Fall Camping 2019

We arrived in the fall rain, cool and soaking. Usually, this occurs toward the end of a camping trip, as we pack wet gear. The rain had begun early on the route, and when we checked the weather radar, the storm was moving along northeast with most of it covering our drive and the outer edges reaching our camping spot. However, it rained all night and for a while early the next morning.

We had stopped for gas and a chance to pick up any forgotten necessities about 2/3 of the way along our route. As we pulled away, with the forecast showing 32 that night, I said that we had better go back and get a small electric heater. Greg said, “OK, but I’m not hooking up the electricity if it is still raining.” We carry what we refer to as a power panel with us for trips, one that must be connected to the power service to provide electricity to the RV (our Bigfoot Club Promaster conversion).

This may be the first time the temperature drop had approached freezing for the fall. Later, we learned from a neighbor that the thermostat on his porch reached 27. Our favorite camping area is in a valley in the Ozarks, where colder air drops in and reduces the expected low.

Par for our camping trips, we arrived late, this time early at dark. The rain had stopped so Greg connected our service. The heat on the newish RV air unit wasn’t working, so we were thankful for a backup. We settled in and adjusted the thermostat so the air was chilled but not cold. This is a usual compromise of living with Newfs, but we also prefer this for camping weather.

The next morning, Greg began assembling the fire pit. He took greater interest in the architecture, building a shape like an igloo with a front porch. The “porch” was actually a pit on the same level as the fire, and the entire pit was lined with two rows of large rocks. He was planning to use the extension for dragging coals from the fire to make an area where the skillet could be placed. While he worked on this, I made breakfast using the microwave, and the next few days, he made breakfast on the fire pit.

Banner loves camping, and she woke up with full enthusiasm. A camping trip AND cold weather – how much better could it get? She couldn’t wait to go to the swimming hole, but seemed confused about where the water went. It was a dry creek bed. While we camp in this area, she gets more “free rein” than in other areas, with no close neighbors. So while she was running back and forth, she discovered a small pool of remaining water and dived in, then she began drinking. I heard Greg shouting and the two of us ran toward her. Non-flowing water used by wildlife can be a source of fatal illness for a dog, even with vaccination. I spent the next few days watching her carefully, but not carefully enough. One time while she was out and I was in the RV, she found a ripe, nasty pile of cow manure. Our neighbors had repaired their fence, but we had already run one cow back home, then a sow.

From Banner’s perspective, this was an enticing aroma, one to wear proudly, and the riper, the better. Fresh piles aren’t nearly as interesting. She wriggles and writhes and shoves her head and neck into the pile. It’s nearly impossible to teach a Newf to leave nasty stuff alone, about as difficult as it is for someone who chews tobacco to give up that habit – more difficult than giving up smoking. It is in her nature, and all you can do is try to prevent an encounter with supervision, or fencing. But camping in this area is a place of special freedom, with no fences. So we were left with bathing a Newf using limited water. Fortunately I’ve had a lot of practice with bottle baths, at dog shows and for previous Newfs. One compelling part of this aroma is that it lingers, like skunk odor, and it is as difficult to remove.

It was too early and too cold when she found her prize, so her bath had to wait. Meanwhile, I had a cup of coffee. Banner came up joyfully to be hugged and petted more than once, to each of us. This was a joy that we couldn’t share, so her affections were refused, to her disappointment.

After the bath, she was much more huggable, and we went for a walk down the road to the spring. There she found a larger pool of water that flowed to an underground stream, and she had fun getting wet all over again. Along the walk, which follows a creek bed, we found some interesting rocks. As with the plant and animal diversity, there is a great diversity of types of rocks in this area, and the flowing water of flooding creeks erodes the rocks into interesting artwork.

Back at camp, we sat beside the fire, listening to the crackle and watching the grey color of the ash migrate up the burning piece of wood, showing crevices of glowing red through cracks as the smoke moved toward the horizon, then circled back to our chairs. It is a mesmerizing way to relax.  While at camp, all clothing smells roasted.

We had brought a book to read, as we do on some travel, with each of us taking turns reading chapters aloud. One of our favorite authors has now dropped two stinkers, so we probably won’t be taking another of his along.

Neighbors stopped to visit. This is the comfortable draw of the fire pit with camping chairs sitting around the fire. The chairs need a person to be seated. We watched several four-wheelers pass, usually one to three at a time, then a set of nine passed. An occasional vehicle would pass, maybe two or three in a day, more on the weekend. The most astonishing thing was that a FedEx truck passed on Friday! FedEx had finally made it to our seclusive camping spot! It feels as though we have been discovered by the rest of the world now.

On Sunday night, my nephew and his wife came for a campfire visit. Their cabin is about an hour away. While we were waiting for them, another neighbor, and a friend of my nephew’s, stopped for a visit. We spent the evening talking, catching up on all of the local news. He smiled at my surprise of seeing the FedEx truck. “Yes, they’ve been coming by here for a while, I think on Wednesdays and Fridays.” Some old stories were re-told and re-remembered. The neighbor had to go back home where his wife, probably like my mom had many times, was wondering what was taking so long. Visiting is very important.

It was late, but we decided to roast some hot dogs on the fire, a break from the sausages Greg and I had been eating for dinner each evening. We had brought more food for cooking, but roasting a sausage was so easy and tasty, with no dishes to clean. Banner is a fan, too, for treats.

On Monday, as we began to pack, a very depressed Newfoundland went to the horse trailer (that we used to bring the four-wheeler) and sat beside it and watched us. She knew that the party would soon be over, and it was heart-breaking, for her and for us to see her. So when we were nearly finished re-packing, we took a last walk down the road, and on the way out, we stopped at the spring to let her get wet again. I collected water to take back for making coffee. This spring water makes wonderful coffee. And on Tuesday, I had two cups instead of the usual one.

Once we were on the road again, she was too busy to think about the trip being over. She was on the next new adventure, with moving windows, where she walks back and forth from one side to the other, watching all of the exciting things passing the van, like a kid with two movies running at the same time on different sets. Life is wonderful, and it is always more wonderful shared from the perspective of a Newf.

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