One of my last times camping was in a pristine, secluded spot in the Smoky Mountains. We pitched our tent near the creek, and settled in for a quiet weekend in a natural, unspoiled environment, free from the everyday troubles and noises of the “civilized” world.
The daylight hours of the first day went really well. Good food, some hiking, the traditional wade in the wide, rushing creek. Then, lulled by the crackle of the campfire and the sounds of flowing water and tree frogs, we extinguished the campfire and prepared for sleep.
Around that time, two men in a beaten-up truck with Florida license plates drove up and started untying the mattress they’d strapped to the roof of their truck. They set up camp on a site near us and were soon joined by several other men. Before long, they all started drinking. Their voices got louder as the night went on.
A park ranger made several visits to our camp area before daylight. By the next morning, the men and their mattress were gone. Needless to say, neighboring campers were very relieved (and sleepy). We stayed over another night or so. It was blissfully quiet.
* * * * *
Camping was a lot more peaceful this October when we met up with my son and his fiancee at a small campground near Tellico Lake in East Tennessee. Instead of a tent, we slept in a relatively-roomy pop-up camper. Some of our neighbors had pop-ups, but most had small RVs with elaborately decorated “yards” indicating they were semi-permanent residents in all but the coldest winter months.
As far as we could see, views from the shore were of trees and vegetation. Surprising, since so many of the coves of East Tennessee are ringed by big houses and boat docks.
A young native dogwood, Cornus florida, provided bold color and screening from neighbors.
Companions and soon-to-be life partners chill out by the fire.
A river of Japanese stilt grass or Microstegium flows through part of the campground. It’s a highly-invasive weed, now rampant through the southeast and beyond. We ignored its presence, focusing instead on the view of the lake, good conversation, and wonderful smells of food cooking on the campfire.
A huge poison ivy vine enmeshed in the trunk of a cedar tree.
Our camper had a funky, diner-style vibe after dark.
A peaceful, quiet campground. Friendly neighbors. No late night carousing.