Thursday, August 10, 2017
Welcome to Cloudland
We were spared severe weather in in our campground at Cloudland Canyon State Park as a line of heavy storms spread across the entire southeastern United States. We had a steady, night-long downpour, but no storms. Sleeping was a pleasure as no one needed any kind of artificial environmental noises to induce the sandman. Nature supplied everything. The continuous, ten hour downpour eventually faded away as sunshine began to filter through the dense forest as morning quietly slipped into the campground.
We checked the local weather and found we were experiencing an exclusive, temporary break in the rain. We decided to explore one of the many hiking trails. Cloudland Canyon State Park has thirty miles of trails dedicated just to mountain bikers, not including the many footpaths for people like us. There are plenty of trails to keep most hikers happy.
We arrived Monday afternoon as we love checking into state or Federal campgrounds after the weekend crowd leaves. Public school started in Georgia a week ago for most students, and will start this week for the rest of the state, including here in Dade County, so there are no families in the campground except for a British couple with a nine year old daughter who loves to pat Taz. It is only August seventh! We have four full-time camp hosts on the west rim campground and only three or four campers. As a result, the shower and toilet facilities, although rather old, are absolutely spotless.
Vacancy at the park will change again on Friday night, it always does, but most of those weekend camping trips and family reunions break up early Sunday. We rarely check out of a campground on Sunday morning as the waiting line for the dump stations remind me of US-1 headed back to Miami from the Florida Keys. Monday is Nirvana to cross-country RVers.
Long gone is the day after Labor Day start to the school year. I personally believe, without the benefit of any research or facts of any kind, that the start date has been skewed to allow high school football teams to begin practice earlier and begin their regular schedule to align with the National Football League and the Collegiate schedule football schedules. The NFL just played their first exhibition game. But then again, what do I know. At any rate, campgrounds are emptier earlier than in years past, which, miserable me, I don’t mind at all. Labor day is the exception, of course. Finding a campsite over the Labor Day Weekend requires someone named Merlin to make your reservations. Strange looking dude, with flowing robes, a pointy hat, and a magic wand.
According to CBS News, the RV industry expects to sell 400,000 new RVs this year. The RV manufacturers are running at full employment, and have increased most RV sales in the mid-range Millennial market. No wonder making reservations at popular campgrounds is a task best done as soon as reservation windows open. But not here, and not today. The dripping, dense forest has only our twenty-one foot trailer and a few occupied campsites that are still dormant. Until a beautiful, black and grey house cat, wearing a bright red collar, casually strolls across the front of our camping pad, headed for the forest. Our Golden Retriever sees the cat, bolts through the open camper door and down the hill they go, into the dense underbrush. Taz, over thirteen years old, has a hearing deficiency, and thankfully, limited endurance. He doesn’t go far, and as soon as he sees me, heads back up the hill to the camper, tongue out, with a look of duty well done.
Today, however, is a time to relish the tranquility and relative solitude of a beautiful state park and the empty trails. I swing by the visitors center where only a few hikers, mostly young, college age couples, complete with back packs are registering. We decide to do the waterfall trail starting at the environmental center on the east rim, but after a walking a short way on the rim trails, decide we need to tune up first before heading down the thousand foot trail to the waterfalls below. Prudence is an art gained through age. And experience.
Our first day was spent relaxing and taking walks to check the park’s facilities and many vistas. I played around with my television antenna and tuned three or four stations we may watch if the weather turns wet again. Except for the news, we rarely watch television. Cell phone coverage faded in and out so not only were telephone calls sporadically dropped, but the Wi-Fi hot-spot was unreliable as well.
As we relaxed in the fading evening sun, a pickup truck backed into the site next to us and a woman with two dogs set up a small, domed tent. She was our only neighbor until another camper pulled in just before dark. We were the only campers in the park except for the British couple tent camping at the top of the hill and one other RV that shows no sign of life. The evening was pleasant, cool and absolutely still except for the serenade of Georgia’s forest insects.
As we kissed and snuggled up under the covers, Ilse turned off her night light and we both went silent as a bright, yellow light flashed in the darkness just over our heads.
“What was that!” We sat up in bed and tried to figure out what had just happened. The light flashed again, this time down by the foot of the bed, suspended in mid-air. It took a few seconds to realize I had let in a firefly, a lightning bug we used to call them, when I took our dog, Taz, out for his evening trip to the nearest tree. Another first in our adventures of RVing.
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