There are a lot of things I love about truck campers, but the one that comes to mind at the moment is the ability for us to pick up and go on a whim. We have two plans for this year. The first is to visit as many North Carolina State Parks as possible and secondly, we want to camp 40 nights in our camper this year. To accomplish both of these things, we are going to have a lot of spur of the moments get-a-ways when we can.
We knew earlier in the week we wanted to go camping over the weekend, it was just a matter of where. We thought about going west because there are several nice state parks we want to visit. We really wanted to do some walking and since it was calling for the weather to be a little colder west we headed east. I do not like to walk outside when it is cold.
We arrived at Medoc Mountain State Park in Hollister, North Carolina. https://www.ncparks.gov/medoc-mountain-state-park/home
We stopped by the park office and were directed to pick out our camping spot and then we could go back to the park office to pay. We circled the park twice and settled on #34. They have a lot of really nice camping spots and I honestly do not think any of them would be a bad choice. Ours was not close to the bathhouse but we did not plan on using the bathhouse anyway since our truck camper has a full bath with all the amenities one would need. But for anyone who is interested, the bathhouse is nice. It is heated which is very important this time of the year. It had 3-bathroom stalls and 3-shower stalls.
It was a gorgeous evening and we decided to take a quick hike before dinner. We decided to do the Bluff Loop Trail which was 3 miles long. It was labeled as easy to moderate. Because it was going to be a quick walk, and I was in my tennis shoes, which are so comfortable to walk in, I did not see the need to change shoes. We had not gone too far before we came upon our first very wet area. After the second mud hole and me trying to figure out how to dodge the mud, Chip asked why would I wear my best tennis shoes into the woods anyway. He knew I had hiking boots in the camper and asked why I did not wear them. Other than being lazy, I had no other response. The trail had a lot of wet areas, from all the recent rain.
It was very windy so a little cooler than expected but we were prepared with scarfs and gloves, for me anyway, Chip thinks I am crazy until he holds my cold hands and quickly understands how cold natured I am.
The trail was beautiful. It went down by the creek and back up the hill overlooking the creek. The pine trees were huge, and not just one or two, but a lot of huge trees. I am sure Chip was thinking cha-ching, as he looks at trees differently than we do. He looks at trees as the value, how many board feet, and other “forester” kind of thoughts. Overall, I think I would consider the trail more moderate than easy, not that it was hard by any means, but it did have hills and steps, which would make it a little more difficult for anyone with knees or hip problems.
As we walked, we, of course, talk non-stop, about everything from the beautiful area to what we are going to have for dinner. I usually get quizzed during the walk, about trees. Here is how our discussion usually goes.
Chip: What kind of tree is that?
Chip: What kind of oak?
Me: I do not know because it does not have any leaves right now.
Chip: You should be able to tell from its bark.
Me: Sorry I do not remember that one. I take a picture of the tree.
Chip: Why are you taking a picture of it?
Me: So, I pass the test the next time. Heck, I was impressed I even knew it was an oak.
In the course of the walk, I mentioned I was looking forward to the appetizers and Chip asked what appetizers. I smiled and said roasted marshmallows. He didn’t think much of my appetizers but said he would start a fire as soon as we got back to the camper.
We recently purchased a portable stove/fire pit. We purchased this stove for many reasons. These are in no particular order, but were selling points, and we have truly fallen in love with our solo stove. It is an “almost” smokeless stove. Wow, that is definitely a selling point, because I always smell like smoke at bedtime when camping, which then means my pillowcase smelled like smoke and even after washing my hair several times, I could still smell smoke. Another reason is that when we are boondocking we wanted to be able to have a fire. You cannot just build a fire on open grass, so you would need to build a rock ring, etc., and we did not want to have to spend time looking for rocks and having to create a fire ring. Another reason why we love our solo-stove is when you have an open fire you have to really pay attention to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand, especially on a windy evening, and you then have to pour water on it if you decide to call it an early evening. With the solo stove, though it was very windy, it was not a problem at all. We were able to enjoy a nice warm fire with no worries. Another reason we love our solo stove is we could use many different things to burn. Though we could get plenty of firewood from home, because of insects, parks no longer allow you to bring wood into their parks, so you must buy the wood at the park. It is not that expensive, usually 5.00 a bundle, but I do not like to spend the money, especially when I usually am picking up small sticks around the campsite to use for “starter” wood. With the solo stove, you can pick up all kinds of sticks and have a fire. It was so easy to pick up a lot of twigs and keep it going.
But Chip did bring his portable DeWalt chainsaw and was able to cut up a lot of trees that had fallen from storms around our campsite. It was a win-win. We cleaned up the dead-tree limbs and we had wood. The size of wood we needed was easy to cut-up to fit the solo stove perfectly. The DeWalt is small enough to travel with us in the truck camper and it uses the same battery that we use in our vacuum cleaner, so we always have a battery charger and can easily recharge if we needed to. The chainsaw worked without any re-charges the entire weekend.
The solo-stove was hot enough in no time to roast my appetizers for dinner. We safely left the fire outside unattended while we ate a quick dinner inside. Of course, we then sat outside for dessert, more roasted marshmallows of course. It was a perfect evening, but what was even more perfect is we went to bed without smelling like smoke.
Saturday morning was cool and windy, again. After eating breakfast, it was too cool to going walking, so we drove to Weldon, NC.
As we were driving into Weldon, I noticed in front of a motel a large colorful fish “yard decoration” and thought how odd. It was not something you would typically see in front of a hotel of all things. We went a little further and there was another large fish and I made a comment about it and Chip said, “oh Weldon is the rockfish capital” and I bet that is why there are fish yard decorations around town. Of course, I wanted to ride around and see all of them, but he did not seem interested. I was able to get him to slow down enough for me to capture a few pictures.
We rode around town and down by the river. We read about the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail.
We took a short walk to see some of the canals. The section we chose was unfortunately by the local sanitation department and for the first part of the walk, it was not very pleasant. It may have been because it was so windy. Neck gators came in very handy to help filter the smell.
Nature test. What is that tree with all the bumps on it? I did not even have a good guess. It was a Hackberry tree. I should remember this one, or at least I hope I do.
We then went to the museum which was a wonderful “find.” It was so interesting to see how they used the river to transport their goods “back in the day.” It was not as easy as it is today and was a lot of work. Even to build the canal, the work that went into cutting rocks to even build a wall was a monumental task.
Another great find at the museum was the Bicycle Loaner Program. We were able to use two bicycles to take a ride on another part of the canal trail. Greg, who was working at the museum during our visit, told us about the bike program and completed the paperwork for us to borrow the bikes. It was very simple and took no more than a couple of minutes. Greg told us our trail options, we could go down the canal and it is easy riding until you have to come back, and it is uphill the entire way or we could go up the canal and there would be a few hills, but overall a better ride. We put on our helmets, which was a requirement and hit the trail. For a short distance, it was easy riding, and then we came to our first hill. Though it was not a big hill by any means, I was not able to make it up and had to push my bike while Chip waited for me at the top. Let’s just say I lost count on how many hills I had to push my bike up. The trail ended at the power plant. There were large signs displaying the area was under constant surveillance. I am sure I was someone’s entertainment as by the time we reached the end, and of course another small incline, I was tired. Chip turned around and asked, “did you say something” and of course I had not said anything, what he heard was me grunting trying to muster up the strength to make it to the end. My Deddie always called me granny grunt, and I lived up to my name. The ride was wonderful and though at times it took a little more strength than I had to give, I was glad we did it and would definitely do it again. I thanked Greg that we went the direction we went because I sure would have hated to have pushed my bike all the way back had we went the other direction.
We grabbed a snack out of the camper (an advantage to carrying your home away from home with you) and ate as we drove. We arrived back to the campground shortly after lunch and we hit the trails. I already had my hiking boots on, and we had our walking sticks ready to go. We purchased our walking sticks at Lidl a couple of years ago and have they been perfect. They are well-built and have withstood a lot of hikes. https://www.lidl.com/
We decided on a long walk today which was going to be five miles long. It was beautiful as you can see in the pictures. And yes, thank goodness I had on my hiking boots today, as we crossed a lot of muddy areas.
When we started out it was cold to me, so I had on my puffy jacket, my neck gator and gloves. We, of course, had not walked far before I had gotten hot, so lucky, for me, Chip had room in his backpack for my coat. After further hiking, I was able to use my neck gator as a headband. When one trail would end, we would decide to take another one. In the end, we rode the bike for 3 miles and walked 7 miles. If it was the summertime, we could have gone for a swim in the river and made it a triathlon for us.
Today’s nature test was a large tree with carvings. I made a wild guess but was wrong. But what I did learn is most of the time when you see a tree with carvings it is an American Beech. People are drawn to carve on the beech tree because of its smooth bark. It is harmful to the tree though and people should not do it, as tempting as it may be.
My second nature question was turkey poop. Did you know you could determine the sex of a turkey based on the shape of its poop? That’s right, a male turkey’s poop is male produce spiral-shaped poop and females’ poop is shaped like the letter J. Yep, I flunked that one too. I did not take a picture, but here is one from the internet that will show you what I am talking about.
We got back to camp early enough to gather up firewood and get the solo stove fired up and ready for more appetizers, aka roasted marshmallows. Chip cooked a wonderful dinner of tuna, lime-cilantro rice, and salads. We enjoyed more roasted marshmallows. Another wonderful night by the fire, without smelling smokey at bedtime.
Sunday morning was so easy to pack up and leave the campground. One of the many things we love about the truck camper. We explored the Bridle Camping section and trails. The campsites there are for campers with horses and are beautiful and private. The area would be perfect for a group of campers with horses as the picnic shelter had a large grill and the riding trails had multiple benches. We walked the trail because there was no one around and we wanted to do some walking before we headed home. I would definitely recommend this area for anyone with horses looking for somewhere to ride.
Our last stop was at the main office to see the exhibits they had and to talk a walk on the Habitat Adventure Trail. The exhibits are a great learning experience for all ages, and the trail is perfect for a family as you can see from the pictures and videos. It is also wonderful for those that are kids at heart.
These are the inside exhibits.
A lot of interactive areas to give the children hands-on learning.
Me being interactive with the trail, but Chip told me I wasn’t doing it right, that I was supposed to do it fast like a squirrel. His version of pretending to be a squirrel. He is so funny when he is playing around because he is usually a pretty serious person.
I could not help but think this would be a wonderful idea for my Rotary Club to do in our hometown of Danville, Virginia, in collaboration with the parks and recreation department. I will make sure I pass the idea onto my fellow Rotarians.
Medoc Mountain was the perfect weekend get-away, and we will most definitely visit there again someday.