“Amateur night with a serial killer”… or “Primitive Camping, March 2009”

Friday night Nate and I went camping with Lee and Diane at Roosevelt State Park in Morton, MS.   I used to go there as a kid with my family back when Dad had a camper. 

This time, no camper.  We signed up for “primitive” camping at the little security hut and headed back to a portion of the campground I’d never seen before…I’d say “primitive” is a good word to describe it!  No bath house on that side of the lake. No “sites”.  Not even a firepit.  Basically, we went and found ourselves a relatively flat spot in the woods with a bunch of other people and set up a tent. 

Now, I was totally fine with almost all of that.  There were bath houses across the lake (about a 1/2 mile hike) in case I needed them, but mostly I just ventured out into the woods…even once in the middle of the night when it was pitch black!   Because when nature calls….

The only thing that was a little disturbing was the lack of fire pits.   I mean, they don’t exactly check your boy scout credentials when you drive up.  I happen to be married to a guy who’s pretty handy and outdoorsy, so there was no concern there.  But what about all those other people?  Do they know anything about clearing spots and building fires? I was convinced that the whole place was going to burn down in the middle of the night, ’cause we were probably surrounded by a bunch of amateurs.   (Well, except for the actual boy scouts who were camping there, Pack #61. Sure, they were all about 10 years old, but I’d be more comfortable with those kids running things than some of the other people around there!)

Despite my fears, we made it through the trip without any fire-incompetent morons burning down the forest.

Here’s a run-down of the whole thing:

  • Nate and I arrive at Roosevelt and start getting things set up, like making our own fire pit.  We also set up our brand new tent for the first time with only minor complications with the weirdly-shaped fly.  When we finished, I sat on the cooler (because we forgot chairs) and read my book.
  • Diane and Lee arrived about 2 hours later, complete with chairs since we forgot ours. 
  • We start noticing that the family on one side of us has 3 children, one of which looks about 3.  They seem to be driving away and coming back to the site about ever half hour.  Then we realize that “do you need to go potty?” preceeds every trip, and we realize that this poor family has taken a camping trip while trying to potty-train their toddler.  Obviously, teaching her to pee in the woods might be detrimental to her progress, so they drive to the bath house every 30 minutes.  This continues for the entire trip.
  • Diane and I set up her tent while the boys went hunting for firewood. In the meantime, an old white lumina drives up with a gray-haired and bearded, outdoorsy, drifter kind of guy in it, who starts setting up his tent.  A few minutes later, he calls out and asks me a question.  My first thought was “evangelism class assignment” (I have to share my faith with 10 unchurched, unconverted people this semester). Diane’s first thought was “serial killer.” I go talk to him anyway, introduce myself, and invite him to come hang out with us later. His name is Richie. At this point Diane is still convinced of his “serial killer” status.
  • The boys get back with a truckload of firewood, I talk to Richie a little more. The boys build a fire, then Nate starts cooking dinner.
  • Nate walks over to Richie, who is sitting on the hood of his car doing nothing.  Nate introduces himself, and invites him to come sit with us.  Richie agrees and comes to sit with us for several hours, during which learn lots of crazy things about his life and his 30-year-long relationship with his live-in girlfriend.  She’s a “churchy” singer and the opposite of a “red hot mama” singer.  He is a musician (mostly contra-band), and a legal secretary for a law firm with very interesting cases.  He lives in Memphis but has spent the past 2 weeks in Florida with his 90-year old mother who he was putting into a retirement/nursing facility in New Jersey near where his sister lives.  After he packed up her house in Florida, he had to drive her old white Lumina back to Memphis with him, and decided to make a camping trip out of it, stopping in random places along the way. Which is how he met us.  Very interesting guy, but not really open to talking about religion (although very open about talking about EVERYTHING else!).  Diane is feeling a little better about the whole thing, but still says she’s not convinced he wont make his way over to our tents in the middle of the night.   I, on the other hand, think he reminds me of my favorite college professor, and am convinced that no one who reminds me of Dr. Bonney could possibly be dangerous.
  • Sometime after midnight, we all hit the sack.  It turns out to be a cold night. I was very VERY cold, but then I’m ALWAYS cold.  Nate woke up in the middle of the night to put on his sweatshirt in the dark. When we woke up the next morning, we see that he had actually put on MY sweatshirt, which was skin tight on him. HILARIOUS.  His only comment: “Hmm. I thought that felt weird.”
  • Turns out we made it through the night with no serial-killer incidents.  Richie is gone, already on his way to his next exciting campground, I gues. 
  • Everyone gets up, except for me.  I climbed into Nate’s sleeping bag to see if it was any better…. turns out that his is MUCH warmer than mine and I didnt know it.  He had been trying to get me to switch all night because he kept saying his was warmer, and I wouldn’t do it.  His was one of those mummy bags, and I assumed I would hate being so confined.  Once I crawled into it at 7am Saturday morning, I fell right to sleep and got the best 2 hours of sleep I’d had all night.  If only I’d listened…
  • Nate cooks breakfast (eggs and sausage, yum!), then we clean up the campsite. Someone says “why don’t we go for a hike?” which Lee is convinced is always foreshadowing for something terrible.  Our “hike” turned out to be on an endless trail that had us all exhausted and thirsty after an hour and a half of loops and turns and trying to follow blue spray-painted dots on trees. But we eventually made it back.
  • Then we loaded up and headed home because we all remembered that we are overloaded seminary students who had way too much schoolwork waiting for us at home. So we all went and tackled some.

All in all, it was a really fun trip.  I think we’re going to go again in April sometime, then hopefully throughout the summer. Maybe by then the nights will have warmed up enough that I won’t shiver all night long!!  But I doubt it (:

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