down to read and then sleep.

So this is where things turn from “Hey, it sounds like they had a great time!” to … something else.

I bought the underquilt because air flow around the hammocks, while great in hot weather, is awful in cold weather. It’s hard to sleep when one’s bottom is freezing cold. And we had a sudden shift toward cooler weather, which was why we decided to go camping. My butt’s always cold when we’re camping, so I knew I needed one, but I didn’t know where Justin was at. I mean, he sleeps with ice packs and a pad underneath him to keep him cool. He *likes* being cold when he sleeps.

Turns out, that night was below his threshold for comfortable sleeping. He has a really nice blanket, but wrapping that around him only gets so far and he was getting really cold.

I was warm enough with my underquilt working perfectly and my blanket, though I should put a toe-pocket in there to hold it over my feet. But my sleep apnea kept waking me up gasping for air. I thought I’d be okay one night without my CPAP, figuring that sleeping at an angle would help. But I kept sinking down to the middle of my hammock with my feet so high up on the end they started falling off the sides because I ran out hammock! I think this is because the sag of my hammock was too steep. So I kept waking up flat on my back, gasping for air.

This is how Einstein spent most of his time, unless he was in his crate, or at the end of the leash trying to protect us from … everything that moved.

If I didn’t wake myself up, then Einstein would. Turns out, he is not comfortable with camping. He was miserable. Absolutely everything that moved in the dark got growled and barked at. When he was curled up in his crate directly below my head, I could hear him every time. And then he’d try to run after things! We noticed at one point that the line where he was attached had gotten very loose and we were worried he’d get free from it, so I attached him to his retractable lead attached to my hammock. But when he ran after the next thing, he got to the end of his leash so abruptly that his feet all left the ground as he whip-lashed back! So he got locked into his crate after that.

Nivis started the night in Justin’s hammock, but moved into my hammock so Justin could try to wrap his blanket around him more securely. Nivis likes to sleep in the hammocks, so long as he can see over the edges, so he was mostly okay. But when Ein got excited, Nivis would try to jump out and chase after as well, which was a bit of a shock when he was trying to jump off from laying on my stomach.

And then, of course, it started to rain. Not a lot, just a sprinkle, but enough that we got up and moved the tarps so we’d be covered from it. And the wind picked up, so the tarps started flapping around and making noises that the dogs and I were not happy with, and the cooler temperatures made Justin even more uncomfortable.

Around 5:00 in the morning, some of our neighbors started walking around and I got up to use the toilet. I scared Justin awake by whispering his name while crouching under his tarp and holding Nivis at him, trying to hand Nivis off so he’d stay dry. So then Justin was also awake, and I told him about not sleeping well and he told me about his cold backside, and I said, “Maybe we should just pack up, go home, and get some decent sleep for a few hours?”

So we did.

We unclipped our hammocks and threw them in the back of the car, pulled up the dog lines, took down the tarps and tarp lines and threw them into the trunk of the car, grabbed the dogs’ water bowl and our lanterns, did a quick but thorough check of the site to make sure we had everything, piled into the car, and drove back home.

As soon as we got into the car, Einstein started hyperventilating he was so excited to be heading home. He didn’t calm down the entire hour it took to get home. Once home, he immediately rolled all over the floor, rubbing his face on the carpets.

We changed clothes and then climbed into bed to get a few hours of restful sleep, me with my CPAP and Justin with warm blankets, Nivis curled up between us, and Ein in his usual spot in his bed on the floor (he doesn’t like being crowded when he sleeps).

So we had a good time, until we didn’t. And we don’t mind! We make a few adjustments every time we go.

For example, next time:

  1. We’re not going to bring the dogs. They can stay with a friend or something, but we’re not going to bring them again.
  2. We’re not going to bring the fire pit unless we’ll be sitting around it with friends or something, more than just needing it for food and light.
  3. Justin needs an underquilt. We’re keeping an eye out for sales for one of those.
  4. I need to be able to breathe. If that means camping where there’s power so I can bring my CPAP, so be it!

I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to go again sooner than the last camping trip, which was months and months ago, what with COVID and all that. I’ve missed getting out into the woods!