Good Camping and Good Neighbors
The desire to get out and go camping has been a bit overwhelming as of late, however, it has not been quite strong enough to make me want to suffer through 90 degree heat to do so. With a brief change in the weather this past weekend though, we found ourselves taking advantage of the opportunity and headed out to our nearby state park, Reed Bingham.
Reed Bingham State Park is located about six miles west of I-75 (exit 39-Adel) in South Georgia. The park has a beautiful 375 acre lake that is excellent for boaters, skiers, and fishing. Paddle boats and kayaks are available to rent, as well as guided pontoon boat tours being offered during special occasions. Wildlife is abundant with gopher tortoises, bald eagles, indigo snakes, alligators, buzzards, and many other forms. Reed Bingham is also home to a gopher tortoise habitat and many of the active burrows are flagged. For more on the gopher tortoise and their habitat, click here for an excellent video produced by SC Natural Resources: Video. In addition to the excellent boating and fishing that is available, there is also camping, miniature golf, picnic facilities, and plenty of hiking available at Reed Bingham State Park. Check their website for a full description: Reed Bingham.
On this particular day, Saturday, my wife and I arrived at the park around 2:30 pm to set up camp. Upon arriving, we learned that one side of the camp ground had been closed while improvements were being made and due to the amount of campers already there, our camp site selection was limited. Shade was an issue for me and we were fortunate to find the lone remaining site that was partially shaded by a lone pine tree. It was good enough for us, since we were only gonna be there for one night anyway. Once we made our selection, we made quick work of setting up our tent and getting all of our supplies out.
After camp was set up, we took a while to relax, and then we set off to gather some fire wood. In spite of the temperature being in the high 80s at the time, the forecast stated that it was supposed to get down into the high 60s overnight. Besides, you have to have a campfire if you go camping, right? When we had gathered enough fire wood, I proceeded to get the grill going so that we would be ready to cook when Jacob (my son) and his girlfriend arrived. Hot dogs, baked beans, and S'mores were on the menu (now isn't that just a classic camp site meal?).
After supper, Jacob and Alexis stayed for a bit longer and then left the two of us to enjoy our night together; however, while we were in the midst of settling in and tuning in the Georgia Bulldogs on the radio, we were a bit agitated to find that another couple decided to pitch camp in the lone remaining site next to ours. If that wasn't bad enough, they positioned their tent within 30-40 feet of ours...Wow! To make matters even worse, the lady was very loud, and their two dogs barked during the duration of time that it took for them to set their site up! That duration of time was well into the dark hours. In fact, we noted that the man left camp (in their car) and returned on three different occasions! Even so, they both seemed to take it well, and I didn't notice any grumbling. My thoughts, we found out later to be true, was that he was having problems inflating their air mattress. For a brief period of time, my wife and I found entertainment listening to the football game and watching the apparent trials of our new campsite neighbors, all the while with our feet kicked up and sitting by our nice camp fire. Though I considered going over and offering help, I convinced myself that if they wanted help they'd ask, and besides, the whole purpose of my wife and I going camping was so that we could have some alone time together. I wasn't very enthusiastic about the thought of someone camping right on top of us anyway, but I really should have offered to help. There is more to this story later.
We too had an air mattress and this was gonna be our first time trying it out. As we settled into the tent for sleep, it didn't take me long to doze off and enjoy a great night of rest. I guess it was a combination of the cool night and the mattress, but I've never slept that well on the ground! The air mattress made all the difference!
Since I am an early riser, I was up long before anyone in the campground. I forced myself to stay in the tent until around 6:15 am, but then I just had to get out. I quietly made my way over to my chair and kicked my feet up on the picnic table and pulled out my iPhone. For about 30 minutes, I caught up on all of the sports news and browsed all of the happenings on Facebook (no matter how hard I try, I just can't resist technology). Around 7:00 am, I decided that I would go ahead and start my campfire so that I could heat water for my coffee. Not long after that, my usually "late sleeping" wife emerged from the tent too. We shared a great few moments together around our morning campfire while enjoying our coffee. The coolness of the morning air added to the enjoyment! This was indeed what it was all about! When the fire and the time was right, I decided to go ahead and start cooking our breakfast: link sausage and S'mores. We decided not to do the eggs. In fact, I learned that a neat way to cook link sausage is to put them on a prong that you would use for marshmallows and hold them out over the fire...it works great! It was definitely an enjoyable morning.
After breakfast, we sat around for a while and just enjoyed our alone time together. Before long; however, the silence was broken as our neighbors emerged from their tent. Here is where the story takes a turn. In spite of the slight irritation that we had endured the night before, I couldn't help but be a nosey neighbor and I caught myself looking over their way to see what was going on. What I noticed really added to the story of our trip and taught me a lot about being judgmental. Like us, the two of them sat together at their picnic table sipping coffee. I then noticed the man take out a small department store bag and as he was pulling out a gift, he briefly sang "happy birthday" to her! I was touched! How neat...romantic...cool! All of these thoughts raced through my mind, and it quickly dawned on me that he must have orchestrated their overnight camping trip (and patiently endured the trials of setting up) as part of her birthday gift! And though they had lots of difficulty setting up camp the night before, I now know why I never heard him complain. Needless to say, I was humbled! Witnessing that single, romantic, event greatly increased the joy that my my wife and I were able to spend camping together, alone with our "noisy" campsite neighbors!