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!

Camping at Jack Hill State Park (Gordonia-Alatamaha)

Part 1 of 2

Justin and I went camping! And we were talking about the different parks we’ve visited in the Georgia and South Carolina area and determined that I just can’t keep good track of them in my head, so I figured writing about them will help!

Writing this down, though, got super long, so I’m breaking it into two pieces. This first one, I’ll describe the park. The second post, I’ll write about how it went.

So we recently went to the newly renamed Jack Hill State Park. It was formerly known as Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park, which was a tree, and is now named after a state senator who passed away this year.

This park is an easy hour drive away from our apartment in Savannah, located in the city of Reidsville, GA, a community of about 5000 people. It surprised me that the park really does seem to be inside of this town, because once you’re inside the park, it feels like you’re out in the woods. But if you wanted to run out for food or ice cream, there’s a Dairy Queen just outside the park entrance.

Images in this post are scans of the pamphlet that they hand out at the visitor center and had a bunch of ads, which I’ve removed.

The numbers on this map are probably to point out the different businesses who had advertisements on the page that I cropped out…

There seems to be a lot of community space in this park — a bunch of kids were playing basketball in the court outside the ranger station. There was a mini-golf course that I didn’t see very closely, so I don’t know how well it’s maintained. There’s kayak and paddle-boat rentals. There’s a lot of picnic shelters. There’s apparently a golf course on the other side of the park that we didn’t even see. It makes sense that if the park is going to be located so close to the town, that there be places for people to be gathering there.

Driving toward the camping areas, the road goes over a little dam and around a little lake. There’s no swimming allowed, but boating and fishing are okay. There are a couple of docks on the water for that. And a lot of the campsites look out over the water, which is beautiful.

And there’s a nature trail that runs along the side of the water and then into the woods that isn’t kept up very well so there’s a lot of trip hazards and branches hanging low across the trail. We explored it more on our first trip here, but didn’t bother with it much this time.

The park has 30 campsites — 29 RV and 1 tent-only. They also have some cabins, but I don’t know anything about them. The campsites are all in a loop near the water and fairly close together, but with enough trees and spacing that it’s not awful. It’s not a place to stay if you don’t want to be near anyone, though. You are definitely going to see and hear your neighbors.

If you’re not familiar with how camping at a state park works, inside the park will be a ranger station where you can book a site. They will ask if you have any sites you prefer, so if you have previous experience with the park or have researched online, you can try to get a specific site. We’re hammock camping, which is considered tent camping, so we chose the only tent-only site at the park, Number 19. We can camp at any of the other sites, if there’s good trees in the site to hang our hammocks from. It’s a little risky for us to chose a site unseen, but we were fairly sure that the tent-only site would be fine.

People with RVs have to be aware of how long their rig is and how long the driveway at the site is a lots of other things, but since we’re not doing that, I can’t tell you how that works.

It is possible to reserve sites online and prepay for parking and everything, but we only wanted one night and I think the website has a two-night minimum. And because we weren’t completely sure until day-of that we were going, we didn’t do that. There’s also a box in the parking lot to reserve sites after the ranger station is closed. At this park, however, there’s a gate that closes at night and you get the code to get back in through the gate when you get your information packet from the ranger station, so be aware of that if you arrive before the gate closes but too late to get the code.

It’s also important to know that State Parks are very insistent that wood NOT be brought from other places into the parks because they’re dealing with an invasive species of bugs. So you either have to gather it on-site (if permitted) or buy it at the ranger station. (Don’t Move Firewood website.) We tend to buy our firewood there instead of expecting to be able to find enough dry wood to keep a fire going.

And that’s Jack Hill State Park! Next post, how our camping trip actually went.


Erica’s and Mom’s sites are now also on Inking My Thinking!

If you’re here looking for their sites, there’s a link to their blogs up in the top menu on the right.

Maybe one day we’ll all feel like writing again…

I should really get back to doing that….

Friday fun

I have had such a fun day today! Let me tell you about it in a bullet-point rundown of my day!

  • I woke up the first time when Justin came back to bed from walking the dogs, which meant that I didn’t have to get up yet to do that! (LOVE!)
  • I woke up the second time when my alarm went off at 8. I had to leave the house by 8:30 to get to my first appointment of the day. I got to sleep in!
  • My first appointment of the day was fasting bloodwork at my doctor’s office in Bluffton. The nurse working the lab was so friendly and great! I didn’t even notice she took two vials of blood; I thought she’d only done one until she showed me the second one.
  • After that was done, I could finally eat breakfast! So I went to the Dunkin’s around the corner for coffee and eggs and bacon and toast. And a donut.
  • (Justin stayed home for all this, by the way. He thought about coming and then went back to bed instead after not sleeping well last night.)
  • My second appointment of the day was with the chiropractor’s office, who managed to get my neck back so I can move it both directions again! Yea! It was getting annoying not being able to turn my neck very far.
  • Heading out of Bluffton, I stopped at the Goodwill to check if I could find any pants. My last pair that I could wear to work had a catastrophic structural error in the zipper while I was at work on Monday.
  • (Side note: Monday morning I woke up from a dream during which Mom said those pants didn’t look good on me and that I should stop wearing them. Of course, the rest of the dream had me singing a solo of “Into the Unknown” from Frozen 2 during a Walmart-located church service while holding a bow and arrow. So. I wore the pants anyway. And then took an early lunch break to go home and change into a skirt.)
  • I didn’t find any pants at Goodwill. I found 2 skirts and 2 shirts.
  • So I went to Torrid at the Tanger mall in Pooler and bought 2 pairs of jeans from there! (I can wear jeans to work!)
  • I went back home, where Justin was happy that he’d stayed home and avoided my shopping, even though I wouldn’t have gone shopping if he’d been with me. But I’d been wanting to go shopping since Monday, so I was happy to get it done today.
  • He also got 2 donuts from Dunkin’s.
  • I puttered around the house for a while as he needed to get a group project done. I took care of the dog’s toys which were overflowing and needed some pruning.
  • Then Justin and I went back out to the garage to work on a project there that I will write about very soon. But not today.
  • I went for a walk once we were done out there. I took my 2-pound weights with me today, which was great, but my knee was aching from all the walking I’d already done during the day, so it wasn’t a long or fast walk. But I did walk and I am feeling it.
  • I stretched and showered and made dinner with Justin.
  • I folded 2 loads of laundry!
  • I washed the dirty dishes!
  • I’ve watched several episodes of NCIS!
  • And it’s only Friday! Weeeeeeee!!!!!

Wednesday fitness update: January’s “Don’t break the chain”

I’m heading to bed in a couple minutes but let’s see what I can write in that time! 🙂

I started the “Don’t break the chain” thing on the 6th of January, and in that month I only missed 3 days after getting it going. The first day was a long day at the end of a long, frustrating week. And then I just kinda forgot the day after? It was weird and I felt badly about it at the end of the day. And then the 31st, I had plans to do stuff, and then ran out of time because we ended up running errands and stuff most of the day.

I also missed yesterday, Feb 4th, and that’s because I was at work late and then when I got home, Justin met me outside and we worked in the garage until after 8:00 and then we had to figure out dinner and that was the end of my evening.

But only missing 4 days of the last almost 5 weeks? I’d call that pretty darn good!

And I’m feeling really good about it. I was able to walk almost twice what I used to be able to walk and a whole lot faster than I used to be able to do it, and with significantly less swelling in my knee and generally feeling all over better about the whole thing! Seriously, I’m walking so much faster lately, even around work. And my flexibility is getting lots better since I’m stretching after I’m done walking, and that’s doing loads of good for my poor QL muscles in my back that are always seizing up. And I’m starting to see a little tiny bit of definition in the muscles in my legs! And my core strength is also improving; I’m doing a Pilates video some of the days when I’m just not getting out walking and that, plus the walking, is helping there.

Once my core is a little stronger and the daylight is staying a little longer, I’m going to get back on my roller skates. But I’m currently afraid of my lack of core strength and hurting my back while trying not to fall over. My chiropractor scolds me when I fall over…

OK! That’s all the time I have! Time to head to bed. 🙂