Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Camping in Mississippi and Alabama

We left for Mississippi on Friday morning at the butt crack of dawn and arrived in Jackson at around 4pm. We were going to Jackson so I could run the MS Blues Half Marathon (so much fun, I'll post about that separately) and we decided to camp along the way to save money. In Jackson we camped in the Le Fleur Bluff State Park which is right beside downtown Jackson. Super convenient for the race. 

The campsites were nice and placed around a pond so it was very pretty but you could tell it was off season because we had no idea where to go to check in, no one that worked there was around and the park was left open all day and night with no one at the gate house. It was a little aggravating (ok a lot after a 8+ hour drive) not knowing where to go, but after driving in circles we eventually just called to check in (apparently the office is far from the campgrounds). 
The camping itself was an adventure. It wasn't so cold in MS but it was very rainy.....and our tent cover had a lot of holes, oops. We woke up on Saturday morning to a very damp tent and some puddles. I went and ran the race on that morning, then came back and showered. As I was finishing showering a thunderstorm started, right as we wanted to pack up the tent. A lot of running to and from the car and the tent was empty. 
Then the debate....what to do with a leaky tent? I didn't want to put something that was soaked and dirty into the car when we were going to have to get a new one for the next trip anyhow. The risk taker in me won out and 1 day into a 3 day camping trip I put the old tent into the dumpster. Mississippi at this stage had also claimed Martina's phone charger (and her phone was dead) so we went to a gas station, bought a new charger, and got good old fashioned directions to the nearest Target. Thank goodness, they had some tents left and I got one slightly smaller than the old one for around $45. If it lasts the 2.5 years the old one did it'll be a bargain!
New Tent
With lots of coffee we drove back eastwards towards Alabama. This was a deliberate attempt to break up the drive home. It was also an opportunity to hike in Cheaha State Park, a place I originally wanted to visit the last time I was in Alabama, for the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon, but the rain was too much at the time. 5 hours later and we arrived and drove up a mountain through clouds to the highest point in Alabama.  I almost (note the almost) hit a hare in the fog and had a heart attack but we arrived without killing ourselves or anyone else.

The new tent was excellent and even though it got below freezing that night we felt warmer than the previous one. Opening the tent the next morning was a shock, there were flurries of snow blowing in! 

The only way to stay warm was to run the car or getting moving. We drove a little ways to top the car up with gas and then came back to the park (only to discover they had a gas pump there, doh). 

Then we started hiking for the day. A very short hike along the Pulpit Rock Trail got us warmed up. We didn't get any views just some more snow, hail and a wall of white where a fab view should have been, but hey its an adventure!
Martina and Boomer admiring the clouds
We then hiked for around an hour on another Trail turning back when we hit a small waterfall. Lunch and then more hiking. This time we stuck to a longish drive to outside the park and a short hike to High Falls. Wow is all I can say. This is a set of 3 Falls. The first one is nice but just ok. Then we crossed the river to follow the trail and you come to a second set of Falls that are beautiful and then a short climb up to the third set that are even prettier. I would imagine this would be a great swimming spot in the summer but it was nice to be the only people out there. Later that day when the sky cleared a little we did one short walk out on a boardwalk, back in the park, and that gave us a spectacular view of Alabama. So despite the temperatures and snow we kept warm all day.

Third set of falls
Second set of falls

That night we unsuccessfully tried to get a big fire going. Normally, I'm a whiz at fires but the wood they sold us was not dry enough, it just wouldn't burn. We were very chilly getting into the tent and the temperatures were dropping fast. 
After about an hour of Martina not being able to stop shaking I moved us all to the car and we slept in there for the night in our sleeping bags. I woke up every 2 hours or so and ran the car for 20 minutes to heat it up. Even then condensation from our breathing froze on the windows inside the car. 
Overall I slept much better than I thought I would in a car seat and I was glad  that we moved to the car when I saw the thermometer hit 21˚F. Ironically, we were most worried about Boomer being cold when we were planning the trip but he was the warmest of us all. He just borrowed in between us even, sometimes in a sleeping bag with one of us, putting his head under the blanket we threw over the sleeping bags. He had a great time hiking as well as barking to chase off squirrels, cats and deer from our various campsites.
Even though we spent most of the weekend feeling dirty, wet or freezing it was fun. We got to see lots of wildlife and some spectacular scenery.  I wouldn't rule out camping in cold weather again I'd just go better prepared. However, there is nothing like roughing it for a couple of days to appreciate the comforts that you have in your day to day life. 

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