Camping in Bear Country

We arrived at Cades Cove Campground in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at around 3:30 on Sunday, May 14.   The campground had been open for Mother’s Day, allowing folks to picnic at the sites during the day.  It was crawling with volunteers making sure that everybody was on Bear Alert with their picnics.

We had reservations for 5/15 to 5/18, but decided to take advantage of the weather and go a day early.  The campground reservation season begins 5/15, and we were lucky to snag the site we had reserved, B83.  It is on a corner lot, near the facilities, and roomy.

After setting up, we rode our bikes around the campground.  The office was closed when we arrived and had a sign that said late arrivals should check in between 8:30 and 9:30am the next morning.  We had wanted to get an early start to Laurel Falls, but okay.  After short spell of watching the fire, we were tired and retired.  Before we went to bed, Casey set the digital clock in the camper, asking me what time it was.  I told him whatever, but I was reading my kindle and didn’t pay too much attention.

We woke up the next morning (5/15), early, and Casey checked the clock and said it was 8:18…  I wanted to get down to the office and get on to Laurel Falls, so we jumped up, threw our clothes on, and practically ran down to the camp office.  It was not open, but we could hear people talking inside.  We were befuddled, but stood and waited for a bit before I griped my way back to the campsite for some morning tea.  Back at the site, I grabbed my phone and discovered it was only 7:40…  We couldn’t fire up the generator until 8, so I went from befuddled to disgruntled.  At the real, actual 8:30, we were first in line for check-in.

We finally piled into the Expedition to head out for a hike…started the vehicle and an alarm went off.  Back to befuddled, Casey check the back passenger tire as directed and it was nearly flat!  Damn the luck.  It just so happened that the volunteer rangers were still hulking around the camp, so we were able to drive it down to the office and they brought out a small compressor so that we were able to get into Townsend and really air it up so Casey could do his little science experiments regarding air loss.   We put off the Laurel Falls hike until the next day, and after several hours of experimenting, Casey finally changed the tire.  We had our foil meals for supper that evening and drank the beer we’d picked up in Townsend.

Casey was already fast asleep when I heard a noise outside…

The next morning (5/16), we had the time right and were up early (though without coffee or tea, dammit) to take the Laurel Falls Hike.  When Casey stepped outside, he discovered that a Bear had been in camp, clawing and chewing on an empty cooler he had left under the trailer…  Shortly, a veteran CCove camper found a bag of our kindling that had been dragged into the woods, and there is a bag of twigs in a canvas bag that we never found.  Dumfounded, we endured a lecture about Bear precautions and a threat of a fine if the rangers ever found out.  Seems the bear regularly come into the campsites there, especially so early in the reservation season, and this year a record number have been visiting…

By the time all of this took place, we had missed our opportunity for early hiking again.  What to do?  Go into Gatlinburg and have a nice meal and some drink.  We ate a nice meal at Loco Burrito and tasted some good moonshine at Ole’ Smoky Moonshine, buying some Apple Pie ‘shine.

Later, we drove the Cades Cove loop and  saw some bear from the distance I prefer….

Cades Cove Loop Road

When we got back to camp, we did have a fire, but were Verrrry careful to put it out and bring in everything…

On Wednesday, 5/17, we Finally made it to Laurel Falls…and early enough to have it practically to ourselves…though I did spot a small-ish bear scrambling up into the laurel when we came around a bend…(no picture, though)

We have visited the Smokies dozens of times over the years, and will return again to hear the water rippling and rushing over the rocks…

…and to feel the heartbeat of the mountains…

…but I will stay in a campground that does not require me to share my site with bears…

I will write a more detailed review of the campground soon…  Until then…

Happy Trails…

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Fixin’ up the trailer…

When we started out to buy a travel trailer, we were thinking a used, 20-24-foot, possibly hybrid, maybe fixer-upper.  As cool as the vintage Airstreams look, they seem to be high-maintenance and high-cost.  Coming out of a 10-foot pop-up, you’d think we wouldn’t be picky, but we were.   Many years ago, we had been at an RV show and fell in love with a trailer that had two comfy swivel rockers in front of the picture window, but we figured that would be more than we could spend.

So we began our shopping on the used lot, schlepping in and out of every style and configuration, and started to get a feel for what we would like.  It’s not a coincidence that you have to walk by the new models to get outside to the used lot…   We got a little snobby about the older trailers, and the lightly-used ones were nearly as much as the new ones.  When a sale sign went up, we changed our minds and came inside…

We found a 26-foot Coachmen Catalina Legacy, the one with the chairs, on sale.  The floor model had a free-standing table and 4 chairs, but we wanted the dinette for storage and an extra bed, so we ordered one up in February, 2016.  It was delivered on April 1.  Soo excited…

I don’t know who chooses the fabric for these lower-end travel trailers, but it is obvious they are color-blind and/or decorating-challenged…  The brown, soft vinyl of the chairs, couch, and dinette bottom cushions was fine, but the shitblobby stuff on the cornices and back cushions is atrocious.  The inclusion of flimsy-cheap brown side curtains just adds a touch of appalling.

The chairs are so comfortable, like sitting in a pillow…but they are full-size, heavy, too-big-for-the-space, always-swiveling into the shades.  They had to be moved and stowed when the slide is pulled in, and their weight and shape made it a real pain to get them to a place where they wouldn’ wind up crashing into a cabinet while we’re traveling.

Sitting in the house one wintry day, I came up with a brilliant idea..!  We traded out our inside easy chairs, comfy office chairs, and brought the big ones inside.  We then built a table to sit over the converter cabinet (it can’t be moved) While we were at it, we took down all the cornices and those curtainy things…

Life-changing, isn’t it?  Maybe you noticed that I recovered the cushion back.  We also added 3/4-inch to the height of the table, giving lots for clearance for getting in and out.  It has made the biggest difference!

check out the board between the leg and top...

(check out the board between the leg and tabletop…)

I like it soo much better and it’s more functional, too…

With every trip we take, we feel more at home…

Peace

 

 

Trippin’ to Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island, AL has been on my visit-list for many a year.  Its appeal was in part due to driving distance–at 625 miles, it’s as close as we are to the ocean, if that’s what you’re looking for (we were).  It is a barrier island, accessible by a 3-mile bridge from west of mobile bay, or by a ferry from Orange Beach, just across the bay.

The brochures say that the island is 14 miles long, and 1.75 miles at its widest point.  The West End is only now being built up with an overkill of beach front rentals. Except for a few, the restaurants looked a little dive-ish, but we aren’t foodies, anyway.   There is a seafood place that will steam some fresh seafood of your choice for take-out.  The Ship n Shore has everything you need, from the hardware store to the package store to everything in between.

The campground was kind of a dump, with sites very close together, washing machines that are covered in rust, bathrooms that are clean enough, but worn.  They are building a new bath house/laundry facility, but not getting in any hurry about it.  The sites were level enough, but you have to work around a lot of trees.  They advertise free wi-fi, but you have to go over to the pavilion to pick it up.  They advertise bike rental, but they stopped renting them a couple of years ago.

It looks like most of their full hook-ups are taken by snowbirds, many of whom appear to be full-time residents, though the rules say there’s a 6-month limit.

Looks like these folks might be staying awhile

 When I say close together, I mean we had to hang up a blanket partition so we weren’t leaning over our neighbor’s picnic table when we were on the patio.   We were under a wonderful canopy of trees that dropped leaves like rain, but it was pretty.

I want to emphasize that this place has significant drawbacks…because I want to go again and again and I’d hate for it to get too popular… It is adjacent to an Audubon Bird Sanctuary and a 5-minute walk to a private beach.  The ferry puts in and out just across the street.  The Estuary and Fort Gaines are a 5-minute walk.

Just past the pavilion is a campground-only entrance to the Bird Sanctuary.  I’m told that in April the place is crawling with migrating birds stopping off to rest on their way north, but for our visit it was pretty tame.

 The Sand Dune Ledge Trail produced the most encounters of the avian kind…

The Lake is chock-full of turtles…I like the one with the snout…

I thought this sign was a joke….

But it was not…

From the back of the campground there was access to a beach that gave us a fine sunset…

Of course, it helped that the weather was Perfect while we were there—highs in the upper 70’s-lower 80’s, sunny skies–but I am entranced with the whole place.

 Even though it’s marked off of my visit-list, it’s now on my go-back list.

Peace