Up early again! It’s impossible to sleep late while camping! The sun and birds are nature’s alarm clock.
Now, I’ve discovered people camping are usually very friendly. It’s easy to make conversation about the weather, where they’re from, if they’re enjoying themselves, etc. I’ve met several people while walking. There’s quite a few people who bring dogs with them camping.
I set out for a walk around the lake. The air was teaming with noise from a group of kids staying in the cabins across the small lake. I ran into a family, I met before, fishing or at least holding poles. According to one of the small boys, the turtles were eating all their bate off the hooks. The mom was sitting in a lawn chair occupying Striker age 2, who was testing his boundary lines. I visited a while and set off on the 1.5 mile walk to the swimming pool called The Liberty Bell.
Well, let me tell you, 1.5 seems a lot longer when going up and down mountain trails. The trails were easily marked by color. Swimming pool, look for white marks on trees. No problem! Early on, I met a man walking back. We simply said, hello and carried on.
My eyes were scanning the area for wildlife, but I didn’t even see a squirrel. Probably because they were all back at the campsite. I begin dripping sweat, but that’s not so unusual because the high humidity.
Finally arrived at the swimming pool and it was beautiful and empty, except for the lifeguard and the teenager working the front store. It was threatening rain and had only been open 30 minutes. The bottom looked like rocks and the water was a beautiful blue. It went from three feet to nine feet. If I had $5 and my swimsuit, I’d have spent a few hours there. I didn’t, so I walked on.
There was a sign close to the pool that showed another trail 0.7 of a mile, so I decided…Walk on sister! Oh my! That path seemed more challenging. Along the way, I met an older hiker, who leads groups on the weekend. He was checking the trail for debris and I guess some practice. By this time I was a wet wash rag, I was sweating so bad. He gave me a sip of his water and seemed surprised that I wasn’t carrying any of my own. He advised me to stop at the junction of the next trail. I’m glad he told me that because by this point I thought it might just be easier to make the loop than to hike back to camp the way I came.
I tread on and made it to the top juncture. I felt like I met my own challenge, but I had to turn around and do the 2.2 back to the park. Along the way, I picked up my trophy. A rock about the size of two deck of cards…made from quartz. (I thank John’s dad for me knowing that). I made it back to camp about 1:20. I think I left about 10:10 or so. By the time I made it back to my camp (still carrying my rock), I wanted to do the Rocky jump with my hands lifted in the air, but I held myself back. However in my mind, I was playing the Rocky Theme music!
It had been thundering when I was walking back and just about the time I hit the tent, the rain begin. Perfect napping weather. I dozed for about an hour. When I awoke, I noticed that my neighbors had changed. Gone were the large RV’s and in their place were smaller campers behind me. To the left of me were five ladies and two of them were trying to put up two Tee Pee shaped tents. It was going a little slow.
I piddled outside my tent for a while. I talked to the ladies to the left. The only one who seemed to have camping experience was a college teacher who loved to hike. She had invited her sister and mom to come along to enjoy her love of camping. The other were a niece and a friend. Those two didn’t look like they wanted to be roughing it.
I had scheduled a horse ride at 3:00. Glad that the rain was moving away. I had been looking forward to this! I’ve only ridden a horse once and it was before Cameron was born and on a beach in Mexico. (Those horses didn’t even need me to do anything except hold on). I picked the two-hour ride because I thought it was a better value. One hour $40, and two hours $70. I had saved my extra earned income for activities such as this. It was my splurge! I thought I’d just eat cereal bars, peanut butter, and if I needed it, I’d cook oatmeal for dinner instead of buying food for today to save on expenses.
I arrived ten minutes early, that’s how much I was anticipating this ride. I was scheduled to ride with a family group. They were late! About 3:10 all seven arrived. Mentally, I added up their cost. (Just the Math teacher in me) We all set out to ‘mount up.’ (Cowboy talk)
We got a quick lesson on how to move the reigns to stop, go, turn left, turn right, and keep them from stopping and eating along the way, how to lean forward to help the horse when we went up, and how to lean back with our stirrups out when we went down hill, and to simply push on the trees if the horse gets too close. No one really needed that lesson, except me.
Everyone in that family had ridden horses and knew all the ins and outs of riding. The youngest, Victoria age 9, said she’d been riding since she was 4. She certainly was comfortable with horses.
We mounted and lined up for the trail ride up and down the mountain. There was ten of us and one big dog! Now, when I thought about riding a horse, It didn’t occur to me how ‘alive’ they were or how large! I know that sounds strange, but I wasn’t thinking about the movement of the horse under me.
I can’t tell you the trepidation I felt when Mattie Lou, my horse, started walking. For just a minute, I wanted to say, “Stop! I’ve changed my mind.” However that would have been wimpy and embarrassing, so I kept my mouth closed and concentrated. I noticed that when people are comfortable riding, they only use one hand to hold onto the reigns. Yes, I had one in each hand and was trying to keep hold of the saddle horn too.
About 20 minutes into it, I was okay. I slowed the horse, stopped it, and the only trouble I had was my mare horse would stop to be with the gelding at the end of the line behind me and then both wanted to just stand there visiting. On the way down they changed our positions, so that our horses weren’t by each other.
On the ride down, Victoria came up with this game that she had played before on a dude ranch. The front rider would pick a branch off a tree and then place it on another tree for the next person to pick it up. If the next rider missed getting it out of the tree or dropped it putting it in the tree, then we had to start over. It was fun! We successfully did that three times, but we started it five times. Then one of the teenage girls, decided we should pass it back up from horse to horse from the back on the line. Even more laughter ensued because we had to turn around and reach it from the rider in back of us!
The two hours flew by, but when it was time for me to come off of Mattie Mae, (even with help), I had a hard time walking at first. The secret, one of the women said, was to walk and stay active, but tomorrow, I’d feel it worse. She wasn’t kidding about that! We went in the barn and met all the other horses. They had about 25 horses there. Overall, I had enjoyed it and felt like The Duke himself!
Back at the camp, I thought I’d walk and help that soreness. I hadn’t walked far, when I stopped to talk to the group of people who had campers next to one another. Yep, they were related. Two brothers and their families and one of the couple’s neighbors. The couples…Matt and Sunny & Brian and Mandi and their neighbor, Megan. The friendliest group you can imagine. I wasn’t sitting with them long before I was invited to dinner. (Now, this was the day I was eating what I had brought). Steaks sounded mighty good compared to oatmeal. I declined, but they insisted that they had plenty. Man the steaks were smelling good too! I accepted. They were cooked to perfection…tender and juicy.
It was clear that the families were close. Matt and Brian worked for the same power company. I laughed when they asked me if I knew where Nacogdoches was because they pronounced it very strange and it took me a minute to realize what they said. (In person, I’ll pronounce it like they guys did)! Made me laugh!!! Lots of pride in their work! I’m going to have to check out their plant in Nac.
Sunny and Mandi were instant friends and the kids were sweet. Between all the families, I think there were six kids ranging between six months to fifteen years. All adorable! After dinner, some of the kids jumped in the lake and Brian joined them. I just keep thinking yucky fish and turtle water. I’m including this because when Brian went into the camper to change clothes, he did it in front of a window. Now, I didn’t really see anything except a naked chest, but everyone gave him a hard time changing in full view! Obviously they saw more of him then I did! It was just too much fun not to rib him about it!
I did finish my walk around camp and came back to join them for conversation and games. The kids played in another camper for a while and I listened to the banter back and forth between brothers and sister-in-laws and Megan, the neighbor. Later, we all played Scattergories. I’m sure some of the other campers had a hard time sleeping because it was a loud game and laughter rang out with answers. The guys were pretty competitive! I was added to this group of “Friends” and throughly enjoyed myself!
It was my last night at FDR park and it had been a memorable day. From beginning to end, it was the most fun one I had. Thanks to the new friends for including me and making me feel welcome. I fell asleep content and in the morning started the next stage of my trip.
God provides everything. It is lonely traveling in a group of one and I was given a gift of laughter and fellowship tonight.
Headed to Skidaway Island Park tomorrow!