Monday, April 26, 2010

The SSPBDT Mancation Camping Weekend with Rug Rats

Mortimer Campground and the Wilson Creek Area
Caldwell County, NC

Friday, April 23rd thru Sunday April 25th, 2010

The full set of Photos is posted here:

Since the SSPBDT (Spartanburg Steel Products Beer Drinking Team) was established, we have organized an annual Mancation Camping Weekend each October. The Fall Mancation is strictly a men only event. Except for a few broken bones, the Mancation has always been a huge success.

Three years ago a few of our wives decided that they wanted to join in on the camping fun. So we started the Spring SOC Event (Significant Other Camping Event). This is where our wives, significant others, and or children are allowed to come along.

This year, on Easter Morning, Jeff’s wife Lori gave birth to their first child. Bringing a 3-week old on a camping trip is probably not a good idea.

One night while the guys were playing poker, Lori and my wife Amy came up with a plan to allow Jeff a weekend away with the guys, while Amy volunteered to stay behind with Lori to help out with the baby. So to make a long story short, it turns out that the Spring Camping Event was still on, but there would be no significant others.

However, there would still be a few children, so we are calling it The SSPBDTMCWWRR (SSPBDT Mancation Camping Weekend with Rug Rats).

We briefly discussed trying someplace different, but why mess with success. So we decided to stick with our favorite spot, The Mortimer Campground along Wilson Creek!

Since the campground doesn’t take reservations, we try to make sure we have a few team members arrive early to grab our favorite sites. Jeff volunteered to make the extreme sacrifice and took Friday off from work.

I was able to get out of work at lunchtime and hit the road. I arrived at the campground around 2:30pm to find Jeff and Scott R. There was absolutely no one else there, and not a single site was occupied. There wasn’t even a campground host?

My tent and truck at my campsite

After I pitched my tent, I decided to squeeze in a little hike; the Throps Creek / Schoolhouse Ridge Loop. This is a nice 5-mile loop hike that starts right at the campground. This is the same trail that most people take only as far as Thorps Creek Falls.

Thorps Creek Falls

However, the trail continues on above and beyond the falls, following Thorps Creek for about 2.5 miles. There are about 15 creek crossings, but they are all easy enough to rock hop during times of normal water flow. The Thorps Creek trail gains about 800-ft of elevation, but it is spread out evenly, so it never gets too steep.

There was a nice display of wildflowers on the trail including my first Jack in the Pulpit sighting of the season.

Fly on a Jack in the Pulpit

Once you hit the ridgeline, the Thorps Creek Trail ends and you follow FR4068 for about a half mile to the Schoolhouse Ridge trail, which takes you back to the campground. The Schoolhouse Ridge trail is fairly level to start out, but then it descends the entire 800-ft over about the last mile, making it much steeper than the Thorps Creek Trail.

I finished my hike at around 5:30pm, just as Scott M. and his son Christopher arrived at the campground. Jeff had used his redneck ingenuity to rig up a chicken smoker, which made for some good eating for dinner.

Jeff's Redneck ingenuity aluminum foil smoker
and the result!

By 7:30pm, we started getting a little worried that Steve hadn’t arrived. Especially since Steve had custody of the giant 400-sq/ft Tarp. With almost certain rain in the forecast, we would need that tarp!

Finally, Steve and his two boys (Logan and Connor) arrived and we quickly went to work at the giant tarp erection. We have become masters of erecting this tarp on this campsite, and this time we even managed to get it up without Scott M. breaking any bones!

How many Engineers does it take to put up a tarp?

After the tarp was up, we got the campfire going and spent the rest of the evening doing what the SSPBDT does best! While some other campers did arrive at the lower section of the campground, we had the whole upper section to ourselves.

The awesome tarp!

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

I thought we had the upper end of the campground to ourselves, but sometime in the middle of the night between the hours of 1:00am and 6:00am, we were invaded by a large group of Latin Americans (I think that is the politically correct term).

While we had five adults and three kids spread over five campsites, this group of about twenty managed to put up seven tents on only one campsite. Fortunately, they seemed just as enthusiastic about consuming FABs as we are, so there were no issues between our two groups.

Amazingly, there was no rain during the night and everything was dry. However, the latest forecast we heard said that would soon change. Therefore, I didn’t plan any long hikes for the day. Instead, I would just do a few shorter hikes so I wound never be too far from the vehicle when the storms started.

First up was Hunt Fish Falls. It’s a little less than a mile to one of the greatest swimming holes in the Wilson Creek Area, and a nice little waterfall. There was absolutely no sign of rain, and unfortunately the only bright sunshine of the day would happen to be during my short visit to Hunt Fish Falls which made photography conditions difficult.
Hunt Fish Falls

 There is actually another low volume waterfall on a small tributary right next to Hunt Fish Falls. I don’t remember seeing this one on my last visit. It might be such a low volume stream that the waterfall turns to just a trickle during dry times.

Waterfall near Hunt Fish Falls
(not sure if this one has a name)

I briefly considered moving on, but as I was packing up my gear I realized that I left my wallet sitting in the center console of my truck in plain view of anyone who happened to peak in the windows. So I decided to head back and was relieve that nobody broke into my truck.

All the years that we have been coming to this area, I usually end up hiking while the others head down to the Wilson Creek Gorge area to fish, Kayak, and just hang out on the rocks. For some reason I wasn’t in the mood for anymore hiking, so this year I decided I would join them.

Hanging out on the Rocks at Wilson Creek

By now the cloud cover had significantly increased making for perfect photo conditions for some of the Rapids on Wilson Creek. Scott R. is a big time Kayaker, so he was able to give me the names that the Kayakers call the different rapids.

10-ft Falls on Wilson Creek

Thunder Hole on Wilson Creek

Boat Buster Rapid on Wilson Creek
The rest of the group had headed back to the campground for a late lunch, but I lingered behind taking a few more photos of various scenic spots along Wilson Creek. After a few light sprinkles began to fall, I decided it was time for me to head back as well.

My return to the campground was delayed as I saw a woman looking very distressed. She had finished up a hike to find her vehicle had a flat tire. “Do you have a working cell phone”, she asked?

I chuckled a bit and responded, “Nobody has a working cell phone here!” She then asked, ”Do you think the Visitors Center has a phone?”

“Not sure, but they probably do”, I responded.

So she was planning to hike down to the visitor’s center, which was probably about 4-5 miles down the road. My first response was to offer her a ride, but then a more logical solution occurred to me. The spare tire on the back of her Honda CRV looked to be fully inflated.

So I spent the next 15 minutes changing her flat tire. She thanked me profusely before heading on her way. It felt good to be able to help someone in need and prevent a bad day from getting much worse!

Back at the campground I fixed up a little lunch and decided to do a little more exploring near the campground. It was still just a very light drizzle, but enough to make it very difficult to keep the water droplets off the lens.

Wisteria Blooming along Wilson Creek

When it started coming down harder, I gave up, headed on back to the campground, and popped open a FAB!

Thanks to our massive party tarp, we stay relatively dry as it rained all evening long. We did have to make a minor Engineering Change to the rigging of the tarp as some water pooling was causing it to get a little too close to the campfire!

As the night went on, and more FABs were consumed things got a little strange:

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

There was still a light drizzle when I exited my tent in the morning, but nothing like the thunder booming racket that was going on in the middle of the night. Despite that, I slept very well. I can’t say the same for Steve, who for the first time ever was the first person awake and out of his tent in the morning.

One of his sons got a little sick in the middle of the night and woke up vomiting in the tent. So after cleaning up puke, Steve quickly packed up and was the first to evacuate the campground.

After what Steve had been through, I couldn’t complain about packing up my wet camping gear. Taking down the giant tarp, would be a little too much for Jeff and I to handle alone, so we decided to wait until the Scotts got up.

To pass the time, Jeff and I decided to check out Thorps Creek Falls to see how much of a difference the night’s rain made. Not as much as I would have thought:
Thorps Creek Falls - after the rain
I would have thought there would have been a bigger difference in water flow

After that, I cooked up some breakfast of Hash Browns, Eggs, and Sausages. Scott R. finally emerged from the back of his Jeep and we decided it was time to wake up Scott M., so we set off the panic alarm of the vehicle parked next to his tent.

That definitely did the job and Scott popped out of his tent.  We quickly went to work at taking down the tarp.  I volunteered to take custody of it until the next camping trip. Since I brought up a good bit of firewood, the bed of my pick-up was mostly empty and had plenty of room to stash the wet tarp. I also have a big enough yard so I could easily spread it out to let it dry when I returned home.

On the drive out, I briefly thought about stopping for a few more photo opportunities, but instead I decided to just head on home to my wife Amy, who thankfully was a big help in unpacking and drying out all my wet camping gear!

As always, a great time was had by all!

Additional Photos are posted here:


HemlockMan said...

Totally cool.

Wendy said...

wow what a fantastic weekend, fun had by all!! Wonderful pic's gorgeous waterfalls!! Thanks for sharing this with us!!

Kim said...

Thunder Hole is a awesome photo...

Mr. J said...

Ditto to Kim. Great blur; it almost looks like a zoom effect shot the way it worked out.

Anonymous said...

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