We were on tour in Florida with our old band, Before Dawn, which was just us at that point. We we were a duo. It was October of 2009. It was hot and humid, surprisingly so for Halloween. We had played several shows. It was our thinking that October should be a good, comfortable month for camping. Instead of paying for hotels on our drive back to Texas, we decided to tent camp at a State Park.
As you might imagine, tent camping when you have hundreds of pounds of guitar amps, monitor speakers and instruments in your car is a little different than say having a cooler with food and an extra sleeping bag. We went very minimal with our camping gear. After all, it was only going to be an overnight…We had our tent, our air mattress, a sleeping bag and a quilt.
It was actually turning out to be a really beautiful evening. We had driven as far as the panhandle of Florida and it was quite a bit cooler, pleasant really. We were staying at, Falling Waters State Park. Yay, a waterfall! After spending late nights playing loud rock music in dirty bars, and days on end driving, despite being rather exhausted, we were excited to go on a little hike and try our damnedest to change mindsets, relax and enjoy camping?
We really wanted to hike to see the waterfall for which the park is named, but it was getting dark fast and we only made it halfway there before we disappointedly decided we better turn around and go back to camp. We still needed to set up our tent and bed, get firewood and make some sort of dinner from the items we were able to find at the only store that was around for miles. It was a very weird old Walmart… If you spend time traveling the country via interstate, you know exactly what I am talking about.
We were trying so hard to enjoy ourselves! We were trying so hard to accomplish these normally fun camping tasks with enthusiasm. We were trying not to be the tired, cranky babies that we really wanted to be. And, ”jeeze, the temperature really is dropping now that the sun went down.”
We ate our dinner. I don’t remember what it was. We went on our requisite “camper walk” whereby we walk around the campground and voyeuristically observe others enjoying the conveniences of motor homes and travel trailers. We sat by the warm fire and fantasized a bit about what kind of camper we might want some day. Then we turned in for the night.
From the screen window on our tent we had a clear view of a travel trailer at a campsite across the way from us. We could make out the outlines of comfortable, warm, cozy people watching television. We had camper envy. We were really jealous. Also, we were VERY cold.
After nodding off, we both woke up around 3:30 am absolutely freezing. There was no going back to sleep at this point. This was Florida! What the hell? We put on pretty much every single piece of clothing that we had with us. We were getting cold from the ground up, so we let air out of the air mattress thinking that the air in the mattress was keeping us cold. We took the quilt that was covering us and put it underneath us. Now we were cold on top. We tried to both cram into the only sleeping bag we had with us. We were miserable and I was pretty sure I was starting to get a sore throat.
Even though, at this point we were probably more tired than we have ever been, at first light we got up and started packing our stuff. There was no point in staying. We were in no mood to hike and all we wanted to do was get home. When we got up, we realized that there was frost on everything! How cold was it??? I looked at the thermometer I had recently added to our camping gear. It was 35 degrees and all we had had with us to keep warm was a summer quilt!
Thirty five degrees! That was the last straw! We were now officially in the market for a camper. Consuming large amounts of caffeine, we drove 13 hours from the panhandle of Florida back to Austin, Texas and spoke almost exclusively of our necessity for a camper. We were going to somehow make it happen! This was now more important to us than the vague social concept that one must buy a traditional home first.
To most of our friends and family, it is no secret that Rob and I are in love with camping. It floats our respective boats! In fact, it goes beyond love, it is a deep passion. It is a lifestyle that we seek out! We are aware that there are a lot of different definitions of camping and that it means something different to different people. We are not snobbish about it, and really, we love all of it! Backpacking, car camping, RVing, overnights, extended trips, State Parks, National Parks and private campgrounds, they are all wonderful and serve their purpose. In my opinion camping is the best way to travel and see the country.
My exposure to camping came at a young age. In fact there is a distinct possibility that I may have been conceived while my parents were camping. When I was a baby, my parents took me tent camping, according to my mom, camping is a great activity to do with babies.
When I was a kid, from the time I was 7 until I was about 14, I went to summer-camp in the Northwoods of Wisconsin at Camp Nicolet for Girls in Eagle River. I spent the whole summer in the National Nicolet Forest. We stayed in cabins but went on hikes, cookouts and overnights, this served to enhance my love of camping as well as sharpen my skills in the realm of packing a backpack, making a fire and general outdoor survival.
When Rob and I met in college, I shared my love of camping with him. My sister gave us a tent for Christmas. Planning and going on camping trips quickly became one of our favorite pastimes. We got to see and experience places that we never would have gone to or even thought of going to otherwise.
Our first camping trip was a three day trip to Ocala, National Forest in FL. We went to Lake Eaton and Juniper Springs. They were both amazing. At Lake Eaton we heard something big in the woods at night and it scared us, branches were snapping under the feet of whatever creature was lurking. We imagined that it was some sort of large wildcat, it was probably just a raccoon…? We hiked the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail, which was magnificent. It is about 80 feet deep and 450 feet wide. The flora and vegetation completely changed as you hiked deeper into it. It is similar to an Oak Hammock, featuring magnolias, live oak, dogwood, lobolly pine and sabal palm. The temperature and humidity even changed…It got a little cooler, but more humid. It was fascinating!
At Juniper Springs the water was so impossibly clear that it was almost invisible. We swam, we hiked and explored, we cooked our meals and ate outdoors. The scenery and the sense of relaxation that came from spending time outdoors was beautiful. Our love of camping as a couple grew. We knew this would be something that we continued to do together always…