Weekend – one word that can make anyone’s soul spring with joy. The adrenaline rush that you experience at 5:00 PM on a Friday evening is inexplicable. The thought of not having to listen to your alarm blare through the dawn of the day and the feeling of not having to hit the snooze button five million times is priceless. But do you know what’s more magical than a two-day weekend? A three-day weekend! This is the story of how I spent my Labor Day weekend.
I’m not a professional camper but the few times that I’ve camped out I’ve loved it. Pitching a tent and living out in the wild, with no electricity or internet, is exciting. Building a fire in the night and watching it crackle and fade as you slowly drift off to la-la land on a 2-inch thick foam sleeping pad in a lemon-yellow permeable tent that took you two hours to pitch (even though the instruction sheet said, “this shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes”) is soothing. Waking up in the morning (without an alarm) to the freshness of nature, singing at the top of your voice to the tall trees around you and sipping coffee in your favorite coffee mug with people you love is pure joy. If you haven’t guessed already, this is how I spent my long weekend!
This was my first camping experience in the United States and quite clearly, I was thrilled. After browsing for hours through the many million websites of State Parks in and around South Carolina (because that’s where we wanted to go), we chose Lee State Park. Lee State Park is located near the town of Bishopville in Lee County, South Carolina along the Lynches River and is a three-hour drive from Morrisville, North Carolina (this is where I live).
We chose a standard drive-in tent site on the outer loop of the family campground. The site was self-contained with water and electrical hook-ups and a built-in fire pit with hinged grill and was also close to a lake. Perfect!
After booking the tent site, the next thing on the list was camping equipment. We decided to rent equipment from Recreational Equipment Inc., popularly known as REI.
Their online website is very helpful and it gave us an idea regarding various things that we would need to survive the weekend. We ended up renting half-dome tents, 2-inch thick foam sleeping pads, chairs and a propane gas stove. These were the essentials. We also carried with us an oil lamp, a picnic blanket, a cooler, comforters and cushions.
The next big thing on the list was FOOD! Now, I’m a hungry person most of the time. I like to eat. So obviously shopping for food was fun. We bought corns on the cobs (ofcourse!), burger patties, bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, marshmallows, ready-to-eat potato salad, pineapple slices, cantaloupe chunks, baby carrots, hummus, dressing sauces, chips, strawberry lemonade and coffee. The quantity was enough to last us for the weekend. We were all set.
And the day finally arrived! We set off to Lee State Park on a bright Saturday morning. The weather was pleasant and our spirits were high. My Metallic Blue Versa SV enjoyed her very first long drive on Interstate 95. We made a quick pit-stop at Cracker Barrel in Lumberton for lunch. This checkerboard setting outside of it caught my eye. I thought it was worth a shot!
We hogged on some delicious country style food and took off towards our destination. After about 1.5 hours of driving, we made it to the campsite. It was as we expected it would be. Standard site, plenty of shade, tall trees everywhere!
We parked the car and immediately started assembling the skeleton of the tent as it was starting to get dark. I must say though that we displayed and experienced a whole lot of hilarity, stupidity and ambiguity while we pitched the tent. The tent, which was only supposed to take ten minutes, took us 2 long hours to pitch. Nevertheless, we did it and it looked grand!
Now, we were at a campsite, there was a fire pit and it was getting dark – get it? It was campfire time! We had some dry logs of firewood with us; we gathered tinder, mainly dead plants and grasses, to catch the initial spark from the matchstick and built the fire.
While the fire crackled away happily we started to prepare our dinner. Our dinner was a combo of grilled and charred corn on the cob, a fat and saucy vegetable burger, cantaloupe chunks and strawberry lemonade. We grilled some marshmallows for dessert. It was sinful!
It was a rather humid night and since it was still summer, we had a lot of bug visits. Thank God for insect repellants! It was pretty dark and the only lights were from the oil lamp that was burning away to glory and from the slowly dying campfire. We stayed up till late, chatting, laughing, and enjoying our grilled marshmallows until one by one we snuggled in our tents watching the fading fire.
After a good night’s sleep, we woke up with full smiles on our faces. It was a bright and sunny day and sunrays were making their way through the dark green foliage that surrounded us. We lit up the stove to make some breakfast. Our breakfast included hummus sandwiches, corn on the cob leftovers from last night, cucumbers and potato salad. We gulped them down with hot coffee. It felt good.
Our plan for the day was hiking the Sandhills Trails and Artesian Trails. After playing some Frisbee we slipped into comfortable sports shoes and headed towards the hike trails.
Sandhills Trail is a flat trail with slightly bluish sand at the end of it. Artesian Trail is a flat, swampy trail. They were both easy half-mile trails amidst bottomland hardwood forests. At the end of the Artesian Trail, we found an artesian well with fresh, cold water sprouting from it. We sat by it, dabbling our feet in the cool water. It was refreshing.
It was a little past two PM when we reached our campsite. We had a meal of tomato mustard sandwiches, potato salad, pineapple slices and baby carrots. We sat back and sipped cold strawberry lemonade. At 5:00 PM we headed towards the lake. It was an Artesian Lake with a swimming area. We took a dip in the warm clean water. After an hour of splish-splosh, we lazily made our way back to the campsite.
After we freshened up and indulged ourselves in a coffee break, we decided to head back home. It took us a little more than an hour to wrap things up. We were smug happy. With a grateful smile, we bid adieu to Lee State Park. We had had a perfect weekend. 🙂