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!

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!!!!!

Saturday fun

Today has been an absolutely lovely day! Let me tell you all about it!

Justin got up when the dogs begged to go outside, so I could keep on sleeping for a while. Eventually, he came back to bed and the puppies were too excited to lay quietly, so I got up so he could rest longer.

While he was sleeping, I played with the dogs for a while, caught up on a little reading, and then decided to get my yoga in for the day. I think Saturdays are going to be yoga days – I have plenty of time usually and it’s a nice break from walking and a good opportunity to work on my strength and stretching. I’m still working to make sure I’m balancing evenly on both legs and getting the muscles on my left leg to stretch out properly.

While I was doing yoga, Nivis blitzed around the coffee table over and over again. He’d run around one side, jump on on the sofa, jump back down, run around the other end, run over my yoga bolster, and then back around again. And then he’d run over and attack Einstein for a minute. When I laid down on the floor do so some bridges and crunches, he decided to come over and lick the sweat off my face. He’s a helper.

After I finished that, we went for a walk outside for a little while and it was nice and warm and they were good boys and did not chase after the puppy like I know they wanted to. We’re working on it.

We went back inside so I could shower. And then check in on Justin, who was waking up, just reading in bed. And then get some breakfast.

We were going to have dinner with some friends, but they got some unexpected company come into town, but we filled up our afternoon by going to the park and doing some archery for a little while. I will have a bruise on my elbow again and I completely snapped an arrow in half. I have no idea how I managed it. And Justin lost another one. Two? At least one more arrow to the deceptively deep canal filled with murky water behind the targets. I think I’m improving, but I’m not sure, and either way, I’m having a blast.

We had to leave in time to get to the mall for haircuts. I think it’s been about a year since I got a cut and it was getting really crunchy at the ends. I definitely needed it. And Justin wasn’t full on shaggy yet, but he was getting there.

After haircuts, we went across the street for some BBQ and then went back to the mall for some ice cream before heading back home to relieve and feed the dogs.

It probably doesn’t sound like a whole lot, just some yoga and archery and haircuts. But I’ve been so filled with sunlight and joy by everything today. It’s the little, wonderful, sometimes ordinary things in life that make me happy. Sleepy morning kisses. Water rippling the sun-speckled water in the pond. Laughing with Justin over ice cream. Excited fluff-ball dogs when we walk in the door.

Life is good! And I’m happy!

Anniversary dinner

Hey! We didn’t actually end up having pasta! We had soup! That I made from scratch! And it was yummy!

So, allergy season is mid-swing now and Justin’s having a heck of a time, like I mentioned yesterday. (Look at me, posting two days in a row!)  We’re at a forecast pollen level of 9.4 (out of I’m not sure, 12?) and the top culprits are oak, juniper, and elm. The oak trees are trying to kill him. The juniper are working their way up to me, but I’m so far putting up a fight.

Anyway, yesterday he was head achy and draining and sneezing. Today he’s got awful gunk in his lungs and he’s miserable. He slept most of the day. (No classes today, so he didn’t skip anything.) We cancelled our chiropractor appointment because he wasn’t going anywhere and I didn’t want to go by myself. Which means we didn’t go to the grocery store or get tempted to get dinner on our way home. When he did finally decide that he was getting hungry, he said that what really sounded good wasn’t the frozen fish that we’d discussed, but a really creamy tomato soup with vegetables and noodles in it.

Well, we don’t have any cans of soup right now. But we do have a lot of other stuff, including a half bag of red potatoes that needed to get eaten. So I looked up a few recipes online, extrapolated a few concepts, and made up a pot of tomato soup from the stuff we had in the house!

Here’s what I did:


  • 4 tablespoons sweet unsalted butter
  • 6 oz bag of chopped carrots and celery (left over from the last time I made soup and stored in the freezer)
  • 1 young sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-ish pounds red potatoes, chunked
  • 1 small can of no salt added tomato paste (less than 1 cup, the tiny little can)
  • 1 big can of no salt added petite cut tomatoes (but whatever type you like would work just fine) (this was the biggest can we had in the house — 3.5 cups)
  • 4 cups no salt added chicken broth (or stock)
  • Optional: pasta, cheese, milk or heavy cream
  1. I melted the butter in a big skillet on a medium heat and added my frozen carrots and celery and let them cook for a while. It would probably go faster if they weren’t frozen, but I didn’t feel like doing it differently. Meanwhile, I cut up a small sweet Vidalia onion into small bits, and then I added that to the pan. It got pretty watery as the veggies melted, but I just kept giving it a stir now and then. And I crushed one clove of garlic into the pan with all the rest. I let this go until the onion was translucent and the other veggies seemed like they were getting pretty soft and the water had evaporated.
  2. While that was cooking, I scrubbed and cut up my red potatoes into small chunks and put them in a pot of water on the stove to boil.
  3. Into the pan with the carrots/celery/onion/garlic, I added the can of tomato paste and turned up the heat to a medium-high for just a little while, just to get the sauce bubbling a lot, and then I brought it back down to medium and let it reduce for a while, stirring it constantly to keep it from burning and sticking. I have no idea how long this took, but pretty much until I was bored and then again half as long. Once it got pretty thick looking, I removed it from the heat and set it aside.
  4. I put my big pasta pot onto the burner and added the carton of chicken stock (the carton was 4 cups, so I just put it all in there) and the big can of tomatoes, with all the liquid from the can, and then ground a bunch of a spice that Justin recommended and I can’t remember right now — I’ll find it later and tell you. And then I turned that up to medium and let it boil for a while. It’ll get a little bit foamy on the top as it boils. I was still waiting for the potatoes to boil at this point anyway, so I just worked on cleaning up the kitchen and let them bubble away. I don’t know how long that was — maybe 10 to 15 minutes? Not longer than that, I’m sure. Once the potatoes were done, I removed them from the stove, drained them, and set them aside for a little bit.
  5. After letting the tomato/chicken broth mix boil for a while, I added in the tomato paste/carrots/celery/onion/garlic mix from the first pan into the pasta pot and stirred that in for a while. (I kept on cleaning the kitchen.) Once it seemed like everything was integrated nicely, I turned the temperature down to a simmer and let it cool down a little bit.
  6. Since Justin had barely eaten all day and he’d mentioned wanting noodles in his soup, at this point, I set a pot on the stove with some pasta to boil so he could add it to his soup. I didn’t want the pasta in mine, so it didn’t get added to the big pot in the end, but he added it to his and said it was good that way.
  7. Once the pasta pot of soup had cooled down a little, I took out half of it (roughly) to another container, making sure to get a bunch of the solid vegetable bits. Then I used my immersion blender (Thanks, Mom!!) and blended all the rest of the soup in the pot, making it all creamy and foamy. Remember: you can always add the vegetable bits back in, if you decide that you’ve taken out too much. But you can’t take them out once they’re blended!
  8. Then I took about half of the potatoes and added them to the pasta pot and blended those into the soup, too. By this point, it was looking nice and thick and creamy. So I went ahead and put back in the rest of the soup that I’d removed but not blended and the rest of the potatoes and mixed it together to make a nice chunky, but still thick and creamy soup, and let it simmer just a little longer.

Justin put more spices into his bowl, along with the pasta and some cheddar cheese and probably a splash of milk. I didn’t want the calories, but adding some heavy cream or milk at the end of this would definitely make it even more creamy.

I thought it was delicious as it was and I’m very pleased about it! Even after we each had a big bowl of it, there’s still 5 cups of it in the fridge. So I’m definitely calling it a 6-serving soup. And if I’ve entered everything into correctly, 1/6 of this recipe comes in around 212 calories. (This is excluding the pasta/milk/cheese, just to be clear.)

Nutrition Facts
Servings 6.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 212
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7 g 11 %
Saturated Fat 5 g 23 %
Monounsaturated Fat 2 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 20 mg 7 %
Sodium 136 mg 6 %
Potassium 951 mg 27 %
Total Carbohydrate 30 g 10 %
Dietary Fiber 6 g 23 %
Sugars 8 g
Protein 6 g 12 %
Vitamin A 76 %
Vitamin C 57 %
Calcium 5 %
Iron 13 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


So I’m feeling very accomplished! And Justin is feeling, I hope, well fed. He went back to bed about half an hour ago, poor thing. I need to head to bed myself in order to prepare for getting to work at stupid 6:30 in the morning.

Did you know that there’s an actual word for the mix of carrots and celery and onion that was the start of this soup? It’s a French word: mirepoix. I think that’s nifty.

I should be sleeping, but instead I’m writing

  • It’s been crazy around here. I should be heading to bed, but everybody else is posting today, so I figured I’d join in.
  • Last week I worked 52 1/2 hours
    • I was told on Thursday that I’d have a big thing done by the following Friday
      • And then on Monday, I was told I’d have it done by Wednesday
    • It got done well enough, but it’s a mess and I have a lot of work yet to do
  • This week and next week, I’m covering the morning meeting for my coworker who is out on vacation
    • I have to be at work at 6:30 tomorrow
      • And Wednesday
        • And next Monday,
        • Tuesday
        • & Wednesday
          • Remember how I was so excited to not be awake at 5:00 AM anymore?
            • Yeah
              • This stinks.
  • I haven’t got my morning work out in since Friday before last.
    • I didn’t exercise at all last week, to be honest
      • I also didn’t eat well last week
        • My weigh-in this morning was not encouraging.
    • I did exercise this afternoon after I got home
  • Justin’s allergies are trying to kill him
    • Mine aren’t so bad … yet
      • Our grocery store sells 90 packs of generic allergy meds that we can both take for about $15
        • They also sell 15 packs for about $12.
          • They’ve been out of the 90 packs every time we’ve checked for the last 2 weeks
            • We have 3 pills left
      • Costco also sells allergy meds for cheap, but it’s an hour away
  • We saw Zootopia over the weekend
    • It was adorable
  • We are watching season 2 of Daredevil
    • It is almost as violent as season one… 🙁
      • The plot line is not as interesting as season one
        • I wish I had Karen’s hair
          • Also, her waistline because dang that girl is slender
  • Justin is still doing well in school
    • We have about 2 weeks before he has to focus on getting ready for finals and all his big end-of-the-semester projects
      • I’m going to have to make dinner more often when that happens…
        • I see a lot of pasta and frozen dinners in our future.
  • It’s our 8-year wedding anniversary tomorrow!
    • We have no plans
      • Besides going to the chiropractor
        • Because we are old and boring
      • I think dinner is probably going to be pasta
        • Because it’s quick, easy, and goes well with the broccoli going bad in the crisper
  • And now I have to go to bed so I can get up again in 6 1/2 hours.