Friday, May 23, 2008
Campasaurus Rex! Big South Fork: Days 1 & 2
So! The camping trip! Chicago Meg and I left Nashville around 10am on Friday; we had to drop off her dog Cooper at Almost Home in Carthage, the all-lesbian, all-fabulous home-away-from-home for dogs. They romp around (the dogs, not the lesbians. Though maybe. Oh nevermind) on acres and acres of wooded hilltop. It's a really pretty place but almost impossible to actually drive to. They normally do pick-up and drop-off in Nashville, but since we were headed that way anyway, we opted to just do the drop-off ourselves. Back in the Element and via back roads we made our way to Jamestown, on the edge of Big South Fork. Ominous heavy sprinkling rain on the way there, which made Chicago Meg a little tight-lipped, as I had promised no rain and no cold. Because all of that is within my power.
We arrived at BSF and made our way to the tent-only loop (Loop A, for those of you who care about such things) which is nice because you don't have to hear anybody's generator or - more importantly - child. We quickly set up camp becasue we wanted to try and do a little bit of hiking before the sun set. We did about a mile on the John Litton Farm Loop, which was full of rockhouses and lady's slipper and giant thirty-foot tall rhododendron, which was all amazing. The air was misty, which made everything feel Jurrassic Park-y, moist giant ferns and coo-coo-coo-ing of whatever strange birds were up in those woods. Back to camp.
Where! The temperature was dropping ominously. We had previously laughed at the hypothermia warning on the board at the washouse but now we weren't laughing so much because our larynxes had frozen solid. We had no luck getting the campfire lit - we had plenty of starter paper and big logs but absolutely no kindling-sized wood for the middle part. This was officially NOT. GOOD. I cooked up some lamb burgers on the camp stove and we had some wine and then played a couple of games of cribbage. Cribbage was new to me but I won two games, so maybe I'll play that again.
It was seriously cold. I might have been able to sleep if I hadn't heard Chicago Meg whispering ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME? from the next tent over and over, like every ten minutes all night long. There was also some loud-assed bird, the Chuck's-will-widow (second one down) making its godforsaken mating call or some other cawing all goddamned night long. I got maybe an hour of sleep and I know Meg got even less. I felt badly because so far, camping was not being very much fun for her.
The next day, we got up to a much warmer, much clearer day and we were up EARLY! because we had to drive to the river raft place to go white water rafting on the Cumberland River. After a quick breakfast of granola, fruit and yogurt, we hightailed it up into Kentucky, through Cumberland Falls State Park ("The Niagara of the south!" Uh, okay then, whatever you say) and onto Sheltowee Trace Outfitters, where we were dismayed to find that all the other people rafting with us were Boy Scouts, which actually turned out to be cool because the ones in our boat (Tyler, Tony and Droopy - I'm not making that up) were pretty cool kids. And there was one other person, the receptionist from the Outfitter, who had never rafted before. We think they made her do it. She was a big fucking baby, practically crying before we even got in the boat.
Our river guide's name was Brian, but he insisted that we call him "River Dawg," and let me tell you: the chances of me ever calling anyone "River Dawg" are pretty damned infinitesimal. But! I did it. He was absolutely fantastic; I was pretty much doubled over with laughter before we got in the boat because he looked right at Chicago Meg and me and asked "do you guys mind if I dip?" and then he proceeded to dip and spit in the river all day long, even when offing us sips of water from his bottle ("uh, no thanks, River Dawg..."). He was chock full of good stories, and they all started something like this: "I dated NASCAR driver Ernie Ervin's sister-in-law till I figgered out she was cotton-pickin' crazy!" or "I watched Larry the Cable Guy last night and plumb fell off the couch laughin'!" Then he told some nutty story about how the Indians named Daniel Boone "Sheltowee," which is some Indian word for turtle, which they chose because he supposedly fought on his back. Which sounded like a not very good way to fight to us, so we've sent that factoid off to the New Yorker magazine fact checking department for verification.
ANYWAY. So we went down the river. We got through two Class I rapids with no worries (except the damned receptionist girl whimpering non-stop) and then we got to Center Rock (Class II - maybe III, I can't remember) and ta-da! We flipped the boat over! A gaggle of Boy Scouts everywhere, flapping their arms. Chicago Meg trapped beneath the boat. Fat-assed Donkey Girl blubbering and exaggerating and not dying fast enough. DG serenely swimming to a little pool and collecting all the paddles everybody threw into the river. Flipping over was the awesomest thing of the day - no sooner were we back in the boat than Chicago Meg, the Boy Scouts, River Dawg and me were all "let's do it again!" and the Donkey Girl practically started crying and in what would be the theme of the rest of her dialogue all day long, insisted that we let her out before every rapid. River Dawg refused (except once, he did let her out) and that dumb girl seemed hell bent on ruining the trip for the rest of us; she basically quit paddling, which prevented us from being aggressive on some of the runs. The best part was when she asked River Dawg if the next one was gonna be bad. His response was, "no sugar, it's gonna be awesome!" But we made it through anyway - past Pinball, down the Staircase, Screaming Right, Purgatory, Last Drop. 5 miles of rapids, then five miles of drift to the takeout. Lunch on Jump Rock, at the halfway mark. The whole thing was great but if I ever see that receptionist again, I'm going to drown her.
Back in the car for the drive back to camp; a stop at East Rim and the Leatherwood Ford. A very short walk at Leatherwood Ford - solomon's seal and trillium lined the trail. Back at camp, delicious white bean stew, Renwood Zin and a whomping good game of Scrabble where Chicago Meg came from waaaaay behind to beat me in the final round. A warm night, which was lucky since we were still having no luck with the campfire, despite the one and a half gallons of lighter fluid I put on there. Here's a little proof that Chicago Meg did indeed go camping, since there are so many of you who don't think it's possible.